Wonder Woman - not just a win for women, but a win for everyone
If you haven't seen Wonder Woman yet, be warned that your time is probably more well spent watching the movie itself, rather than reading about it here. From beginning to end, the movie is absolutely amazing. Wonder Woman isn't just a win for women, it's a win for everyone. Period.
Being of the male gender, I'm sure there are certain nuances to Wonder Woman - both the film and the character herself - that I won't be able to fully appreciate. But as an avid fan of both comic books and superhero movies, it's not hard to feel the full weight of what a movie like this means to society as a whole. Because not only has it been long overdue for women to see their own gender represented onscreen like this, it's just as long overdue for the other half of the population. Some critics may jeer at the fact that people are making such a big deal out of a superhero movie. I mean, how important can a summer blockbuster really be in terms of 'real' female issues? I'm no expert is the social or political sciences, but I can comment on how a movie like Wonder Woman breaks down so many walls that many of us (specifically, male audiences) didn't know existed.
By the time the credits started rolling, I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind. First and foremost, I was enamoured by just how goddamn good this movie was. And my sense of wavered expectations going into the movie had nothing to do with the subject of the film, it was more a product of the waning results of the DC Extended Universe. But how silly was I to be concerned about any impending disappointment, because this is by far one of the most well crafted superhero movies I've seen in a very long time. Possibly ever. Gal Gadot was arguably the best part of Batman v Superman (for some, it might have been the only redeeming factor for said film), and this is clear evidence that they should have jumped straight to Wonder Woman after Man of Steel.
And as important as this was for female audiences, Wonder Woman wasn't an overzealous proclamation of there finally being a female superhero in a large-scale commercial film. It was a large-scale commercial film that just happened to star a female protagonist. It felt natural and normal, much like the 99% of big budget tentpoles showcasing male heroes we're so accustomed to seeing. By way of example, no one's gonna make a big deal about Tom Cruise starring in the title role of The Mummy, because that's not news, it's just business as usual. And that's the problem. As a male audience member, I've been so affixed to this ideology of male dominance on screen that I probably didn't realize how sexist this truly was.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not blind to the fact that Hollywood (and cinema, as a whole) has a huge representation problem. But I never quite adapted that mindset to these silly summer blockbusters. And with sequels to properties like Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean becoming more of the unfortunate norm, I don't think it's a completely unreasonable disclosure. But as stupid as summer blockbusters may be, they are damn important - at least in North American culture.
Regardless of gender, as an impressionable youth, watching movies come summertime was undoubtedly a big part of your life. And regardless of how dumb you think these movies may be, they are impactful in a way that you simply can't ignore. For me, I remember being able to relate to every cool and amazing character I saw on screen. Be it Spider-Man, Harry Potter, or even those crazy dudes from The Hangover movies. If there was an awesome main character who ends up saving the day, I had no problems seeing myself in their shoes. And oh boy was that a damn good feeling. Watching Wonder Woman this weekend, I realized that this was arguably the first time that female audiences would get to experience that very same feeling. A feeling that male audiences have gotten to enjoy with a sense of normalcy, without realizing it was really a selective privilege that we undeservedly shared.
Having this enlightening moment almost made me feel a bit sexist. How is it that I could have sat through so many movies in my life, to have only come to such a realization now? And in some ways, I do think it's a type of inadvertent sexism that exists in our culture today. The act of not necessarily doing something sexist, but not realizing that something you partake in is overtly sexist. And that's why Wonder Woman isn't just a win for female members of the population, it's a win for everyone. And more importantly, it's a big win for cinema, and by extension, society as a whole. It's finally putting a stop to a norm in cinema whereby we naturally expect and assume a male default when it comes to someone kicking ass in a big and popular movie.
I consider myself to be pretty informed when it comes to social awareness and issues around equality, but as I've detailed above, this is something that I somehow got brainwashed into ignoring. Call it entropy or the herding sheep effect, either way, it happened and has been happening for a very long time. There might be much better gender representation in your typical art house films, but these films don't have the audience numbers and social impact that a summer blockbuster has. Wonder Woman finally kicked down a very shameful barrier, and did so in a way that wasn't just impressive as a 'female superhero movie'. It was impressive as a film, pure and simple. You can go on to quote other films with female protagonists, and there certainly has been some improvement in recent years (Beauty and the Beast is the first that comes to mind), but you can't argue that we've entered a whole new ballgame with Wonder Woman. Things aren't finally changing, and it's a change we should be welcoming with arms wide open.
ADDENDUM: A quick shoutout to all the assholes who were protesting the all-female Alamo Drafthouse screenings of Wonder Woman. Really, guys? Go find a hard and uncomfortable rock in the furthest corner of the planet, climb under it, and stay under it. Please don't ever come back.