Seeing Wonder Woman

I think for a man to more fully enjoy the movie Wonder Woman, he should spend five minutes before the movie picturing this alternate reality:

A nation where presidents and vice presidents are and always have been women, literally never men. Until 101 years ago, only women served in Congress; and even now, not even 20% of congresswomen are male. Fewer than 100 years ago, men didn’t have the right to vote—only women could vote. In the 1960s, there were still states that didn’t allow men to serve on juries. Education for men is a relatively recent idea, and many colleges had to be forced by legal action to let men attend. “Traditional values” includes the idea that men should stay at home and raise children and take care of the house and defer to their wives out of respect; many men do go out to work now, it’s true, and this development is blamed for current rates of divorce and the problems kids have in school and the breakdown of the family unit. Almost all religions worship female goddesses, and have female leaders; many still don’t allow men to be priestesses, elders, deaconesses, board members, or serve in any leadership/governing role. (Men can teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, and help set up the refreshments.) Superheroine movies and costumes and books are popular and there is tons of related merchandise for little girls. Even movies that aren’t about superheroines still tend to feature a woman in the lead role; male characters are mostly present to help her learn lessons about herself, or to further her plot development, or to be eye candy so that women will be willing to see the movie. Sometimes there is a movie where one or more male characters play the lead, but it’s called a Dick Flick, and men go see it with their groups of boyfriends because their girlfriends/wives aren’t interested. Fun Boys’ Night Out!

There. Now. Men! With all of that still in mind, pretending we do not instead live in a world where spellcheck underlines the word “superheroine”: imagine that after many, many superheroine movies (including multiple remakes of the same movie), MANY years of going on dates to see yet another movie about a woman saving the world or leading the mission or finding the killer (and then later watching your girlfriend flex her muscles in front of the mirror as she apparently identifies her ordinary self with that heroinic character), MANY years of seeing the male character endangered or attacked or killed in order to give the female lead an excuse to clench her teeth and repress her grief and start shooting up the place—there is a movie staring a MAN in the heroine role. The first whole movie about one of the only MALE superheroines! And the movie is directed by men, too, so the male superheroine isn’t dressed in just a metal speedo and sexy boots as usual! (He still doesn’t get pants, of course, but we will take our progress in stages if we have to. And maybe Davy Duke short-shorts are better for ease of movement in battle.)

And then when the movie comes out, women dismiss it, and roll their eyes, and say it’s no big deal, and deny that it’s anything special, and don’t want to go see it with you because it’s stupid and just some sort of forced political correctness; or they do go see it but then write think-pieces/tweet-threads about how masculism has gone too far in this post-sexism age, and how there are too many movies these days catering to males, and how actually it’s women who are oppressed by men’s relentless demands to be considered equal members of womankind when in fact they’re now OVER-privileged, and you don’t seriously expect any MORE movies about male superheroines now that we’ve indulged you with this one, and maybe we should remake Batboy and Superboy to be about girls if this is how it’s going to be, and is there a way we could make the seventh Spiderwoman movie so that it has more hot guys in it, like maybe by having flashbacks to when Uncle Jay was young and hot?

“It’s not even that great of a movie,” the women say, shrugging, as if their opinion is the only thing that matters, as if that’s the point, as if movie quality alone is why the men are happy-crying and heartened. You make sure your kids see it (“especially the boys”? “especially the girls”? it’s hard to say which seems more important), and you buy a Wonder Man shirt to wear to bed; and if another movie about a male superheroine comes out, you’ll see it in the theater.

38 thoughts on “Seeing Wonder Woman

  1. Anne

    I love this. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    I have not seen Wonderwoman and now I will be sure that I do. And my two sons will watch with me. And if all of us are watching it together my husband will want to join us. But first I’ll have him read this.
    Thank you.

  2. Rowan

    Love the way you’ve laid this out. Along this line, I’m in the middle of a great book that has a similar theme–what if women discovered they had a power that made men fearful for their safety, how would the world react? It’s called The Power by Naomi Alderman, and it’s been really thought-provoking for me.

    1. Angela

      Thank you for the book recommendation, I’ve put it on my request queue at our library. 8 copies with 25 readers in line in front of me!

    2. Lauren

      I got this the other month with my Book of the Month subscription! I haven’t started it yet, but this made me jump it to the top of the To-Read queue.

  3. Janet

    I love this!!! I’m a lurker, I do NOT comment EVER but I had to because this is awesome. I read it to my husband and couldn’t even pronounce the word masculism, it’s so alien to the tongue.
    You are amazing thank you Swistle. <3

  4. Shawna

    Yeah. I saw it in the theater twice and had tears leaking down my face basically the whole time. It was so amazing to see a woman be able to be vulnerable and empathetic and still be tough and competent. She saves men not because THEY’RE good but because SHE’S good. *sob*

  5. Anna

    This is BRILLIANT! I haven’t seen the movie yet but it is on my list. Can anyone tell me- would it be too intense to have on around a three year old? She’s only intermittently interested in things other than Sesame Street, nature shows or animated movies, so it’s not like she would be sitting and watching the whole thing.

    1. Sarah

      My 10 year old loves Superhero movies, but there are scenes about World War 1 that scared him and we’re too much for him. Soi’d say a no go to a 3 year old.

    2. Cara

      I watched it awhile ago, but based on what I recall probably not. My two year old would have been fine, because it would have mostly gone over her head and what is visual (blowing things up, big brawls) she wouldn’t yet understand as people being hurt. I wouldn’t watch it with my very empathetic 7 year old around, though.

  6. Maggie

    I am 48 years old and I ended up seeing WW three times – the first time to see if I could take my 8 YO daughter without her being too scared, the second time with my husband and daughter, and the third time with my husband, son, and daughter. Every time I found myself getting emotional when (remaining vague here) WW goes into battle. It was like I didn’t even know I needed so badly to see a woman be full-heartedly brave and compassionate, the first to go in, and the one that makes it possible for the men to follow and help until it happened. She is amazing because she not only kicks butt but she is also caring, compassionate, and loving. tl;dr WW was great, I’ll buy it the moment it comes out on DVD too.

    1. Shawna

      It’s out now! The Blu-ray has lots of cool extras too, especially about all the cool women who were Amazons.

  7. Squirrel Bait

    Dick Flick! Ha!

    I’ll go slightly further and say that I would watch a whole film that’s just an expanded version of the first fifteen minutes. Feminist warrior utopia, yes please!

  8. Matti

    Hell. Yes.
    Thank you, Swistle. I loved this whole post. And I made my husband read it immediately. Even reading the comments made me cry.

  9. Elsk

    I love this so much. And I kind of feel like your post should be required reading for everyone. It was moving for me to see listed, so comprehensively, how recently women have been completely held back by society (and all the ways we continue to be marginalized).

  10. Ernie

    This is so timely bc I just rented it and watched it with my 4 youngest last night. I did fall asleep – not bc it wasn’t awesome but bc coach is out of town and three kids have been puking and I was HORRIBLY sleep deprived. We are hoping to finish it tonight.

    This is a great approach /outlook to proceed /accompany the movie.

  11. Pinkiebling

    I don’t have anything new to say that hasn’t been eloquently stated above. All of it x 100000000000000. Thank you.

  12. juliloquy

    Love this, Swistle!

    Shall we assume that men/boys in your household (and at college) pooh-poohed the film?

  13. Jess

    If I could insert the praise hands emoji here, I would. A million times. Everything about this was awesome. I didn’t get to see WW in the theater but recently rented it on Amazon and watched it three times. My youngest is 6 and a HUGE WW fan, and I felt that she was mature enough to handle watching it. She was GLUED to the TV and I was in tears.

  14. Jen

    Omg I love you Swistle. Thank you. I have been accused of being an angry woman as of late and I just cannot even when my 4 yo boy comes home and says HE DOESNT LIKE PINK BECAUSE GIRLS. That is our world of toxic masculinity right there. And thank the gods my husband piped up with “well buddy I like pink: I have several pink shirts” because I really didn’t want to lose it on my little guy.

  15. rlbelle

    I almost got weepy in Target today because I was doing some early Christmas browsing with my 4-year-old (where we walk around and look at the toys and I take note of what she goes crazy for), and she suddenly starts yelling for me to come look, “It’s Wonder Woman!!!” I don’t know how she even knows who Wonder Woman is, the movie’s way too violent for her to see it, but she knew both WW and Supergirl, and you can bet she’ll be getting a doll for Christmas this year.

    Related, I highly recommend the CW’s Supergirl series. It’s network TV, so it’s probably tame enough for kids from 9 or 10 up, and it’s just a really earnest, optimistic show.

  16. Sarah Bee

    Swistle, do you follow the “man who has it all” facebook page? it’s post (and the commenters replies) are some of my favorite o the internet. I feel you would enjoy it as well.

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