Females are strong as hell: a love letter to Wonder Woman


So, after the general election I tottered off, bleary-eyed, to watch Wonder Woman. I wanted it to be good, especially after the sludgy slog of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman. I wanted just to be entertained, after a busy night yelling at the TV. What I wasn’t expecting was to be tearful most of the way through. 

Now this isn’t because Wonder Woman is a perfect film. Far from it: some supporting characters are gossamer thin, the final act suffers from the same everything-louder-than-everything-else zoomy CGI bullshit that dogged the previous DC offerings, and Captain America: The First Avenger would like big chunks of its plot back, please.

And yet, and yet…

Within minutes – and I do mean minutes – of things starting, I was suddenly in this strange state of quietly euphoric, lip wobbling tearfulness. It took me a while to work out what was going on, but it was this: I’d never seen women portrayed on film (certainly this kind of film) in this way before. Athletic and impressive in slo-mo with no side-order of slyly lascivious camera work dribbling over them. Powerful women because that’s simply who they are, not because men taught them not to be feeble (because only men can be strong, y’know). Clear-eyed about and amused by the male gaze, but able to flick it aside with one bulletproof bracelet. Vaguely curious about Chris Pine’s nether regions, but much more impressed by his watch. Not strong and sexualised – just strong. 

It reminded me of  the way I’ve always felt about Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman movie: when Supes first appears, with his unflinching moral code and deep affection for humanity, I have an overwhelming sense of irrational longing, wondering on behalf of the real world, ‘where are you? We need you so desperately.’ As with Superman, so with Wonder Woman, only this time it was brilliantly cathartic. Over a couple of breezy hours in her company (Gadot and Pine are ace), I watched her be revealed as the strongest, most empathetic hero figure of our current age. She has the greatest capacity for love, exposes the ballyhoo nonsense of the patriarchy with the quizzical raise of a single eyebrow and is simply the ultimate badass on the block. With a frickin’ lasso.

What made me tear up was the avalanche of relief as all this became clear. The film isn’t perfect, but she is. There you are, at last. The onscreen hero our times, our girls, my daughter, really need. It walloped me right in the feminist dad feels.

In short, I’m in awe of this vision of Diana of Themyscira. It’s not that she’s a badass demi-god, it’s that she’s a badass woman. Her greatest strength is love – not romcom gloop but actual, difficult, fucked-up grief-stricken defiant compassionate love – but she could also kick you through a wall as soon as look at you. Poor Kitty is going to be assailed by repeat viewings while her father weeps quietly for joy. Because unlike another DC stalwart haunting the alleys of Gotham, she’s probably not the hero we deserve; but she’s sure as hell the one we need. Wonder Woman, I love you. 

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