She wears a golden tiara, a red bustier, blue underpants and knee-high, red leather boots. She’s a little kinky, but she’s no pin up girl. She’s Wonder Woman. And now she’s the hottest topic in feminist conversation with Patty Jenkins’ 2017 “Wonder Woman.”
Various representations of Diana of Themyscira have appeared in comics and TV series since her debut in 1941, but unlike her male counterparts Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman has never starred on the big screen until now.
“Wonder Woman” is the first female-led superhero film in over a decade and it’s the first to be directed by a woman. The film has received mostly positive reviews. Dana Stevens of Slate wrote the film made her “see the importance of female representation.”
However, some critics aren’t jumping on the feminist bandwagon just yet.
Mary Closmann Kahle wrote a letter to the editor, published in the Austin American-Statesman, saying the film “failed to deliver on its girl power promises, overemphasizing the lead actor’s beauty.” In the letter, Kahle also challenged Alamo Drafthouse Austin’s female-only screenings of “Wonder Woman,” saying the showings were “discriminatory and set feminism back.”
In an interview, Kahle said she believes the most offensive part of the film is how the male characters go “gaga” over Diana’s physical appearance.
“It totally sends the wrong message to young women,” she said. “The message it sends is that you must be beautiful, tall and long-legged if you’re going to have all these superpowers. You can’t look like Abby Wambach or Serena Williams.”
According to Smithsonian Magazine, William Moulton Marston, author and creator of Wonder Woman, intended “to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood, and to combat the idea that women are inferior to men.”
In 1944, when Wonder Woman became a newspaper strip, her name was written in rope and some comic scenes involved her breaking chains, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Marston and Harry G. Peter, the artist who drew Wonder Woman, had been influenced by the suffrage, feminism and birth control movements. And each of those movements had used chains as a centerpiece of its iconography, the symbols used in a work of art.
Originally, Marston thought of Wonder Woman of being a “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.
For 13-year-old Marie Young, “Wonder Woman” was “the strong woman movie” she’d been waiting for the past three years.
“It’s a feminism film because Diana is strong and she’s willing to do anything,” said Young, after seeing the film. “We’ve just come so far, with women being equal. It’s great because I felt like it came out at the right time, especially for younger girls, it’s going be very inspiring for them.”
On June 11, Jenkins, the director, shared a tweet that listed the effect the movie had on a kindergarten class in the week since the movie has been in theaters. Entertainment Weekly, shared the list on its website. A boy who had been obsessed with Iron Man who now asked his parents for a Wonder Woman lunchbox. Another girl said she wanted to speak hundreds of languages like Diana.
The author of the list, who remains unknown, finished the letter by saying: “This movie completely changed the way these boys and girls thought about themselves. Imagine what the next generation will achieve if we give them more movies like ‘Wonder Woman.’ ”
However, 14-year-old Ellie Yates, who watched the film, said she believes human equality still has a long way to go. She said because female protagonists are unrepresented in superhero films, people were willing to accept it in the form of a stereotype because it’s the only representation available.
“This is a fault within the media,” Yates said. “I think feminism is empowering both women and men. People crave this film because it has a female protagonist. It’s not a gigantic step towards equality but it’s progress. The bar is set so low, that the things people consider feminist, are really just basic human rights.”
Mona Fischer, a Texas A&M University exchange student from Germany, said she went into the film with expectations that were not met. Fischer said she is a fan of the CW’s “Supergirl” series and expected “Wonder Woman” to be the same “ball-busting heroine who’s on top of her game.”
For Fischer, the Amazons were the “most feminist” aspect of the film, she said.
“They seemed like hardened warriors,” she said. “This makes them less of an object of the male gaze, and more of their own person, which made them untouchable.”
The scene that “crushed” Fischer was when Diana summons her greatest power from the death of her love interest, Steve Trevor, she said.
“Diana is a goddess,” the 21-year-old said. “She has all this power and it still takes a man to set it loose. We have all these possibilities of this strong, independent woman, who is trained by Amazons, only for it to be contained by her love for a man.”
According to The Independent, this is not the first time Diana’s powers have been at the hands of a man. In the late 1960s, with the comic being under the writing of Mike Sekowsky, Diana surrendered her powers in order to remain in the Man’s World, near Steve.
Arnold Castillo, who watched “Wonder Woman” at Alamo Drafthouse in Mueller, said the message delivered from the film was one of human equality.
“ ‘Wonder Woman’ may have had the lead role as the superhero, but Diana still had her gang of friends to accomplish the end goal,” the 44-year-old said. “It was a good example of both genders working together for a common purpose.”
Fischer said the film’s main problem was the inaccurate representation of Germans and German history, specifically with the characters of Doctor Poison and General Ludendorff. She said Hollywood relies on Nazi stereotyping of seeking world domination and having cult tendencies.
“This kind of Nazi stereotype paints the United States as the victors,” she said. “Who rid the world of incredible evil, when all the countries involved in the Second World War did unspeakable evil. The truth of the matter, is that it makes Americans feel good about themselves. It gives Americans a narrative in which they are the heroes that saved the world.”
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