Last Night I went to see Wonder Woman and it’s exceptionally difficult for me to put into words all the different emotions it brought up in me. First, let’s get a few caveats out of the way though.
Yes, it’s a superhero movie. Yes, it’s full of tropes and requisite romance. Yes, Gal Gadot is exquisitely beautiful and not an attainable goal for most women–she’s literally playing a Goddess Amazon. Yes, the premise is ludicrous. If your complaints about this movie fall into any of the above categories you were watching the wrong movie to begin with so stop complaining and go see the next John Reacher movie instead.
But what’s important is all the things put together and how they played out on screen.
The curious and defiant little girl determined to make her own path. The glint in her eye.
The innocent but proud young woman setting out on her own despite her mother’s desire to keep her safe.
The man at her side who is awed by her powers, in love with her compassion, and able to both protect and follow her when needed. He believes in her, beyond all else, he sees her greatness and adores her for it.
The pain of loss and horror of death and how these things affect us, as humans, as women. And the strength we pull on to get through those moments of utter destruction to go on and do what must be done.
Wonder Woman was a beautiful movie. Shot with an eye for framing the screen, capturing the moment. The color shifts between the Snyder-vision human world and the bright shining hues of Themyscira. (I found it interesting that the vision she sees toward the end had the colors of Themyscira). Every moment, every detail, every choice is clearly a conscious choice on the part of Patty Jenkins, I suspect that an eye to the beauty of the shot was a consideration, otherwise, how could it be so consistently gorgeous.
The Amazonians were beautiful, magical, beyond what we can achieve. But were they? No, we aren’t all genetically destined to be tall and thin, but Gal Gadot packed on 15 pounds of muscle and trained for a year for this role. She held her own on that screen and you could see the lines in her arms, the thickness, and power of her thighs (as thick as she’s able to get anyway). As for the other Amazons, they are real athletes who train and work and sweat – http://ew.com/movies/2017/05/30/wonder-woman-athletes-amazon-nation-themyscira/. We get to have strong bodies. Black bodies (Nu’Bia was exquisite). Old Bodies. Robin Wright could not have been cast more perfectly as General Antiope. Her body is lithe, strong, capable, but aged. They don’t shy away from the lines on her face, the scar on her shoulder, the tightness of her skin as it strains against her muscles. She is what aging looks like for an Amazon. It is not shied away from. It is beautiful and powerful and full of wisdom. We could learn a lot from that attitude.
The movie itself is predictable, but again, it’s a superhero movie. At least I didn’t have to watch Martha Wayne’s pearls spill on the alley ground AGAIN. We haven’t seen this story told 100 times and it’s been changed enough from the comics and TV show to be original while still falling inside the lines of the world Wonder Woman is drawn in. This is a new origin story, a new Superhero, who while she’s been in our collective unconscious for almost 80 years (http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Wonder_Woman_Publication_History) we haven’t really explored the depths of her. The television show was wonderful, giving us Lynda Cater in all her glory. She played the hell out of that role in both the 1940s season and the 1970s seasons. It was campy and we loved it, but that’s all it ever became. Three seasons that is now left on the waves of nostalgia.
But what if we could have a female superhero who was strong, and passionate, and innocent, and empathetic, and conflicted, and vengeful, and righteous, and nurturing. What if we could have a real HERO, not just another rich man’s masturbatory fantasy. Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (although it was his wife who suggested his superhero idea be a woman) wrote in a 1943 issue of The American Scholar:
Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.
We can save the rant against the inherent sexism in Marston’s comment for the time being and see through it to something that I think resonates with women. We are strong. We are righteous and vengeful and passionate. But we are also capable of all these more tender attributes. As are men. As are all humans. Perhaps seeing a character who doesn’t have to fight against their gentle side (as superheroes so often do) and who don’t try to fight their emotions or push away love and friendship would be good for ALL of us. Perhaps a fully integrated PERSON is what we really need to see on screen.
Seeing this happen, so fully, so completely, with Wonder Woman brought a tear to my eye. It was the Superhero movie she deserved. It’s the portrayal comic fans deserved. It’s the role-model all girls deserve.
Be feisty. Be defiant. Be good. Not in behaving or staying quiet but in that essential internal quality of goodness. See the bad in the world and do something. Weep for the dying, then go kick ass. Charge into the face of danger and know that your team, your friends, will follow you. No matter if they are men or women because you lead and you care.
One of the things I like was the innocence of Diana, the naivety and purity of intention which with she approached every situation (which had some great, if corny, moments of humor). Any yet, they avoided letting this innocence become the usual conflict of sexuality. Wonder Woman is no Virgin/Whore metaphor for you to place your values on. She is innocent, she is sensual, she is unsure, she is desirable, she is passionate, she is making her own choices. There is no moral judgment or great conflict. Sexuality simply is.
To say I enjoyed the movie is an understatement. I adored it. I want to lick its digital feet. I will own it and watch it again and again. I will buy the soundtrack. I will probably see it again in the theatre. I’ve waited so long for this, it feels like a coming of age. When I saw Logan I said “This is the Wolverine movie this character has been waiting for,” and I was right. It is a complex and excellent film. But when I saw Wonder Woman I said “This is the SUPERHERO movie I’ve been waiting for, and that we all deserve.”