As I write this, the long anticipated feminist masterpiece movie, Wonder Woman is two weeks old.
In true Branwyn fashion, I just saw it yesterday. But even that is much quicker than I see most movies. I'm not really a movie person. I tend to get bored about half way through, yet by the end I still usually feel as though the story is unfinished. So why would I spend money on the experience? I had to make an exception for Wonder Woman though. I just had to see for myself if the movie was all it was hyped up to be.
I have to say it wasn't. For me anyway (do keep in mind that this is an opinion piece coming from a self-proclaimed non-movie person). Though, I find I was most disappointed that the movie was not as completely feminist as I'd hoped it would be.
It started off so strong: A society composed entirely of women that had existed for hundreds of years without the aid of men. That's awesome. I won't lie that I haven't occasionally dreamed of living in such a place. It was also made clear very early that these women were all excellent fighters, a skill not usually ever attributed to women, especially in Hollywood. So that was refreshing. And then there was the whole back story where these amazing women were actually created to battle Aires and keep mankind on the right path. That was definitely my favorite part, as it contrasted so well to modern construction of women as the secondary sex.
In my opinion, things only started to go downhill once the guy was introduced. Yes he was the butt of a couple of good jabs. For instance, I laughed out loud at the whole "men are only necessary for reproduction and don't know that much about pleasure" thing. But by the time they were joking that giving Wonder Woman (Diana) a pair of glasses "wouldn't magically make her not the most attractive woman in London," things felt kind of forced (though as a glasses wearing woman I did somewhat appreciate this).
Things stayed kind of forced after that. Yes, I'm talking about the romance between Diana and Captain Steve Trevor. It only kind of helped the plot of the film, and with a little imagination it wouldn't have been necessary. So why was it in the film? Why didn't someone get creative enough to write it out? I'll tell you why: because in order for a film with a female protagonist to do well, there has to be at least a little romantic action. Because what's a woman other than a sexual companion to a man?
The feminist movement in the United States has been extremely successful. In my opinion, the subtle but all too commonly held notion that pleasing men should still be a primary role for women is one of the last major feminist battles we're fighting in this country. So I was extremely disappointed that the Wonder Woman movie still bought in to this notion.
I mean, come on, she fell in love with the first guy she ever met within a week. To me this suggests that Diana, despite being raised in a society without men, somehow had this innate yearning for male companionship and approval. It is here that it shows that the screenplay was written by men.
Yes, the movie was directed by Patty Jenkins, the first female director of a studio superhero movie. The movie also set records for the biggest opening for a female director. And that's so cool. But the story itself was written by Allan Heinberg and Geoff Johns. That is perhaps why the movie so easily complies to certain Hollywood tropes about women.
There were some very redeeming points, though. After all, the movie was written with a female protagonist and has succeeded with a female protagonist. Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, shines as the clear lead; Chris Pine's character is definitely what I would call "supporting." And Diana, while she does need male guidance in the unfamiliar world outside the island paradise she was raised on, isn't saved by men. So that's definitely a step up from what usually goes down in such films. She also wasn't over sexualized (Her armor was kept skimpy in homage to the original Wonder Woman costume).
These are all points in Wonder Woman's favor. Was Wonder Woman the feminist film I wanted it to be? Not exactly. In fact, it kind of proves that there's still a lot of work to be done in Hollywood before women will ever be portrayed as equals. Despite it's faults, though, Wonder Woman was definitely a step in the right direction.