I wasn’t expecting to get emotional over a movie based on a comic book character, especially one in which I was going to have to look past the sexy push-up bra and the cascade of dark, glossy locks.
But I did.
Here’s the thing: Unless you belong to a group which is un or under represented–in movies, television, books, politics, life–you probably don’t appreciate the emotions that come with finally witnessing that representation–ten feet high on a movie screen. But trust me, it’s one of the reasons there’s so much hype surrounding Wonder Woman, especially and notably, from women. It’s not that it’s not a good movie in its own right (it is), it’s that a new generation of girls and boys, sitting in a darkened theatre are seeing, many for the first time, a superhero who looks like their mother, or teacher, or cousin or sister saving the world and kicking ass. Sans push-up bra.
Science-fiction and super-hero movies seem like a laughable place to begin in the fight for equality, but in reality, it makes perfect sense. Kids need a safe space to fantasize. Fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, those genres give kids that space. For a long time society has assumed that girls only fantasized about playing dolls and princesses in towers waiting to be rescued. No one stopped to think that’s what girls fantasized about because that’s all we’ve ever allowed them. What will those dreams look like, how will they differ, when we give kids the freedom to dream big? Movies like Wonder Woman make it safer for girls–and boys– to dream. It’s where you get to work out complex feelings in the relative comfort of fantasy play. Safe places to grow and spread their wings.
And girls? Girls have had their wings clipped for centuries.
One woman in block heels and a golden armbands won’t change that.
But it’s a step in the right direction.
There’s a nice little sequence in which Diana must exchange her battle garb for more restrictive Edwardian dress so she won’t draw attention to herself. And then there’s this: When asked who she is, Diana starts to answer only to be interrupted by the film’s main male character. Not knowing how to explain the Amazon beside him, he refers to her as his secretary. Because—what else would she be? Women’s places are well-defined and described. There is no way for him to accurately describe Diana, no easy path to comprehension and understanding and so we fall back on the obvious. A secretary. A helper. Coffee fetcher, typist. Gal Friday behind the scenes.
And in the space of that one line, that one instant–Diana Prince becomes EveryWoman.
How many women who read this or who have watched the movie have been asked to fetch coffee, or order lunch, or work below her pay scale or title rank because she’s been assumed to be something less than what she actually is?
It was the moment that changed the movie for me, from an action adventure movie starring a woman to a feminist film, whether it was intentional or not.
My favorite scene however, the one which had tears threatening to spill out from under my 3-D glasses, was when three male characters held a piece of armor on their backs for Diana to spring from. They were, quite literally, giving her a leg up, the support she needed to launch herself into a battle to save them, and a town under siege. Diana has always been sure of her destiny, and in that moment, the men were sure of it as well. And instead of trying to stop her, they instead gave her what she needed to get there.
What woman among us hasn’t thought she would be the one to change the world, a man, a life? Women have always been there, behind the scenes, assisting and fetching, trying to save the world.
Do not assume women are naive enough to realize some battles will not be won without fighting or without sacrifice. And do not assume we are not willing to fight and sacrifice when it is necessary. Give us a shield to climb upon, to propel ourselves up beyond that glass ceiling and into the stratosphere and watch what we can do.
It took me a moment to recover from that one.
Wonder Woman the movie wasn’t perfect, but neither are wonder women, the reality. We are flawed. We have weaknesses, we falter, and sometimes, we fail. We fail to save the ones we love. We fail to change the world. We lose our way, we get lost. All of that? It just made me love the movie even more…because we don’t need to be perfect in order to effect change. We don’t have to be all things, it’s ok to be some. Warrior, lover, savior, failure.
If you doubt the effect that movies like Wonder Woman have, I leave you with this. In the dark of the theatre, my son’s friend leaned over and whispered, “she’s like The Hulk AND Superman in one!”
At 46 I can still dream big. My dream is this: the girls and boys sitting in those theaters won’t doubt the commanding presence of a female super hero–on-screen, in the board room, or at the dinner table.
Let girls dream big and they can save the world. Give them a shield to launch themselves from and they will soar.