Weighed down by a chorus of no’s, she steps up onto the battlefield. Her disguise falls to the ground and fiercely, she walks towards the gun fire. And instead of being demolished, she triumphs, making it across No Man’s Land. She clears the path so that her men can follow.
I was never a huge Wonder Woman fan growing up. I didn’t dislike the character, but apathy more accurately described my attitude towards her. So, when announcements about the film and eventually a trailer were released, I didn’t really care. Furthermore, I preferred the Marvel film adaptations over the DC, where they weren’t afraid to let their characters have fun. The most recent DC films were so dour and monochromatic. I also must admit, that when I heard the actress playing Wonder Woman was named Gal Gadot, I rolled my eyes. That seemed like such a fakey Hollywood name. So, without hearing a thing about the movie itself, I had made a judgement. Side note: I should mention that I have been known to make similar calls on pop culture before. Most famously in my determining that the Gilmore Girls was a silly, pious show about two perfect women, akin to shows like Seventh Heaven. Wow, was I wrong. Don’t worry, a roommate set me right and ordered that I watch the series. I am still grateful to her to this day.
So, back to the story and my disinterest in the Wonder Woman movie. I mentioned this to a friend, who pointed out that this is one of the first female-led comic book movies and if it did well, then there might be more movies like this. Her argument landed with me. It’s no surprise that the film and TV industry is male dominated. A great example is the Academy Awards. The majority of the films nominated for best picture each year feature a male protagonist. Do I even need to give an example for the lack of female representation on the production side? However, comic book films, are especially notorious for solely featuring male characters. It would be angering if it wasn’t so blatantly hilarious. Ant Man. Ant Man, a lesser comic book character has his own movie before any female character did in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This isn’t a dig against Paul Rudd and his scarily youthful face (will he never age?), but film makers are so uninterested in featuring a female lead, that they start scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to characters to feature. DC hasn’t done much better, although to their credit (?) they did produce a Cat Woman movie. But why has it taken so long for Wonder Woman to come to the big screen? She’s one of the most iconic super heroes out there. Well, I think we know why this happens. And that’s why it is so important that when a female-led comic book movie (with stellar reviews) opens, we need to show up.
In light of all of this, I decided that I needed to see this movie and see it opening weekend.
Fast forward to opening night, with ticket in hand, and bolstered by the positive reviews of the film. I sat down and was treated to one of the most empowering film experiences I have ever witnessed. I cried. I cheered. I laughed (yeah DC, it’s ok to have funny moments in your movies). I have been on a mission ever since, telling women to see this movie.
I have seen movies champion strength. I have seem movies champion compassion. I have seen few movies champion both in the same character. Wonder Woman exemplifies how both can and should exist together. It felt as though I was seeing the fulfillment of what true strength is. This naturally takes me to the question of “what would happen if we let more women lead?” I believe that women who lead out of their femininity have something unique to offer the world. We miss out when we silence our female leaders.
What I loved most of all, was how Gal Gadot carried herself in the film. I never noticed how much women, both on the screen and in real life, carry shame in their bodies. We’re apologetic for being here and not being men. Or I see that same shame channeled through sexuality, which is used to manipulate power. The thinking being, this is the only way we can exert power in a situation. However, I don’t recall ever seeing a woman who carried herself as if she knew who she was and had no shame over that reality. This most clearly was evidenced in a scene earlier on in the film, when Wonder Woman walks into a meeting full of men. The men quickly murmur about her presence and the complaints get louder and louder. She doesn’t shrink. She doesn’t hurry out. Neither does she take on a defensive posture. No, she doesn’t get their objections. To their “what are you doing here”, her body language responds, “of course I should be here.” As a woman who has experienced the questions of “why are you here?,” this was incredibly meaningful and empowering to me.
No, I am not Wonder Woman, but I can champion both the strength and compassion in me. I can work to land in a place where I love and accept who I am, and shine forth from that belief. I can remember that my gender is a gift, not a curse.
If you have seen Wonder Woman, what resonated with you? What was your experience of watching the film?