Last week I watched Wonder Woman, a DC Comics superhero film that grossed $821 million worldwide and was named Best Action Movie at the 23rd Critics’ Choice Awards. This Warner Bros. Pictures film is ranked number 2 on the Rotten Tomatoes list of “Best Superhero Movies of All Time” and received 93% “fresh” on the website’s Tomatometer.
With all the praise for Wonder Woman over the past months, I was expecting one hell of a masterpiece. The potential of this movie was huge— this hero could be the perfect role model for our daughter. Wonder Woman could be a chance to show a female superhero in an admirable, self-made leadership role. It could feature a female uniform that was not incredibly sexualized (and just another chance to market a woman’s body instead of her strength, intelligence, wit, etc.). It was an opportunity to show a woman accomplishing her goals without using her appearance as a major means of manipulating people, or without her getting manipulated by the good looks and charm of a man.
However, none of these goals were met and I’m in a world of disappointment.
The very premise of this movie wounds me — a woman portrayed as young and naive is destined to save the planet, but of course 1.) doesn’t and 2.) relies heavily on the male lead to guide her through the world and show her how and where to be a hero. Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) is an awesomely powerful being, yet is drenched in a stereotypical “girlish” incompetence. She is fluent in every language known to man, yet is mystified by snow and is hopelessly charmed and seduced by literally the first man she meets. She left her home on a profound mission to defeat the god Aries, yet immediately submits to Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who proceeds to parade her around insisting that his goals are more important. She is a god who couldn’t recognize another god without literally being attacked by one.
The character is altogether incredibly reminiscent of the “born sexy yesterday” trope, which is described beautifully in the video below. Watch it. Go on, I’ll wait.
I was right, wasn’t I?
I’ll stop my rant right here because the only thing more upsetting than this movie is the fact that I’m so upset about it.
Movies are now for more than watching.
You see, I wasn’t always like this. I’ve never been a fan of movies that are giant elephant and donkey billboards, but after years of having every cinematic experience slathered in political messages, I’ve acquired a taste for well-delivered political content. It can be done well and be enjoyable. But it can also ruin the experience.
Recently, instead of watching movies to enjoy the character development and plot twists, I find myself glaring between the lines for every wink and glisten of propaganda. I feel like some sort of attack animal getting slowly groomed and primed for a battle that isn’t mine. Or worse, a programmable machine, downloading the on-screen images to regurgitate in my behaviors. I used to watch movies, but now I feel like I drink them, like they have been prepared to feed a certain beast inside me raised to defend one view or another.
I know this is all just a part of the rising culture and the overall push for positive changes in the world. But I wish some movies could just be movies. And if they simply must be political messages, then those messages at least be delivered effectively and tastefully. There’s nothing worse than seeing a movie meant to support an underrepresented group become another means of stereotyping and oppression. Now, movies come with moral responsibility.
If I see one more “feminist icon” fighting crime in a corset and pixie battle skirt, I’m moving to Saturn.