Okay, so I might have missed the wagon on this one, but as I sat in the theatre with my two mesmerised children watching “Black Panther”, I couldn’t help but feel validated about my earlier dark and angry feelings towards “Wonder Woman” (both as a film and as a ridiculous icon).
Let me start with her, the object of sexual fantasy for so many men, through their awkward youths and continuing long into adulthood. Let’s be honest, she is little more than a wet-dream made flesh. When the world proclaimed that this latest incarnation was a heroine for women—a blockbuster character who was finally made for women by women—I eagerly joined the throng at my local cinema and strapped myself in.
Before I begin berating Wonder Woman herself let me first acknowledge the incredible presence (albeit short-lived) of the most spectacular and kick-ass, Robyn Wright. SHE was a wonder woman. Sexy. Strong. Gritty and grisly, covered in scars. My heart beat faster with joy and recognition and delight while she was on the screen. But like I said, it was short-lived.
Instead we got the same-old/same-old metal corset clad, wide-eyed, pouty-lipped and infuriatingly virginal depiction of Wonder Woman herself that made me want to scream at the screen before tracking down all those women who had tricked me into thinking that this film was in ANY WAY new. But that’s the trope! I hear you cry. Yeah. It is. It’s also the problem.
Many people disagree with me. I get it. That’s okay. When it isn’t okay, is when some people (mostly men I’ll admit) make me feel as though my frustration with this film has more to do with my own insecurity and jealousy of Gal Gadot’s exquisite beauty. Because what am I but a middle-aged, frumpy (at times), mother with bad skin? But isn’t that the problem? That a movie about a female superhero reminds me constantly of how I don’t live up to the fantasy? It didn’t empower me. I didn’t want my daughter to see it.
Phew! That’s said now, and I feel all the better for it.
So why did I come away from “Black Panther” feeling the weightlessness, delight, and sense of liberation that others recorded gleaning from “Wonder Woman”. The women in “Black Panther” were no less beautiful that Wonder Woman, much more attractive in my opinion. They were sexy, yes. They were side-characters. So how did this film produce such a vastly different experience?
One: They wear clothes.
Two: They don’t pout. They are in charge of their sexuality and unapologetic about it.
Three: They fight against (at times) the men they love, choosing honour and nationhood over their personal relationships.
Four: They are smart.
Five: Don’t get me started on the fight scenes.
Six: They literally save the day.
These women were strong, athletic, sexy, intelligent, principled and EQUAL.
THESE were the female characters I wanted to show my daughter. Not Wonder Woman. Ultimately I stopped feeling as though I had to apologise for not liking “Wonder Woman”, for being angry about it. Because great, inspiring and kick-ass women can exist on the screen.