Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why Everyone Needs to See Wonder Woman

Rarely has a film moved me so instantaneously as Wonder Woman did on Saturday night.

Photo from themarysue.com


Some things you should know about me: I am unafraid of trashy films. I like action and sci-fi as much as I enjoy artsy cinema like Truffault or Fellini, for which I will never apologize. And I almost never see movies in movie theaters.

Why, you ask? One, it's unbelievably expensive, especially if you want to go on a regular basis. Two, I happen to have a projector at home, which provides a near-cinematic experience on demand (and for which I can have my chilled box wine in whatever state of dress calls to me that evening #nojudgement #hatersgonnahate). And three? I don't often feel like lining the pockets of Hollywood producers who make boring (or sometimes downright irresponsible) choices about which projects they fund and who they choose to lead them.

I am a person who completely believes in consumer power and that we truly vote with our dollars, even with something as seemingly simple as going to see a movie. I am often frustrated at the lack of diversity and representation in major Hollywood films, and I want to make sure that my entertainment dollars are helping to "vote" for the kind of media I want to see.

One big focus of support for me over the last few years have been female led and created films. As has been detailed extensively in excellent pieces by Manohla Dargis at the New York Times (especially in this piece about black women directors and this series about women in Hollywood in general), studios have been sorely lacking in providing opportunities to women (and especially women of color) to create films. Anytime I find a major picture starring or made by women, then, I make sure to do my part to ensure the box office is high enough that more movies and opportunities of similar ilk will be prioritized in the future.

With all of the above context then it's a pretty big "duh" that I had to see Wonder Woman on opening weekend. What an incredible surprise, then, that not only is this a damn good film on it's own, but it's shattering glass ceilings and providing the final nail in the coffin of the myriad ridiculous arguments studio execs love to make about why women can't helm (or star in) big budget films. I won't detail all of the radical history Wonder Woman is making right now - Buzzfeed has already covered those swimmingly in this exhaustive article - but I will give you a fun list of the top 10 reasons you (and everyone you know) needs to go see Wonder Woman while it's out!

1. Themyscira (Which Needs Its Own Film)

Let me see: an island of totally badass babes who live in diverse harmony, push each other to the physical and intellectual limit, celebrate and defend peace, and only use violence as a last resort (but rock at fighting when it's necessary)? What's not to love about this Amazonian paradise? I think it's safe to say movie audiences wouldn't mind an origin film about this Sapphic paradise stat.

2. Gal Gadot (Diana/Wonder Woman) Is A Revelation

Everyone loves a fresh face, right? And while Gal Gadot has been around for a few cameos here and there, we've never seen her in her full-throated splendor. As Diana Gal manages to be tough and soft, naive and wise, badass and hilarious all at the same time, and she's wonderful. I can't wait to see her career take off after this, and who could possibly have had a more cinematic name to accompany her superhero title?

3. Robin Wright Kicks Ass and Takes Names 

Those of us who are O.G. Robin fans know she can kick ass whether as the Princess Bride or Clare Underwood, but the Robin of Wonder Woman (where she plays the deadly General Antiope) is a next-level badass. Secretly training Diana from a young age, Robin manages to create a warrior with as much heart as she has strength. This is what true leaders are made of, and it's inspiring some next level humor on Twitter:

The best tweet I've seen in ages. 

4. Chris Pine (Steve Trevor) Reinvents the "Love Interest"

I am *so* here for the new feminist toy boys we are starting to see popping up in blockbuster films. Whether it's Channing Tatum's shredded yet emotional dancers in Magic Mike, Thor's tenderhearted charms, or even the Rock and Zac Efron's unabashed bromance in Baywatch, men are becoming ever-more multifaceted on screen and I am here.for.it. Chris Pine's Steve Trevor may be sexually attracted to Diana (I mean who wouldn't be TBH?), but he's far more interested in working with her for her strength and intelligence than he is in ogling her tits. Pine's total support of Diana and ability to step out of her way and resist trying to control her provided such a refreshing rewrite of the typical soggy damsel-in-distress, over-machoized superhero narrative and left me thirsting for more. I can't wait to see how they reinvent Diana's romantic relationships in future sequels.

5. Representation

Many have commented on the diversity of the Amazons living in Themyscira; while I think the studio could have done even a little more in that department, it's certainly a much better casting call than most other summer blockbusters. Many real-life fighters were hired to play these roles, and their athleticism is unquestionable. The diversity even extends beyond the female characters, with speaking roles for a Native American and Muslim male character helping Diana find Aries. And it goes without saying that this film passes the Bechdel test, an absurdly low bar that only about 50% of 2016's top 20 most seen and buzzed about films managed to hurdle according to Bustle. I want an earth shattering statistic to lay at the feet of everyone who argues that diversity is a waste of time, stories about women are too weak or niche, women can't handle the role of superheroes, etc. etc. etc. To all the haters, all I have to say is: bring it on.

Frfr.

6. Patty Jenkins (Director)

Representation isn't just important on-screen; it's arguably even more important when it comes to who gets to fund, choose and create projects behind the scenes. With this in mind it's about time a female wunderkind was handed the keys to a multi-billion dollar film franchise, and Wonder Woman is it. Thanks to Wonder Woman's incredible opening weekend (which smashed all previous records for ticket sales for a female director's opening dates), Patty Jenkins has now crushed the glass ceiling of blockbuster milestones that Hollywood often likes to use as an excuse to not hire ladies to direct big films. Let's see more of this, shall we?

7. Diversifying Our Heroes

Yes, Wonder Woman is yet another comic book superhero - but she's a female comic book superhero and arguably the most powerful one in the DC universe. When I was growing up I had Princess Leia and Captain Janeway to look to for my non-Disney Princess role models. I will always love them, but how cool to be able to add Wonder Woman to the cinematic hero club? If you really need more reason, the below photo should say all you need to know:

Yes Mike. Yes. It. Is. 

8. America Still Isn't Used to Women in Charge

If there's anything that the 2016 presidential cycle taught us all it's that Americans are still not used to having women kick ass and take names (at least in public). I don't mean to get overly political, and there are a million reasons the election went the way it did, but it is impossible to deny that sexism was involved (at least to some degree) in the outcome. We are so used to seeing women caricatured in the horrific dichotomy of either a docile/amenable slave or slut/wicked witch that we struggle to embrace them as complex, rich, complicated, provocative, contributing members to society. This has begun to change (particularly on television) in recent years, but to see such an unapologetic portrayal of female power at the frontline of a marquee is almost absurdly inspiring and couldn't be better timed in our current political climate.

9. It Matters That It's A Summer Blockbuster - and Even More That It Breaks Sales Records

Considering the list above, there are many people who might say but wait: there are already movies  that star female characters, or that tell the story of Wonder Woman. If you really look, you can find representation of any kind in a film somewhere. Why is Wonder Woman any different?

The answer: this is different because money talks, and as over 50% of the population women (or any minority group) should not have to search the dusty corners of the internet to try to find a story that resonates with them. I cannot count the hundreds of mediocre movies starring dudes that I have watched simply because they were there and I didn't have another option at the time. That's all fine - like I said, not all of my movies need to be the next Citizen Kane - but shouldn't I at least have an equal amount of choices starring women if that's what I want to see? Again, Hollywood has made arguments for decades that movies about and by women simply won't sell and as such are not deserving of major funding. Several highly notable exceptions to this lie such as The Hunger Games or Frozen have proven this stereotype wrong, but none of them has truly laid this rumor to rest yet. If Wonder Woman can maintain its box office momentum there will be nowhere left for studio executives to hide when it comes to decisions about funding for future projects. It also bears mentioning that Ave DuVernay's upcoming A Wrinkle In Time has the same game changing potential, and I'll be heading out to support that too once it's out.

10. Wonder Woman Proves that Men Will See Movies About Women

As I typed that I recognize how stupid it sounds out loud, but it's true: there is a widely held misconception that men won't see movies starring women or centering women's stories (a similar misconception stands for white audiences attending movies starring actors of color). The overwhelming success of films such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi or the Fast and the Furious franchise should lay such rumors to rest but they unfortunately haven't so far. Wonder Woman's unapologetic femininity and so far consistent track record of having roughly 50/50 gender parity in the audience destroys this misconception and proves the further need for more diversity in the movies we see.

In the end: if all you want to see is a damn good movie, Wonder Woman can do that for you too. But regardless of why you see it, please make sure that you go. There are a lot of things Wonder Woman can change by continuing to be a smash box office hit, and I would love to be around for the world that will remain once she lassos us all into the future.