by Gracie Bucklew
[Note: This column contains spoilers for the movie Wonder Woman]
I guess they’re right — women really are hyper-emotional.
At least I was, along with many other women, while watching Wonder Woman at Ark Lodge Cinemas last week. Watching muscular women jump and fight and engage in brutal combat with each other may seem odd to cry over, but trust me, I was close. I wasn’t sad, don’t get me wrong, I was simply experiencing something amazing.
Hollywood has a long, pitiful history of forgetting women exist in action movies (or in any movies at that), except in the circumstance of sexual conquest, in which the woman is light-skinned, long-legged, straight-haired, conventionally beautiful, and on-hand. She is there as a prop for the super buff super hero when he gets lonely or restless.
She may also appear as the classic damsel in distress, sometimes in conjunction with the aforementioned role of on-tap sex. Here, she is helpless and, usually, hopelessly in love with the super hero who, in the end, valiantly saves her and countless other scared citizens from their terrifying doom.
Wonder Woman smashes these demeaning tropes. Those first several minutes of the film absent of the poisonous presence of men were blissful. Seeing an island populated solely by a race of Olympic God-created warrior women in constant combat training was so invigorating and empowering, and most of all, refreshing.
And don’t even “reverse sexism” this, because reverse oppression is not, and never will be, a thing. I mean we actually had to make a test for this (The Bechdel Test) to measure whether or not, in a fictional piece of work, two women could simply talk to each other for more than a few seconds about anything other than a man. Pretty pathetic, huh? Not surprisingly, Wonder Woman passed this test.
In our world is where Diana, Princess of Themyscira, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, encountered sexism for the first real time. She could not understand the straightjacket-like attire women shoved themselves into to appeal to the male gaze. She was cooed and whistled at by male Londoners on the street.
Men were startled out of speaking when she entered a room where war strategies were being discussed. These men were later unable to wrap their heads around the knowledge that Diana was multilingual. She did not let misogyny discourage her, however.
This movie was quite reminiscent of the Holtzmann fight scene in the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters for me. I was on the brink of jumping out of my seat in the theater during that scene, and the same feeling carried over to many of the fight scenes in Wonder Woman.
The reason for this elation is simple; women were kicking ass without the help or jurisdiction of a man. The slow motion made it even more epic. Arrows were flying, swords were slashing, women were yelling and winning.
At the same time, they were able to feel despair and wail when one of their own had fallen, a raw human display of emotion we are too often deprived of in other action movies. Male heroes are expected to be hard and emotionless, supposedly showing their strength, when all it really does is crush boys’ humanity and perpetuate the patriarchal system which forces this role onto them. Well done director Patty Jenkins.
Wonder Woman is clearly a victory for women, but more specifically, for white women. Having an Ashkenazi Jewish Israelite play the leading role is really cool! But she is still white, or at least seen and used as such by the filmmakers. She is given a white mother and is played as a young girl by a white actress. This is not adequate representation for women of color.
Also, I can’t say I’m surprised, but there is a routine lack of queer characters in action movies that is not deviated from in Wonder Woman. You would think there has got to be some lesbians on Themyscira, an island of women, but hey, my expectations weren’t high in the first place.
In addition, I could have done without another predictable and unnecessary straight love story placed in an action movie. Sure, Diana and Steve’s tragic romance was touching but it did not have a place in a movie showcasing female strength and heroism.
Moreover, I was not thrilled that the only reason Diana was able to break free of Ares’ iron grasp was the sight of her new-found love dying in flight; I was really hoping the filmmakers would have let Wonder Woman be a wonder without the motivation of a man.
So yes, Wonder Woman is a breakthrough film and I’m ecstatic about it. But it is only a toe in the water. Let’s get intersectional Hollywood! I want to see a fat, brown, pansexual trans woman who wears a hijab while battling not only evil but mental illness as well. If we as consumers continue to support and create movies and media that break stereotypes and showcase diversity, I think we’ll be able to eventually get there.
Gracie Bucklew is a musician, artist, Unitarian Universalist, intersectional feminist, and activist and contributes a regular local pop-culture column to the Emerald. She is currently a student at The Center School. She lives on Beacon Hill with one of her moms, and is a lifelong resident of Rainier Beach with her other mom. She loves her friends, cats, and ice cream.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros Studios / DC Entertainment