As you may already be able to tell, I’ve seen Patty Jenkins’ and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and I liked it. A lot.
Women don’t sell in western-genre-action-films. They don’t sell in comics and they most definitely don’t sell action figures. Don’t believe me? Walk into your nearest toy section and check out the offerings of Star Wars toys. You’ll probably notice that the hardest characters to find on the shelves are the female leads from both recent offerings of Star Wars on the big screen (and it’s definitely not because they’re flying off of the shelves too fast). Marvel themselves, even with all of their glorious success have refrained from attempting to make a dent in this giant hole in the market. Surely they could have made women take centre-stage in mainstream action culture instead of the previous efforts in the super-genre that fell short of the numbers in comparison male-led (or i guess you could just call it ‘the standard’) offerings we see month after month. But as Kevin Feige (Marvel’s own Walt Disney) has cautiously danced with press over the past few years, the concept is ‘a challenging thing’. Perhaps this is why Marvel have waited on the sidelines for DC/Warner to attempt it first. You’re probably listing the number of successful female action icons on both hands as you read this, and I can too. But I’d challenge you to think carefully about which demographic these heroines were aimed at and how. Even if you can find one that genuinely wasn’t marketed as boy-bait with guns, did it even make a step at the foot of the mountain of success the big boys did? The Divergent series’ finale found it’s home away from the silver screen its predecessors debuted on and instead slid in for a humble conclusion in home release. Did anyone with professional insight expect any different of Wonder Woman? Absolutely not. But ‘boy’ were they wrong. And it wasn’t because she handed the fella’s their asses (I mean… she totally did in the film, but there was much more going on than that 😉
When it comes to the structure and plot of Wonder Woman, no new ground is really broken. It’s a comic-book origin story like many others. Our protagonist receives a greater calling, meets a love interest, struggles to adapt to her responsibilities, is surrounded by personal and social struggle, discovers greater power within the depths of tragedy and despair and most importantly kicks a bunch of stuff over. But that’s not where the magic of this unprecedented entry into Super-Action comes from.
Where I remember leaving the theatre after Captain America: Civil War bedazzled by explosions, easter eggs and cameos thinking ‘wow, that unmemorable villain sure got what they had coming’ (and sure, the forgettable villain in Wonder Woman sure got what he had coming). I instead walked out of WW thinking ‘What am I going to do differently in my life?’
Yep. Diana Prince was stronger and braver than the boys. Yes, she had her emotions pulled at and manipulated to progress the plot and yes, she kicked people through brick walls. She got dirty, she spoke her mind and displayed values of honour and courage that no one else managed to acquire without her example (don’t all boldly coloured supes?) What sets this film apart is the fact that Avenging loss wasn’t the motivating force that overcame an opponent just outside the reach of our lead. Yeah, she got angry. Really. Angry. Yes, that anger was even inspired by sadness and loss. Without spoiling plot details for you. Anger, pain and loss were motivating factors for Wonder Woman, but the element that i’ve never before seen displayed in this caliber of film, is the fact that these motivations were purely reflective. WW falls in a landslide of anger, then reflects on it and instead acts from… are you ready? Love
The first moment in the film that we see Diana in full costume moments before leaping into action. I couldn’t contain my emotions. I cried, man! It was visually beautiful and excitingly stimulating for sure, but I wasn’t crying happy comic-nerd-tears. In fact I didn’t know at the time why it got to me so much, it was only discussing the movie after that I realised it was one simple, magnificent thing:
Wonder Woman didn’t finally jump head-on into bullets because she had finally become angered enough by an unjust mans world. It was because she could no longer contain her love for the helpless victims of World War One not to!
Where this film becomes a generational masterpiece is due to the graceful display of acceptance for what is and what one believes in. WW didn’t have to abandon her femininity to be on par with the men gunning for her blood, she instead embraces the masculinity of violence in one fist while following through with the compassion and nurturing of femininity in the other. Further to the film’s credit, Chris Pine’s supporting character ‘Steve Trevor’ also embraces the gentleness a man can embody when he allows the femininity within himself to shine (even with a ripping six-pack and a great haircut). This film didn’t put one gender before the other. It didn’t put anyone in their place (which it so effortlessly could have). Instead it stands as a lone example of what it is for two opposing genders to actually deserve to stand together.
The biggest take-away from the film for me was this: Love. Really is. all you need. Anyone reading this that is familiar with me, would probably label me as an idealist. But even I have struggled to whole-heartedly swallow the premise that love conquers all. My whole life I have so desperately wanted to believe this. But in a world full of bent values, injustice and pride over priority. I’ve never been able to understand how love can really be an effective rival to so much ugliness and hatred. Until now. Until Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman teaches us that in order for love to combat the viscousness of hatred and greed, we are not required to rid ourselves of our dark motivations. Anger, jealousy, resentment and despair are unavoidably motivating. We need these emotions. They are a big portion of half of our experience as humans. But when we learn to give ourselves that extra second beyond reaction, acting in love is just as unstoppable a force as an amazon with bullet-reflecting wrists.
Wonder Woman shows us that in order to use love to it’s full potential we must: Embrace our hatred, step into our anger, hold our breath in our sorrow for consideration, then act in love.
Functionalism has become an acceptable element of all that we wash our hands of in the world. But not for Wonder Woman. WW doesn’t have time to allow for a few eggs to crack just to make her omelet (ok, so she mayyyy have killed a few people along the way, but let’s not be precious here 😛 ).
The film has already crossed 222 million dollars in ticket sales (and deservedly so). Not because the feminists are putting the heads of men on spikes, But because it is a much needed example of what it looks like when opposite sides of a coin display the qualities it will require for us all to deserve the right to call ourselves equals at all.
See the movie. Learn from it’s example. Support the brand, buy the merchandise and the toys. Heck, get more and give them away if you can. Show the market place and the suits that this is the kind of culture we want to spread in the world.
Make no mistakes. Inequality has it’s many corners. Racially, sexually and socially. But this film is a leap forward and i’ll support the shit out of it. Hopefully you will too, if not, maybe you’ll at the very least leave the popcorn-littered seats with the one question I also did:
How will I make a change now?