How often do you watch a superhero movie and recall the superhero as smart, charming, strong, caring, and glamorous? Even before the movie was released I wanted Wonder Woman to be amazing. Because if it didn’t become a major hit, critics all over the world would have drawn sweeping and cynical conclusions about the potency of female superheroes – and with that female directors, female leaders, and female everything.
She was after all created in the 1940s as a comic book superhero combating inequality, and the notion that women are inferior to men. But instead of being portrayed as the token women of the comic-verse, this Wonder Woman plays it pretty straight – she is unrestrained by the usual prejudice that holds a woman back in a man’s world and fights with plenty of heart, humour and old-fashioned heroism.
Wonder Woman mixes two of my favourite movie genres – an unapologetic badass female lead and the complicated paradoxes of the early 1900s with a sincere intimacy. It is a superhero film with almost no excess and (intentionally or unintentionally) battles decades of hopeless sexism. But as most women always are – the film is also eager to stand by its political correctness, and to not offend.
You might say I have a self-fulfilling bias – but as I sat there as a 28 (now almost 29) year old woman, it suddenly dawned on me. People can be inspired or limited by what they see – and Wonder Woman does just that – she inspires you to see beyond the silver screen. She depicts a hero we never knew we needed, a hero whose gender is everything but also nothing. She is a superhero who just happens to be a woman – a strong and courageous woman – and as she stride across ‘No Man’s Land’ (in case you needed some helpful symbolism) I started to see the things that were missing – the female presidents, the female CEOs, the female decisions makers – and something clicked. Oh this is what people mean when they talk about representation. This is why it matters!
Imagine the millions of young girls watching the movie this week, and how it might broaden their notion of who a leader or a superhero can be and the traits they exemplify. The idea is not to want girls to strive to be superheroes, but that they believe they have the strength to be one if they did. That sharpness of purpose is as much a part of the movie’s identity – yet we cannot ignore the unfortunate realities of impossible standards and underlying bitterness attached to work by women entering fields dominated by men.
My friends warned me that I am going to come out of watching Wonder Woman wanting to sign up for cross-fit – while they’re not entirely correct – I found immense satisfaction in watching a woman fight back and fight incredibly well. And although we still live in a world where women are often undermined, underpaid and underestimated – these are indisputably signs of progress. But we can’t let anyone else stir the direction of what the future holds – much like Diana, Princess of Themyscira, we should never outsource our safety, our judgement, or our freedom to a man.