In Wonder Woman, the new smash-hit superhero movie, audiences see Diana, our valiant heroine, transported from the idyllic and isolated all-female island of Themyscira to the gritty, violent, and often confusing “world of man.” Born with mysterious powers, Diana may be tough, but she’s also baffled by much of what she discovers in the troubled Europe of World War One, including cultural mores, gender-based clothing restrictions, the tragedies of war, and revolving doors.
I can’t help but think that if Wonder Woman were dropped into our prosperous yet angst-filled 21st century, she might find something infinitely more baffling than smothering, multi-layered skirts. I’m talking, of course, about today’s weird brand of obsessive, woe-is-me “feminism.”
Some of the Wonder Woman hullaballoo comes from the fact that such a hugely successful film was directed by a woman, which is nice. Much of the hullaballoo, however, comes from the assertion that Wonder Woman will empower women and encourage the positive “representation” of women that is supposedly so rare in Hollywood. It achieves this “representation,” apparently, by featuring a gorgeous woman clad in metal lingerie who effortlessly deflects bullets with her bracelets and eventually upends a giant tank. This, we are to assume, will immediately inspire millions of little girls across America to rush home and launch their own neighborhood STEM-research teams.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Wonder Woman. In fact, I’m among the tried-and-true, old-school Wonder Woman rerun fans who used to watch the bodacious Linda Carter spin her way into various skin-tight motorcycle suits and star-spangled scuba costumes as a kid at the dawn of the 1980s.
Please, for everyone’s sake, avoid buying into the idea that women are fragile creatures who need 1,000 different obsessive gender-based affirmations just to make it through life.
Speaking of modern feminism melting brains, how else can we explain the media hysteria over the miracle of a female movie lead? “I wasn’t directing a woman,” Patty Jenkins, the film’s director, explained to the New York Times. “I was just directing a hero.” Boy, oh boy, did the press miss that memo. Google the words Wonder Woman and “representation” and you’re in for a long, painful read — and a rather bizarre one, too, if you’ve watched any movies over the past five years.
Just this week, I watched The Lego Batman Movie, which features a female mayor and a new, female Commissioner Gordon, who boasts a degree from “Harvard For Police,” mad skills in martial arts, and a mastery of both “statistics and compassion.” The last two Star Wars installments have featured female leads, both beautiful, small-boned ladies who still can somehow knock down approximately twelve Storm Troopers in six seconds without breaking a sweat. Oh, and has anyone heard of The Hunger Games? Anyone?
Turn on children’s television, and you’ll find a similar embarrassment of empowered-female riches. Smart, capable female lead characters are everywhere, and they’re often far more competent than their male counterparts. My personal favorite is Miss O, the boss from PBS Kids’s Odd Squad, whose catchphrase involves wildly yelling at her cowed subordinates: “WELL? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO!!!”
Ah, but you see, here is what I have missed: This is a powerful female leading a comic-book superhero movie! We must mark this specific subgenre-related milestone! It changes everything!
Except it doesn’t; it’s just a game of manufactured oppression-counting, and a silly one at that. By all means, take your daughters to Wonder Woman. Take your sons, too. But please, for everyone’s sake, avoid buying into the idea that women are fragile creatures who need 1,000 different obsessive gender-based affirmations just to make it through life. Despite the anxiety-laced chorus of modern feminism, they aren’t, and they don’t.
— Heather Wilhelm is a National Review columnist and a senior contributor to the Federalist.