I’ll be honest. I didn’t grow up with Wonder Woman like I did Batman and Superman. Though I didn’t get into comic books until college–where is where I first started reading about Diana Prince–I grew up watching the old Adam West Batman series, and I was obsessed with Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. So when the DCEU started up in force, my old friends Bruce and Clark just didn’t feel the same as the guys I grew up with. Though I loved the Dark Knight Trilogy, I just wasn’t on board with the constant dark and twisty Superman and Batman (I know–there’s a HUGE debate about this, but stick with me).
So when I found out they were making a Wonder Woman movie, I was excited, sure. I was well aware what a huge deal it was for a female superhero to get her own standalone film, but I didn’t have a lot of faith in the DCEU. Then I saw that Comic-Con exclusive trailer:
It hooked me. And the more TV spots and trailers I saw, the more hyped I got. This movie was going to be important, and I couldn’t wait. So when I got in the theaters, I wasn’t surprised that I was immediately pulled in. What I was surprised was how emotional I got.
I’m not the first person to say that watching Wonder Woman made them emotional. Meredith Woerner at the LA Times shared about how the film moved her, especially in the “No Man’s Land” scene.
And this scene was utterly badass, to be certain. That scene is a pivotal one for the movie (avoiding spoilers for you poor unfortunate souls who haven’t gotten to see it yet), and it’s where Diana really asserts herself as a hero and a capable warrior. It’s amazing and wonderful.
Of course, that wasn’t the only amazing, powerful moment of the film. I loved watching the Amazons fight on the beach of Themyscira. I loved watching Diana flip a tank with her bare hands, and I loved watching the drive she had to fight for what was right. It was all amazing, but the emotions didn’t hit me until the final moments of the movie.
It was in those final moments of the film that really got me. I hadn’t realized how much I had grown accustomed to seeing powerful women portrayed through a man’s gaze. From a film’s promotional material to the female characters’ fighting style to the angles female heroes are normally shot, I was so numbed to seeing a woman onscreen portrayed as eye candy, and where any aspect of her strength was meant to add to her sex appeal (and maybe pander to female viewers). I was used to seeing women portrayed as either loving and compassionate or powerful and strong. I was used to seeing a woman’s emotions portrayed as an Achilles’ heel or as a punchline.
But in Wonder Woman, there was none of that.
Diana had compassion for people. It was what drew her out of Themyscira in the first place. It was what sent her face-first into No Man’s Land. Sure, she’s a badass fighter, but she’s ultimately concerned about helping those who can’t help themselves. She puts herself in the line of fire–literally–to use her strength and power to help those less powerful than her.
Her emotions aren’t portrayed as a weakness or some dark and twisty secret that she tries to suppress, and they aren’t portrayed as something that makes her weak, a liability, shrill, or flighty. They’re what makes her a hero. Her emotion, her compassion, and her faith in people is what ultimately drives her to be the amazing hero we all know her as.
But even the way the film’s director, Patty Jenkins, filmed Gal Gadot as she portrayed Wonder Woman was wildly different from what I’m used to seeing. When Diana was fighting, she was more concerned with winning than looking sexy.
Badass and a fighter with a bit of flourish, sure, but it wasn’t a move meant to show off her tits or her ass. Diana was portrayed as powerful and skilled, and her fight scenes were meant to draw attention to that, not various parts of her body.
Jenkins utilized slow motion in many of her fights. She’s not the first to do this, certainly. A lot of people herald the Wachowskis as being the first to really make this a popular technique in modern filmmaking by introducing what they called “bullet time” in their Matrix franchise. You remember bullet time, right?
But even in the Matrix films (which I will always love), there was a severe difference in how men and women were portrayed in that slow motion action shot. Look at Neo in that gif above. He’s not trying to look tough or sexy. In fact, he’s got a definite “ohshitohshitohshitohshit” expression. Despite all of that, this is super badass–and you’re meant to think that. The focus of this shot is Neo’s strength and dexterity, and the power he’s been able to harness through the matrix. Even though the big stunt here is how bent over he is, the focus is his abilities and talent, not his actual body. Compare that to the film’s female lead, Trinity, in her two most iconic bullet time scenes:
Please hear me when I say I love these movies, and I love Trinity. She’s amazing. But look at these gifs a sec. While she’s exhibiting a ton of physical prowess and strength, it’s definitely got a lot more focus on how Trinity looks here than what she’s doing. I mean, that second gif has a huge close up of Trinity’s butt in her skin-tight leather. So even though I have so much love for the Matrix films and the character Trinity, I’m just used to movies giving me characters I love while heavily sexualizing and objectifying them onscreen.
So when I watched Wonder Woman and saw stuff like this…
…shots that were slowed down to highlight the fighting technique and style, not cater to the guys in the audience? I hadn’t realized how starved I was for female representation onscreen that wasn’t meant to arouse a guy. These women were portrayed from start to finish as dimensional and powerful characters who weren’t just “sexy tough girls”. They were wise, loving, compassionate, and brave. They were shown to be capable, amazing soldiers, and the impact of that hit me like a freight train when credits rolled for Wonder Woman. I couldn’t–and still can’t–remember the last time I saw an action/superhero movie that was made by women and for women.
I grew up with heroes like Princess Leia, and even though I LOVE her, she was definitely sexualized and objectified in the Star Wars films (if you’ve never heard Carrie Fisher rant about George Lucas’ insistence that she not wear a bra as Leia–you’ve got to Google that shit). Thinking about little girls growing up with Diana and the Amazons of Themyscira to look up to made me pretty emotional.
Of course, there were problems in the film. There’s no such thing as a perfect movie. The representation of women of color isn’t great, and there are some amazing pieces out there discussing that (like this one from Valerie Complex and Robert Jones Jr. or this one from Kendra James, for instance). Because even though Wonder Woman was a huge step forward in filmmaking, there are still tons of ways to continue to improve and represent all of humanity in the stories we tell in television and movies.
But even though there is more progress to be made, I think the number of women who found themselves in tears over this film proves that Patty Jenkins has made a powerful statement in Hollywood. A lot of us didn’t realize how conditioned we were to watch stories about women or that featured women through a guy’s eyes. Seeing Jenkins portrayal of strong women was fun, it was exciting, and it was empowering as hell.
I work in male-dominated industries, and I am constantly fighting to prove that I deserve a seat at the table and that my perspective is valid. Watching Wonder Woman felt like maybe a change in the tides is coming. Maybe the little girls growing up now won’t have to fight to prove that their ideas, perspective, and stories are valid and important. They won’t have to fight like we did to be heard in meetings, they won’t have to deal with patronizing or gross co-workers, and they’ll get paid what they deserve. The movie inspired me and made me feel hopeful because we’ve got Diana of Themyscira fighting for us now. So yeah. The movie made me cry.
Here’s why I cried after watching Wonder Woman:
NO WONDER WHITE MEN ARE SO OBSCENELY CONFIDENT ALL THE TIME I SAW ONE WOMAN HERO MOVIE AND I’M READY TO FIGHT A THOUSAND DUDES BAREHANDED
— meg s.s. (@megsauce) June 4, 2017