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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org