The Wonder of Wonder Woman
So opening night, I was so there. Took my girlfriend and headed into the theatre, waiting impatiently to get through eight hundred and sixty million trailers and turn off your cell phone pleas, munching my popcorn when it happened. The theatre went dark and the movie began.
Now I should say for the record, I do love a big action/popcorn movie. As a matter of fact, we did the exact same thing for the new Guardians of the Galaxy just weeks ago.
But this, this was different. This was personal. This was Wonder Woman.
And the picture came up and that, that really was the island nation Themyscira. And 96 minutes later when the lights came back on, I was smiling. I was happy for me. I was thrilled for the director, Patty Jenkins, and I was ecstatic for all the young girls who got to find themselves not just one new heroine, but discover an entire Amazon land filled with heroines.
What a great night!
Now, do I think the movie is flawless? No.
Do I care? No.
Can I pick it apart? You betcha.
Will I? Not a chance.
My weekend was now starting with a bang and I was going to enjoy the moment and cheer for Gal Gadot (and for Lynda Carter, a woman whose unfettered joy for this new evolution is everything you could ask a super heroine to be). I was going to scream about how perfect it is that The Princess Bride grew up to be Antiope, the fiercest Amazonian Queen ever! Can we talk about the moment when Robin Wright yells, “shield” and thrusts herself upward, nearly frozen high up in the sky all while twisting and shooting three arrows at once…all brought to us by a woman rocking not only that body over the age of fifty (although that honestly could be enough), she’s also rocking massive acting chops which make Themyscira and everyone around her absolutely real! And how about boxer Ann Wolfe as Artemis or heptathlete Moe Sasegbon or, or, or all the real-life warrior women come out to play.
Okay. The point is my plan was to kick back and relish the spirit the film projects.
But apparently now comes “the morning after.” And while most people I know are genuinely sharing varying degrees of happiness, some are not. And you know, that’s okay. It’s a movie and not everyone loves every movie equally.
What is not okay is to flog a movie for not carrying the weight of every message you have personally determined the movie was obligated to carry.
And this rude bliss interruption first occured when I stumbled upon a column by Christina Cauterucci, “I Wish Wonder Woman Were as Feminist as It Thinks It Is.”
Per Ms. Cauterucci, “To me, whatever chance Wonder Woman had of being some kind of feminist antidote to the overabundance of superhero movies made by and for bros was blown by its prevailing occupation with the titular heroine’s sex appeal.”
I dunno. I have to admit, I liked her sex appeal. And Robin’s. And Connie’s. And the list goes on. Nowhere in my world view is it a requirement of feminism to not have sex appeal. I like a little sex appeal, personally.
And so I continued to read, my bemusement kind of ambling along, until I reached her conclusion:
“I wondered why I’d come into the movie expecting some energizing woke-feminist manifesto instead of a film that stars one sexy woman surrounded by throngs of horny men, barely passing the Bechdel test after the opening scenes on Diana’s home island. Maybe it’s because, as with the Ghostbusters reboot, insecure men have seized upon Wonder Woman and its all-woman screenings as evidence of a misandrist, matriarchal uprising that threatens their place in the world. Maybe I’d secretly hoped those men were right.”
And yet, there’s the point. The exact point. Millions of young girls, many of them taken by their parents, went to a movie and came out believing that the women they encountered on this journey can literally joust with the best of them. And if enough young girls believe, this movie will have been exactly that: a woke-fest manifesto.
And it’s not just Wonder Woman. Our current culture seems to need to dispatch with an embrace as soon as one is given. We have become a world of “let me rain on your parade.”
Wonder Woman isn’t perfect. There’s some hokey dialogue and over the top emoting. (I could point out it’s based on a comic book.) Women of Color could argue that while diversity is present, perhaps a bit more front and center would be nice. (But we should say props to one of the more genuine and wonderful Native American roles.) And for body positive advocates, yeah Gal Gadot is Hollywood thin and gorgeous (and playing a previously established character) but there are also frames filled with wall-to-wall bodies who are rarely seen on screen and suddenly, they’re who we want to be. And with the casting of Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen as fierce queens, even ageism advocates get a small touch of acknowledgement.
Most importantly, everywhere I look, there are letters and pictures of girls from all walks of life, joyous and believing in their power, taking strength away from a movie and sharing it with the world. They are each their own “Fearless Girl” and together they are in this moment a very much a woke-feminist wonder.
The real question should be, can we make it last?
Stefani Deoul is the author of the YA mystery novel On a LARP from Bywater Books. Contact Stefani.