Wonder Woman Movie: What Up With All the Dudes?
*Note: The following is a discussion between Shannon and Christina about the Wonder Woman movie
This is us just before the movie drinking WW themed drinks on a leopard print couch full of hope that the WW movie would be about, you know, women. Silly us.
SB: So, Wonder Woman! We went. We saw. We conquered. Just like Wonder Woman. I was so scared to see this movie, Christina. Like, legit nervous. I was so terrified to be let down. The DC movies have, thus far, been hugely disappointing, and if they ruined my beloved Wonder Woman, I was going to cry real tears. I sent several years of my childhood running around in my Wonder Woman Underoos* with my lasso and my wristbands and hoo boy I was terrified they were going to do a terrible job. But people were saying good things! So I had hope! And I really liked it. But I also had some pretty major problems with it in the end. Let’s start with the good stuff: I thought Gal Gadot was fucking phenomenal. She walked the line between strong and naïve really, really well. Not easy. She played the part incredibly well, and thank fucking god. And Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) and Antiope (the incomparable Robin Wright) were amazing. The humor was on point. There was a lot to like! What did you enjoy?
* DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN GET UNDEROOS IN GROWNUP SIZES?!?! I know. I will be reliving my WW years. Yes I will.
Get you some. **
CML: I enjoyed what I always enjoy - the training montage - but I enjoyed it far, far more than any training montage I've ever seen before. Even more than Rocky.
Did you hear me? EVEN. MORE. THAN. ROCKY.
Why? Because this training montage had a place for me in it in that it consisted entirely of women. Women of all colors, women of realistic proportions, women with biceps and wrinkles and "armpit fat" and bodies. Bodies! Fed ones! Strong ones! Ones I could identify with and aspire to with the right number of push-ups and Krav Maga classes!
Seeing The Princess Bride's Princess Buttercup (Wright) and Gladiator's Lucilla (Nielsen) suited up in armor and talking about political leadership and military strategy was particularly fantastic. Both women's careers are most often associated with roles of objectified and threatened royalty thwarting the violence of unstable men in power... UNTIL NOW.* I loved the first 30 minutes or so of the movie both for its powerful representation of strong women and that Wright and Nielsen got to play them. The rest of the movie was good, but everything that took place on Themyscira was by far my favorite.
What was your favorite part, Shannon? What got your Wonder Woman juices flowing?
*Full disclosure: I haven't watched House of Cards yet.
SB: MORE THAN ROCKY?!? Now I can tell you’re serious.
Well… my favorite thing was Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot has it. She really brought the complexities of the character to life.* She was a grown woman—brave and powerful and smart—and she held her own through the entire movie. I loved her righteous drive, her stubborn insistence that people are good, her willingness to go against all expectation to fight for what’s right. And I may have shed a real live tear when she first appears in No Man’s Land in her full Wonder Woman regalia.She was true to the character and true to my, and many others', expectations. It was all my 5 year old dreams come to life, finally. We needed this movie. Our kids needed this movie. And now we have it.
It really was legitimately awesome to see a training sequence that was ALL BADASS WOMEN who could not be blown away by light summer breeze. And while they all had actual bodies with actual 3D dimensions and did not disappear when they turned sideways… they *also* were not sexualized and glorified in that icky male gaze way that we are all so grossly used to. Nope. Not once. I kept expecting an ass shot or a great big heap of cleavage to find its way spilling out that body armor… BUT IT NEVER DID. I mean. That shit is revolutionary. Truly.
Even Red Sonja and Grace Jones’s Zula—who I fucking love—were subjects of the male gaze. Even in all their rebellious badassery, they were also meant to be sexpots. And, while Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is supposed to be decidedly beautiful, she is not all tits and ass and come-hither glances. MOST OF THE BODY CLOSE UPS WERE OF THE BACKS OF HER KNEES. I mean. *swoon*
I loved the time in Themyscira, too, but it was also one of the problems I had with the whole movie. That part was SO DAMN SHORT. An entire island filled with nothing but amazing women warriors—Amazons—and it’s over before you learn much of anything. I mean. That stings. I wanted more of that. Hell… I *needed* more of that. It felt like a patriarchal slap in the face that they couldn’t get out of Themyscira fast enough and into the world of men.
(And don’t me started on the weird look of the CG sequences that I *think* resulted from making it for 3D but instead just make it look like ass.)
* Also? Gadot filmed while pregnant and didn't tell anyone she was pregnant so they wouldn't treat her any differently because she wanted to continue to be the badass that she is. Also, also? She wears flip-flops on the red carpet and is genuinely stoked about the feminist aspects of the movie. I think I'm in love.
CML: I know! I know! Why did we have to leave Themyscira so soon?
So, you know how those Star Wars movies keep going back in time and doing prequels and stuff? (I know you know what I'm talking about, just like I know you know I don't know what I'm talking about here.) Maybe Wonder Woman 2 will be a prequel that's all about the Amazons. I want to see how that society lives, and I want to see how it came to be. And it could still be a kickass action-adventure romp through shitty CGI and great training montages. After all, we're talking humans vs. humans, gods vs. gods, and Amazons all thrown in the mix to bring about some kind of bloody peace. I want to see those women in action instead of, you know, a guy named Steve.
Steve. STEVE. Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve.
Wait, not that Steve.
For the love of Steve, Shannon, I still cannot believe that Wonder Woman would fall in love with or have any kind of satisfying sex with a mere Steve. Because, as fantastic as Steve Trevor might be, he is still a mortal. Just a dude. Just a Steve. An above-average Steve, as he reminds us in the film, but a Steve nonetheless. I mean, we've had Steves in movies, right? Tons of Steves. Pick a Steve, any Steve, they're all the same damn Steve. Forever and ever, a lifetime of Steves. And we've really only had one kickass Themyscira. I AM OWED, PEOPLE. I AM OWED!
But, seriously, we have to talk about the sex. Because there is no goddamned way that Steve and his 15-odd years of sexual fumbling here with mere mortals can even come close to pleasing a goddess who has read all of the "12 volumes of Cleo's treatises on body and pleasure." After all, Cleo, and Diana, conclude that men are not necessary for pleasure (a line which drew loud guffaws from the women in the audience at our showing). Wonder Woman knows pleasure. Can Steve - any Steve - really deliver on her expectations?
I'm gonna go with "Meh" on that.
SB: OF COURSE I KNOW THE THINGS ABOUT STAR WARS. Good Leia, who do you think you’re talking to?
Anyway. I am hoping against hope that the next Wonder Woman will be almost entirely women. Because, you know, Wonder WOMAN. Who comes from a society of ONLY WOMEN. I mean. This shouldn’t be this hard here, people. I know they’re frightened that male people won’t want to see a movie made up solely of female people… but that’s dumb. Women have been watching movies full of dudes our entire lives. Men can damn well get used it. Also, these Amazons are badasses. Superheroes. DEMIGODS. Who wouldn’t want to watch that movie? (Only ridiculous people, that’s who.)
Because Christina? While I liked this movie very much, the way the focus was very much on the male characters was heartbreaking to me. Yes, Wonder Woman is the protagonist. But so is Steve. STEVE. Motherfucking STEVE. In the comics, he was very much the traditional damsel in distress. In the movie? Not so much. And I loved Sameer and The Chief and Charlie very much… but did we have to surround Wonder Woman entirely by men in order to make her worth watching for a whole movie? (NO NO WE DID NOT.) They are interesting characters. I liked them. I liked the way they eventually realized that Wonder Woman was, in fact, a badass worthy of respect. Because, as we know, women are people. Surprise. But I did not like that it was primarily the men leading the action throughout. Wonder Woman often *took over* the action and improved it…but she was rarely the impetus until the end when she realizes the extent of her powers and what she needs to do.
Anyway. I feel let down that my Wonder Woman movie is dude heavy. I feel let down that Steve is given just as much screen time and importance as Wonder Woman, and that he is not playing the damsel in distress as he was written in the comics. I feel let down that the Amazons are just a brief side story. I hate to say that I’m not surprised by the fact that they made these choices, but I still feel let down. Wonder Woman (and the Amazons) deserved a movie of her own. And we didn’t get that.
CML: 1. I forgot all about Charlie until you mentioned him just now. So there's that.
2. DUDE, I AM REALIZING SOMETHING RIGHT NOW AS I TYPE. You know what that shit was? The shit with the men needing to recognize that Wonder Woman is the hero of the story and they should just follow her lead? That's the male amplification needed to hear women's voices bullshit! They're the men vetting Wonder Woman so that other men can find her palatable. Because her words and her actions aren't enough. AND SHE'S WONDER WOMAN.
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I hate that that's still necessary EVEN IN GODDAMNED SCIENCE FICTION WHERE WE CAN IMAGINE WHOLE WORLDS THAT DON'T FUCKING SUCK.
I mean, I get it. This is historical science fiction. It's essentially a Great War movie with some science fiction thrown in, and it would be historically inaccurate to have people, you know, respect a woman in 1918. But that fucking sucks! Don't give me that in the first big-budget Wonder Woman movie!
GIVE ME THEMYSCIRAN TRAINING MONTAGES, OR GIVE ME DEATH!
(Just kidding. Don't kill me.)
But you get what I'm saying, Shannon. Like, they could have done ANYTHING with this movie, and what they did was give us a big ol' assful of Steve and his 3 dude-buddies because heaven forbid we see a film about Wonder Woman without the mediation of the male gaze and male approval to make sense of the experience. SMdamnH. SMdamnH hard.
Well, now I'm all grumpy. Look at all those caps up there. Can you take us out on a high note? Because I got a bad case of the Steves and won't be able to leave the bathroom for a while.
SB: Here's my high note: They made a Wonder Woman movie. A pretty decent one. And they will make another. They know that this was a movie we needed and they allowed Wonder Woman to remain the strong, powerful, feminist hero that she is meant to be. Even though they surrounded her with men and allowed them to be the justification for amazing woman hero... she still kicked ass. She was not presented as a piece of meat. She was not sexualized. She was not demeaned. She was amazing, and I hope that we will get more of that amazingness in the next movie with a more woman-centered storyline. There were other solid women in the story who, while they didn't get as much screen time as the men, were vital and interesting (Dr. Maru and Etta and Hippolyta and Antiope... I'm looking at you). This was a really great start, and I hope it'll get better from here.
And my biggest high note? Little girls everywhere want to be Wonder Woman again. Little boys are talking about Wonder Woman along with all the other awesome superheroes they're talking about. She's a part of it again and kids are seeing that women can be just as strong, just as powerful, just as interesting, just as exciting, and still be smart and loving and caring and all that. She contains multitudes, that Wonder Woman. I love me some multitudes. So anyway. The movie was not without it's problems. I have my complaints, to be sure. And yet I am so damn happy they made it and I am so damn grateful that the woman they cast as Wonder Woman is as awesome and worthy and badass and real as Diana herself. I loved me some Lynda Carter Wonder Woman, and I also love me some Gal Gadot Wonder Woman. And that, my friends, is no small feat.
*Disclaimer:"No Steves were harmed during the writing of this piece. But you guys, seriously. STEVE.
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