aNewDomain — An island of women. Politics, family strife, a military caste … a totally mundane place they call paradise.
Everyone is very fit in paradise.
Robin Wright is there.
Connie Nielsen is, too.
The background is populated with athletes.
Here’s Ann Wolfe, a champion boxer with some impressive credentials.
Crossfit athlete Brooke Ence is around.
Madeleine Vall is a professional fighter.
Hari James is a personal trainer.
There is a dearth of meaty parts for women in Hollywood.
The parts that come along are more often than not for young women willing to take their tops off.
And here is a film that opens with women living without men, filling all the roles, talking to each other about things other than men. They are strong and three-dimensional.
I watch films like Star Wars: Rogue One and see pandering to feminism. A strong female lead is immersed in a universe where women seem hardly to exist at all. The production crew has a heavy male bias and the cast is nearly eight men to one woman.
Tolkien wrote stories like this, where the principle female characters are so rare they stand out. Eowyn wants to fight like a man. All the other women exist to be pretty enough to inspire poems or else to mother the heroes.
In Wonder Woman’s opening scenes, the island of Themyscira has no men on it. No males at all. Nobody is telling the women what social roles to play or what to wear or what jobs they can do.
The camera doesn’t sexualize anybody.
It isn’t long before war comes to the island and we see great and heroic feats. A woman leaps in the air and fires four arrows at once into four different assailants. Another leaps in front of a bullet to save her charge.
War is hell. I don’t like to see it or think about it. But here we have woman as warrior, not needing the protection of man.
So … I cried.
I’m not a woman, subject to all society’s hostility toward women.
I’m a white guy, at least nominally privileged in these regards. I can make eye contact with whomever I want to. I can walk alone at night fearlessly. Drink in public and show my legs.
When I watch films and movies, I see people like me in every admired role.
More than half the population doesn’t.
As an autistic, I wasn’t born to have empathy. It is something that I have had to work hard to develop. A sense I lacked but worked hard to have. Every day, having empathy causes me pain. It’s a gift, too; a painless life is an empty life.
More than half the people I know are women. The do all sorts of work. Social work. Science. Construction. Law, politics.
And when they’re not on the screen or only there as sex objects, I notice.
I notice that most men seem not to notice, and I notice that women notice but sometimes pretend not to. This is just the status quo.
It wasn’t just the opening scenes. Wonder Woman lets women die on camera.
We aren’t shielded from the reality that heroism sometimes involves that sacrifice. The title character is sometimes a foil to reveal the everyday sexism of life outside Themyscira.
But there’s a particular form of heroism from the male characters, too:
They see what Diana can do and accept it.
They enable her, create situations into which she can perform.
In the end, this is a superhero movie full of the plot holes and inverisimilitudes of the genre. And still it represents a sincere shift away from the hypermasculine. This is hopefully a tidal shift.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.