I went to see the new Wonder Woman film at a theater in NYC last Saturday with two dear friends of mine, and I was so compelled by the experience that I’m writing about it now. I’ve always been fond of superhero-movies––Christopher Reeves’ Superman, and Toby McGuire’s Spiderman being two of my favorites. And I was even more enamored with director Christopher Nolan’s dark and intense Batman trilogy. I still find myself referring to certain quotes in the Dark Knight movies, and marvel at the amount of depth and vision in them. A quote like: “Some men just want to watch the world burn” rings eerily true to me today. But I digress. I was quite excited to go see this new superhero-movie, particularly as the protagonist was––for the first time in my experience––a woman.
Now, the Wonder Woman movie is fun and entertaining, and a nice break from reality, but the quality of the movie is not why I feel compelled to write about it. I’ve been watching a string of old classic movies lately in fact (a slew of old Hitchcocks and a number of Paul Newman’s best turns on screen), so I’m on a decidedly different kind of movie kick right now. So perhaps Wonder Woman won’t be going on my list of all-time best movies ever––it’s a fine movie––but it isn’t about to compete with Spartacus in the “fuck me in the heart” category.
But. Wonder Woman is extraordinary for a whole other reason. Never have I left a movie theater feeling so empowered (I know…but it’s true). Never have I left a movie theater so ready to kick anybody’s ass who might threaten me. After all, didn’t I just see a woman besting everyone else on screen by a huge margin? Didn’t she just save the whole fucking world in front of my eyes?? It was at that moment that I realized that this is the first time we’ve seen a woman do this, in this way, and I was surprised at how powerful that felt to me personally, as a woman. I hadn’t understood it before on that deep a level, that while men have plenty of heroes and super-hero role models to choose from, we women have had only one. (Please. Catwoman and Batgirl don’t count.) And while Wonder Woman has been around since the 40’s, this is the first time she’s come into my orbit in a real way. And the orbit of many others as well, I suspect.
One more observation about Wonder Woman that makes her especially empowering for me is the fact that she grew up on an island inhabited only by powerful women. (!!!) These women––fierce, female Amazon warriors––brought Wonder Woman up to adulthood without her knowing anything about the patriarchal society that the rest of the world lives in. She has never experienced inequality between men and women and is therefore oblivious to it. THAT is what makes her such a role model for me. Though we’ve seen some female protagonists in movies in the past who’ve overcome all kinds of obstacles to come into their power at last, we’ve never seen a female hero before who is innately powerful, not the product of any kind of suppression or oppression. However progressive or liberal a culture or country we may think we live in, the truth is that there is not one country in the world in which women and men are treated equally. Trust me. Even I, who originally hail from uber-progressive Scandinavia, have plenty of personal stories about inequality and misogyny to tell.
Wonder Woman’s fearless vision of the world is what blew my mind, and showed me, for the first time, what might one day be possible for women. Here is a woman who will never have to fear getting raped or beaten or bullied. Never. She can look as sexy (or not) as she wants, and smile the warmest smile to anyone she encounters, but she need not be scared. No one’s going to harm her. Because if they try, she’s going to kick their asses so hard that they land on Neptune. Now that’s an example to live by.
Seeing is believing. I hope we’ll be witnessing many more powerful women in movies in the future. It’s not hyperbole: these visions have the capacity to change the minds and the lives of women and girls forever.