Wonder Women

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind….

Wonder. Woman.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

The Perfect Imperfect Man

Alan RickmanAlan Rickman died today.

That may not mean anything to you, but I promise you, millions of women around the world felt their hearts break a little, tiny bit with the news. Millions of women who over the years willingly and easily forfeited a small piece of their hearts and fell in love, just a little, with Alan Rickman. I know, because I was one of them.

Men surely must think to themselves: “Who? The baddie from Die Hard? Him? The guy who told his henchmen to shoot the windows? Why on Earth?

They are right, to a degree. Alan Rickman was a strange choice of a crush, an odd man to get sweaty and swoon-y about. He wasn’t the best looking or the most muscular; he could even be a little pasty at times, a little doughy round the middle. His nose was beakish and his eyes were squinty. Yet I promise you I am far from the only gal who swooned every time his name was mentioned. On more than one occasion I witnessed a virtual smack-down on a mommy board about who loved him more. On more than one occasion I have referred to him as my Hollywood boyfriend.

He remains an unlikely sex symbol. He wasn’t the most obvious choice for heart flutters and butterflies. But oh, that voice. That smooth, honey drip of a voice that sinewed and slid into your eardrums and snaked its way straight to your heart and turned it into a mushy mess. Or maybe it was just me.

My husband, knowing how much I adored him, used to walk around saying “Shoot.the. windows.” in a fairly decent impersonation of that syrup drawl. Today when he called to tell me the news of his death, I told him the phrase was hovering in a no-fly zone.

“Too soon?” he asked.

“Too soon,” I said.

Most of us loved the man Rickman because we loved the men he played on-screen. And we loved the men he played on-screen because hidden in those men are the men we all long to fall in love with. Often there was more than a little bit of the men we did fall in love with. He was Everyman, yet just an every man, and that’s exactly what was so endearing about him. He was nothing special, and yet so very special. From Colonel Brandon to Severus Snape there was always a humming undercurrent of longing which electrified those men and elevated them from two-dimensional characters to men you wanted to bring home; to your mother, to your bed. On some level, most of us yearn for someone to pine for us the way Colonel Brandon pines for Marianne Dashwood, someone who will wait for us, who will forgive us our imperfections, who will indeed, revel in them.

That is what so many women found attractive and sexy. That is what women swooned over.

Even in his most hated moments, when his callous, selfish, dick-ish behavior caused Emma Thompson to hold back tears in Love Actually you couldn’t help but think to yourself this is a man I could marry; perhaps even a little this is the man I did marry. A man deep enough to sink your teeth into, a man who would allow his ghost self to fade quietly into the afterlife just so you could find love again; a man who would watch from afar, just to make sure you’re happy.

That’s why women loved him, because he played so well the men we all want to love, who we want to love us back. Yes, even the prick he played in Love Actually.

They were characters of course, but Alan Rickman was the man who brought those characters to life–he brought them into our living rooms and movie theaters and in so many cases, our mushy hearts. He made us love them, all those perfect imperfect men. And in doing so, made us love him.

So excuse me while I stitch back up the little hole in my heart.

 

 

Why the Movies of My Youth Could Never Happen Today

maxresdefaultI’ve seen E.T. at least a dozen times. No matter how many times I watch it, I still get a little thrill every time Elliot and E.T. fly across the moon. I weep with little Gertie as she holds out her flower-pot parting gift. I snuffle and gulp down a sob every time E.T. holds out his glow stick finger to Elliot’s forehead and tells him,”I’ll be right here.”

I watched it for the first time with my boys the other night. It took some convincing on my part. They are used to Marvel and Galaxies protected by Guardians. Special effects and CGI. The family adventure dramas I grew up with are too slow-paced for them. Not enough stuff gets blown up.

Even though I know E.T. backward and forward, watching it with my kids I was struck by something new this time. Maybe it’s been on my mind. Maybe because I now have a kid around the same age or older than Elliot.

E.T. could never happen today. I’m not even talking about the extra-terrestrial part of E.T. In fact, the sentient alien being part would likely be more believable than the fact that for the most part, kids were left alone. For long stretches of the afternoon and evenings, after school, on weekends, in the mornings, alone. Alone. Without adult supervision.

If E.T. were made today, Michael and his friends would have been lined up on the couch playing Minecraft on a server, too busy to order a pizza. Elliot never would have tracked down E.T. because Elliot never would have been allowed outside on his bike by himself. His access to sugar and Reese’s Pieces would have been strictly managedHe would have had to lure E.T. back to his home with kale chips or fruit kabobs. Gertie was left on her own in the house, Michael was backing cars out of the driveway. Kids were drinking unlimited cans of Coke. Grade schoolers were encouraged to use scalpels and given access to chloroform. Kids were allowed out on Halloween by themselves.

It was just like I remember.

If E.T. was made today, he would have simply used a phone home app.

goonies-9385

The Goonies? They would have all been in sanctioned after school programs. Data would have been in Chess Club and Early Engineers. Chunk would have been on Weight Watchers. Mouth? Mouth would still be Mouth. There’s a Mouth in every generation. But no treasure hunts, no long stretches of time to go exploring or spelunking. Not without grown-ups hovering nearby.

How about Home Alone? Child Protective Services would  swoop in faster than you can say aftershave to take Kevin into custody. Some neighbor surely would notice; not the increase in activity at the house mind you, but a ten year old kid walking outside by himself. This is the stuff that gets noticed nowadays.

The Karate Kid? No way Daniel-son would be allowed to hang out with Mr. Miagi. An unmarried middle-aged man? Are you kidding? Hello! Pedophile Alert!  If Daniel of today showed early promise in karate, he would be signed up for classes. The travel team, club tournaments. There would be no classic “Sweep the Knee!” for the win because everyone’s a winner!

The Princess Bride? No thanks, Grandpa, you don’t need to read to me, I can binge watch Netflix or YouTube videos to learn how to strengthen my archer queens.

The Breakfast Club? Over-involved parents would call meetings to discuss their child’s detention and threaten to sue if the decision isn’t reversed.

Back to the Future? Skateboarding without a helmet? NO way.

All those things we took for granted because it was the norm. Biking around for hours, swimming unchaperoned, roaming and hanging out. Smoking in the woods. Ok, ok, smoking in the woods wasn’t such a good idea. But I never thought I would look back on the movies I grew up with and feel sad for my kids because they’re growing up in a time when most of those things seem more unbelievable than coming across an alien from another planet.

There’s a reason why the blockbusters of today take place between the pages of a comic book, or increasingly, in a postapocalyptic world. It seems the only place where kids are free to roam around un-supervised is in Sci-Fi.

etKids haven’t changed, not really. John Bender was surely a Dauntless the same way Data was an Erudite before there was Divergent. The Outsiders were the rebels of District 9 before The Hunger Games. And before the Age of Ultron there was a simpler extra-terrestrial named E.T. and a movie about a boy who was free to grow up with the magic of possibility.

My kids prefer their own generation’s movies, as they should. The movies I grew up with have a rawness they aren’t used to. Sometimes the emotions are too real for them, too overwhelming, especially for my older boy who shows the same sob swallowing tendencies I did. (I do.)

I promised my son I would try not to cry too loudly and snottily as we sat together on the couch the other night. Of course I failed, though I tried mightily to stifle my sniffles. I watched out of the corner of one glistening eye as he cried too. We were probably crying for very different reasons, but he got it. He has a heart light.

There’s still enough magic in those movies to hit home, even if the world they take place in is almost as unrecognizable to my kids as the Marvel universe is to me.

Like, Your 40s are Going to be Totally Awesome!

Photo: emmyz.net
Photo: emmyz.net

Michelle Obama recently turned 50 and headlines around the world declared that 50 is the new 40.  Doing the media outlet math, that means that in CNN years, I am really only 33.  Result!  All kidding aside, I enjoy being in my 40s.  Sure, there are bosoms to deal with and middle age spread to contend with. There are the beginnings of aches and pains and myopia and you start to Google strange symptoms on a daily basis.  There’s the Medusa like reality of menopause staring down at me.  But there are plenty of pros too:  wisdom, friendship, being comfortable in your own skin (more or less), more disposable income, better taste in shoes…

Recently a friend and I have been having a “who had the worst hair in high school” contest on Facebook.  Even reading between the Aquanet lines, it was hard to declare a winner.  The 80s were a decade of big hair, bad hair, or in my case, Robert Smith hair.  If you are in your 40s or fast approaching that milestone, chances are that no matter how much you may hate your hair now, it looks better than it did in the 80s.  So, you see?  Another perk of life in your fifth decade.  But this post is not about all that.  This post is about the one perk you I bet you haven’t thought about.

We would, like, totally kick ass in a nuclear holocaust or a zombie apocalypse.

Think about it.  Not only did most of us watch The Day After and take notes, but there are plenty of tubular things about growing up in the 80s that would serve us well should we ever have to sift through the rubble of an atomic fallout or fend off brain-slurping, undead ex boyfriends.

Photo: Wikipedia.com
Photo: Wikipedia.com

McGyver.  How many times did you tune into McGyver or The A Team and watch them create explosives out of a shoe box, a bobby pin and some baking soda?  Or open tins with a twig?  Set a successful trap with a sock and a prayer?  These are skills that would come in handy during even a generic apocalypse, never mind a zombie one.

John Hughes.  Repeated watchings of the entire John Hughes oeuvre would make delegation a snap.  If you grew up in the 80s, setting up a hierarchy of jocks, princesses, athletes, basket cases, and brains would be—-well, a no-brainer.  Need someone to build a radio out of tin foil and scrap metal?  Where’s the brain!  Need someone to use as bait to draw those zombie suckers in?  Where’s Ally Sheedy when you need her?

CFCs.  If you ever kept a can of Aquanet or Stiff Stuff in your locker for between class touch ups, you know the power of hairspray.  If you ever had a girlfriend who used so much Rave you could taste it over her Bonnie Bell when you kissed her, you know how potent that stuff is.  A can of Aquanet and a lighter can go a long way, my friend.

Rotary telephones, typewriters and checkbooks.  If you’re in your 40s, you’ve lived a big part of your life without ‘technology”, (barring Walkman and the Commodore 64)  Think about what this means.  While a group of young guns is struggling to find their way, not knowing how to navigate without their GPS or Google Map, we could, oh, I don’t know, stop and ask directions.

Photo: themirror.co.uk
Photo: themirror.co.uk

Optimistic Realism.  If you are currently in or approaching your 40s, you grew up in a generation in which anything was possible, by working for it.  No relying on nepotism or reality television shows or expectations of entitlement.  No Mom and Dad arguing for a better grade on your behalf, no cell phones to get you out of a jam.  You had to think on your feet on the playground, write a decent essay to get into college, interview for a job in person.  Common sense and accepting responsibility will  be key components to surviving the coming of the Walking Dead.

Twiddling Thumbs.  In between battles for supremacy, there are going to be long stretches of nothing to do but sit around and watch the paint dry.  If you’re in your 40s, you’re used to boredom.  Remember, we only had 5 or 6 television channels.  And no internet.  We’ve done it before, we can do it again. We are ok with long stretches of watching the clouds go by.

The Clapper.  Think of the confusion this could cause.  Lights on. Lights off.  All as if by magic.  The undead wouldn’t know if it was Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Living Dead or what.

Brain Power.  If you can solve a Rubik’s cube, outrunning a zombie herd is no biggie.

University of Life.  Maybe that Bachelor’s degree in Sociology won’t help right away, but a BA  from the 80s/early 90s has got to be the equivalent of a Masters today.  Someday, when the fallout dust has settled and society is ready to be rebuilt, they’re going to be looking for smarty pants like us.  Maybe not sociologists and women’s studies majors, but that Liberal Arts degree could just come in handy.

Longevity.  If you grew up in the 80s, you’ve seen so many fads and trends come and go that you are wary of anything that promises instant results.  Le Disc, Chia Pets, 3 card monty, parachute pants, neon, Ponzi schemes.  So when someone comes up and offers you a device that can track zombie movement, or detect fallout radiation, you’re going to take them with a grain of McGyver-made salt.

Transportation.  If you grew up before seatbelts, you know the correct way to ride in the back of a pick-up truck without falling out.  You could also quite easily utilize unorthodox methods of transportation to outrun zombies and/or ash clouds:  roller skates, Big Wheels, Huffies and BMX racers.  Green machines.

Psychology.  You’d be surprised what you learned and retained from all those Afterschool Specials.  You never know when being able to spot which survivor was suffering from an eating disorder, who came from a divorced family, whose dad was a secret alcoholic might come in handy.  Knowledge is Power.

Breakfast club

Go out in Style.  If you’re minutes away from being caught by a zombie mob and having your brain sucked out of your eye sockets, you have the ability to go out in style.  Commandeer a parade float and sing Danke Schoen at full volume.  Perform a previously impossible lift at the end of a dance routine. Cycle across the moon.  As You Wish.

So you see, though sometimes the thought of getting older makes you maudlin, makes you contemplate your mortality, makes you start counting down your days on this mortal coil, there is plenty to be thankful for.  I promise, you will like, totally, be okay.

And, if all else fails, you can Just Say No.

Thanks to Goldfish for the Zombie Apocolypse idea,  Mrs. DW for reminding me that “kids, girls in particular, have been told that they can grow up to be whatever they want to be—they’ll just have to work really hard to get there. Empowering kids isn’t new. What’s changed is that the second part of the message has disappeared”  And to Betsy for highlighting the “hair” in Harum Scarum.

And a very Happy Birthday to several of you whom I know are fast approaching that 40 year old mile marker.