Wonder Woman is one of those animated / comic book characters who were part of the magic of my childhood and hold a special place in my heart as an artist and dreamer. I eagerly awaited the release of Warner Bros. movie but sadly couldn’t find time to see it until yesterday. The critics’ reviews and moviegoers’ feedback bolstered my hope that this film would live up to expectations–and it exceeded them but in ways I did not anticipate.
Having grown up in an era where women can vote, work in nearly every field I can think of, have economic power, better control over their reproductive rights and so on, the painful path to those liberties is seemingly forgotten as we go about our days benefiting from them. While this may seem an oversimplification, I believe that because those who were and are threatened by women’s equality did and still do a good job of making the term feminist a dirty word, we may be continuing to move the needle forward but it seems to be in less dramatic and public ways. I say that to say this: the message of advancing women’s equality and rights has been on the periphery unless those battles our foremothers won are under attack.
As a child, I did not necessarily understand how special Wonder Woman was as a model of female empowerment. But yesterday, as an adult, the Wonder Woman movie rocked my world in two hours and twenty-one minutes.
The subtlety of Patty Jenkins’ directing coupled with the astute writing by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs brought William Moulton Marston’s Wonder Woman to life in a way that both touched me and awakened my understanding of my power as a woman. I understand now that it’s not that I have to wage wars to make a difference. I can move the needle not only for myself but also by setting an example for others to follow in every conversation, decision and action. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman / Diana Prince did this masterfully and in a way that was not portrayed as emasculating.
What I saw yesterday was a woman who behaved in the strong, unapologetic way a man does without losing her femininity. At first I was a bit dismayed that they chose to throw in the romantic connection between Wonder Woman and Steve Taylor. Upon further reflection, I applaud it. It showed that I woman could lose herself in love but not be ruled by it. It demonstrated that a woman could be united with another person and yet stay true to herself. Strong messages for women at any age.
Having seen how Wonder Woman’s character negotiated the “world of man” as an equal, I had to wonder how my life (or thought process) would have been different had I had been educated in an all girls school. I recall my mind-blown reaction to hearing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg say, “People ask me sometimes, when — when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is when there are nine.” It was at that moment that I realized that I had been accepting the way things are, that I was not challenging the status quo, that I myself was not advancing equality. Why not an all female Supreme Court or Congress for that matter?
What I found so empowering about the messaging in Wonder Woman is that it was non-judgmental. It simply showed a different way of negotiating the world and not saying men were bad or that women were victims.
Interestingly, one of the most powerful and moving moments of the film is when Diana crossed “no man’s land” to save a village of people who were at death’s door. It was rich with symbolism and heroism. Seeing a woman stand up for what is right, doing the right thing at what could have been her own peril, not doing what she is told by a man, going into “no man’s land” and generally being depicted as bad ass–wow. Had I been alone, I would have let out the tears that threatened to spill. How many times have we see men do these things while women are relegated to tending to the household, children or the wounded? Yet, it wasn’t just about her–it showed her leading and a team that supported her. The last time I can think of a similar tale is Joan of Arc–600 years ago. (Let that sink in…)
The casting of the Amazons was strong both in the quality of acting and the different representations of powerful women of all ages, creeds, statures and so on. I could have done without the schexxy clothes but they were in keeping with the design of the character from inception.
Was it perfect? No. The cast was mostly white (although I do applaud the diversity that was shown and recognize that the depiction of ethnicity was historically accurate). There were also simple flaws like Princess Diana’s moleskin patch on her shoulder to protect her skin from the abrasion of her leather shoulder strap and editing errors. But there was so much that was good and great about it, that I give it a pass on those nits.
I appreciated the quality of both the story line and the visuals supporting it. The colors, lighting, costumes and scenery harmoniously reinforced the storytelling. The comedy relief was spot on. In short, even if you weren’t into the female empowerment message, Wonder Woman is a highly enjoyable theater-going experience.
I am already dying to see Justice League and the not-yet-made Wonder Woman sequel. I am also cautiously optimistic that those of us on Team Estrogen will truly feel empowered to do more to negotiate our world and our spheres of influence to advance our collective equality.