I recently went to go watch Patty Jenkin’s new movie Wonder Woman with my dad and my younger brother, and I can now say that I have found my favorite heroine. I grew up watching superhero films mainly because I was always fascinated with the idea that people are capable of incredible things. But what I also remember is that none of the heroes I identified with were female. The women in superhero movies were never the most powerful or the “coolest” in the films, so I grew up wanting to be like Batman and Wolverine rather than any of the girls. Wonder Woman has changed my mind about choosing to identify with another male superhero, and her character has made me wish that girls (including myself) had grown up seeing more female heroines onscreen.
There is a scene in the film where Wonder Woman and her mortal posse are unable to continue with their mission of saving the world because they are stuck at the front lines in a trench that has not advanced in a year. Seeing that she has to cross no-man’s-land to help the soldiers move towards the enemy, Wonder Woman proceeds to shed off her civilian clothes and don her superhero armor. As she continues towards the top of the trench, EVERY man is screaming at her to stop. Having witnessed her strength and skills, the men closest to her still try to dissuade her from going through with her plan. But she moves forward. With the men who were supposed to support her screaming from behind for her to turn around and come back, and with the enemy firing in front of her, she ignores it and continues advancing. There are bullets and canons flying at her, but she bravely moves forward, covering for the men until they too can advance.
That scene made me cry.
I saw myself in that scene. I saw Wonder Woman being the person I wish I had been when it came to standing against the patriarchy. In that scene Wonder Woman was the person who I wished I had been in every moment of my life where people had underestimated me and put down my accomplishments because of my gender.
In high school I performed in a symphonic band, and I had played the oboe for the past seven years. I had performed as a high school sophomore in a college wind ensemble for my band director, and the piece that we performed was used to help my director earn his Master of Music degree. Despite knowing that I was a talented musician and that I was capable of tackling any piece I set my mind to perform, all the oboe solos were assigned to my male stand partner. He had less experience and the tone of a duck. Out of the two oboe players in the school, my band director gave the solos to the less experienced player. I swallowed my outrage and did not protest the director’s choice. For some time after that, I began to doubt myself and I started to believe that maybe I had no chance at being better than a man. But the support I received from fellow musicians who cringed whenever we rehearsed a piece and my stand partner butchered the music with his squeaks, and who also assured me that the circumstances were unfair, made me realize that there was nothing wrong with me, but with the patriarchal mentality that my band director suffered from at the moment. Looking back I wish I had been like Wonder Woman, and rather than have a man put me down as second best, I wish I had fought for the solos that were rightfully mine.
What I hope that people can take away from Wonder Woman is that women are capable of much more than what a man defines women can do. I hope that people walk out of the theater knowing that they too are as invincible as Wonder Woman. I also hope that the film paves the way for further films with female heroes. I believe that seeing heroines onscreen not only empowers women, but it also makes it easier for men to accept women for what they can do and not just for how they look. While the movie was playing in the theater, a man sitting near me wolf-whistled when Wonder Woman first appeared as a grown up onscreen. As the film progressed, the man stopped the uncomfortable wolf-whistling and I could hear him gasping and yelling “NO!” as Wonder Woman appeared to be losing in her final battle. The man’s perspective on Wonder Woman had seemingly (and hopefully) changed, and it seemed that rather than focus on her good looks, the man became focused on her battles, and he loudly and enthusiastically rooted for her.
If one superhero movie with a female lead can cause a man to stand behind a woman for her skills, then more films like Wonder Woman should be made so that people can change their mentality and learn that that is part of what feminism is about. Women are more than pretty faces, they are more than the love interests of Batman or Wolverine, and they are more than damsels that need saving. There needs to be Wonder Woman in every person that no longer accepts being held back.