Trish Heinrich

Mother, Author, Hero

Month: June 2017

The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful: Wonder Woman (Part Two)

Part Two of my three part series on the Wonder Woman movie. Now we get to talk about:

The Beautiful

After seventy-six years, and a lot of wishing and hoping, we finally get Wonder Woman on the big screen. And what’s awesome is that we truly did get a Wonder Woman film because the people making this movie understood, at some deep levels, the hero whose story they were telling.

Like a lot of women, this movie was emotional for me. I cry just thinking of certain scenes.  The fight in No Man’s Land, or the charge of the Amazons on the beach. Not to mention the end. Why did a superhero film make me cry while watching it? And why am I not alone in that? It’s a good question, a hard one to answer because it’s different and yet the same for each of us.   I agree with many of the women who are already writing about this that there is an emotional release because at last, we see that these stories aren’t just for male heroes, they are for any and all of us.

The feminine is heroic.

To me, this is the power of this film.  Seeing my daughter pump her fist in the air and want to be just like General Antiope (Robin Wright). To see my son clap his hands with glee when Wonder Woman battles heroically.  I could use every adjective I know and still, I would not come close to how I feel when I think of this film.

God! I’ve waited so long to see a female hero like this. Strong, beautiful, compassionate, loving, kind. Wholly a woman and wholly a hero. The two coexist in Wonder Woman as naturally as breathing, and no one doubts that it should be that way.

We have seen so many sister heroes who have had to justify their strength and showcase their feminity in ways that weaken them as characters, heroes, and people. We have seen them reduced to sidekicks, to have to be one thing for all women. And even though Diana is one woman, we get to see her Amazonian sisters alongside her for the first twenty minutes or so of the movie. They are of all shapes and sizes, all skin hues. They are young. They are older. They are all completely female and completely heroic.

I didn’t realize it at first, but most of the Amazons are portrayed by athletes, the real-life superheroes of our world. And watching it a second time in one weekend I could see the strength, grace, courage, and grit that made them heroes in the real world.  They were, individually and as a whole, one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen on film.

For Wonder Woman, Love is the most Powerful

Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful heroes in all of DC, and she uses her powers with compassion and love. Really, that’s the theme of the movie: Power used with Love.  It’s profound, especially in our worldwide political climate. She sees the suffering of mankind, and is told again and again by the men around her “You can’t do anything, this isn’t our mission.” And, finally fed up with it, does what her heart and soul tell her to. In the process, she inspires an army of men and saves a village of innocent people.   She is clear-eyed and sure in her purpose, no matter the naivete that she carries with her. When faced with the shattering of deeply held beliefs and heartbreak she doesn’t respond with anger or vengeance, she chooses to love.

 

Was the film perfect? No, but it was damn close.

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Beautiful: Wonder Woman

I have a lot to say about Wonder Woman, too much for just one blog post. So, I am going to write a series of three: One about the Good. One about the Bad. And one about the Beautiful.

Let’s start with:

The Bad

In the past two weeks there have been many criticisms about Wonder Woman. A lot of it has centered around the feminism and the lack of representation in the film. I’ve read some of the criticisms, not all.  I’d like to focus on two that really stopped and made me think.

*SPOILERS AHEAD!!!*

1-Dr. Poison gets off too easy

This is one has taken many forms. Some think that a psychopath should just be killed and mercy isn’t an option. Some have said it was anti-feminist and compared Dr. Poison’s treatment by Wonder Woman to Ludendorf’s. Some have said that it contributes to the societal judgment of those with scars.  But this criticism from Black Girl Nerds.  is the one I want to focus on. Out of all of them, it’s the one that’s stuck with me.

Before we begin, let me say that I in no way intend to call bullshit on the experiences of people of color in this country. Though I am a woman, I still have lived from a place of privilege because of my skin color. I need to take what people of color say seriously, to give it thought and examine why it makes me uncomfortable. That’s what I’m trying to do here. I would like very much to find a balance where I can disagree about the interpretation of a piece of art without taking anything away from the experiences of a person of color. I have no idea how to accomplish that because very often white women step in it, whether we mean to or not.

Personally, I see the scene in question as a key moment in the film. It shows us the core of who Wonder Woman has always been: A hero who operates out of mercy and compassion, not hate or judgment. What Ares was asking of her was to judge and execute. That is not who Wonder Woman is. Now, I’m not saying the writers at BGN know less than me about Wonder Woman or anything like that, and if that’s how this comes across, I am very, very sorry. I am only using the history of the character to explain why I believe this scene was a simple, yet profound, character moment for Wonder Woman. That’s all. But, I am also seeing it through the eyes of a white woman, and my experiences are very different from women of color

The argument in the BGN article was that this scene is white supremacist propaganda. The author of the article, TaLynn Kel, expresses it much better than I could:

“There is a problem with showing the active decision to spare a cruel killer. For that killer to be a white woman, the most underestimated agent of racism, is white supremacist propaganda….The reason this stands out so sharply for me is because of how often we, Black people and POCs, are encouraged to be lenient when white women’s transgressions are revealed. How we are conditioned to look at white women as above wrongdoing when we have clear examples of them actively participating in racist acts that can and have led to Black people’s, Black children’s deaths.”

Ouch, in a big way.

I can not argue with her social criticism, not one bit. We do get a pass as white women. And then we whine and argue when a person of color points it out. It’s uncomfortable to be confronted with this.  But it doesn’t mean we should ignore it or make excuses about why we get to be this way.

I’ve done that, I will admit. I do get angry when someone tries to lump me in with the women who voted for the orange piece of trash in the White House because he represents everything I am against. But a better reaction would be to stop and ask how I contributed to a society that would allow him to get there in the first place.

Again, OUCH.

So, what to do?

There’s a lot of possible answers to that question. In this instance, it’s not dismissing what she says just because it made me uncomfortable . The fact that it made me feel this way was a sure sign that I needed to examine what she was saying.

Her article was a good reminder that I need to be aware that there are other lenses to see things through. I may not agree with everything someone says, but I can be open to hearing their side of it nonetheless. In the process, I just might learn a thing or two.

2-Feminist? Yes. Intersectional? No.

If you are a white woman like me, you saw the diversity on Themyscira and thought “Holy Cow, that’s awesome! Look at all those different women! Women of color, women of diverse sizes and beauty! Look at the older women kicking ass!”  But an article from Bustle made me rethink that a bit.  Yes, there was a diverse group of women on the Island. And yes, it was amazing to see all those female bodies doing so many amazing things during the training scenes and the beach battle. But, those women of color had few lines, and none were named. I did hear someone refer to one as “Nubia”, which I geeked out about, but Nubia didn’t have any lines. In the comics, Nubia was Wonder Woman’s sister. But here, she was just another face in the crowd.

There were many things that could’ve been done to remedy this without changing the core story. We could’ve seen Nubia talk with Diana as she considered leaving Themyscira. There could’ve been a scene with Antiope and her lover Menalippe, even just a few gestures, hand holding, a kiss.  Some women of color in the honor guard that Hippolyta has with her would’ve been good.

When Diana leaves the Island, anyone of color disappears off the face of the earth.  I had thought, like many, that this was just historically accurate. But I was wrong.  London would’ve had a significant population of color, and there were soldiers of color fighting on the front lines. There could’ve been more women in general present as well. We don’t see any nurses after Diana leaves London.  And though I loved her troupe of misfits, why couldn’t one of them be a woman?

We hear a lot about the need for women in positions of power in Hollywood, but I’d like to take it a little further.

I once heard a male showrunner and writer say that the problem isn’t that males are anti-female, it’s just that they write, unthinkingly, from what they know. I would like to think that the women behind Wonder Women just didn’t think about the lack of representation. That maybe they just didn’t see it. If that’s the case then there’s something that can be done about this going forward.  If there were more people of color and people from the LGBTQ community in positions of power, then we would see more diversity in film.  So really, the issue isn’t just that we need more women in Hollywood, we need more DIVERSITY.

Wonder Woman was in no way perfect, what film is? And these two things aren’t the only criticisms possible. They just happened to be the two that affected me the most. What was it about Wonder Woman that you thought could’ve been better? Different? Do you agree with these two criticisms as they apply to the film?  I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment or email me at trish@trishheinrich.com

 

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