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.