I wonder why the feminist gaze

This is probably not the blog you are looking for. Or maybe it is.

I have just come back from seeing Wonder Woman – and this is going to be my review.

Now, what feels like years ago.. well it probably was years ago, I remember Gal Gadot being announced to play Wonder Woman. I questioned the choice. After all, she is a Amazonian Princess and a demi god to boot. I wanted a physically strong, imposing role model to look up to. I didn’t want some skinny broad who would blow over in a strong breeze. But when I saw her on screen in Batman vs Superman, it was clear that we have the perfect actress to play Wonder Woman. There was something, a presence, charisma, she made the character come to life, she made it her own.

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So let us say, I have been anticipating this movie, more so than any movie in a long while. And would you believe, I almost missed the release? It was put out by Warner Bros with an almost embarrassed, apologetic sniffle. Why ? What marketing ploy is this? To see if a woman could sell herself? To prove that a good movie needs no introduction? But it has done well, although strangely there have been a lack of reviews or spoilers cluttering up my newsfeed. Which instead of looking at with suspicion, I will count as a good thing as it has taken 4 weeks for me to watch it!

Now I know some of you will be waiting to watch it, or just prefer watching at home. So this will not contain any spoilers, but more an overview of the movie. One thing that has been bought up time and again…. Wonder Woman being the ‘first strong female lead’ although the quote was erroneously placed at someone’s feet (does it matter now) the problem is that the idea gathered traction pretty quickly. Lots of people championing this new direction for movies. First we had Brave, Frozen and since animation went so well… we ‘finally’ have Wonder Woman.

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But do we? I mean let us look at these 3 movies very quickly. Brave was a film about a frankly bratty girl, who gets her mother into a difficult position because, she is a brat. And it featured a heavy male supporting cast including her little brothers who also offered comic relief. I can’t really say I cared for her and I can’t see that this was any different from a standard Disney movie. Frozen, we have the bratty teenager who doesn’t get her own way and runs away from home. Gets her little sister into trouble, help on hand from 3 males in the form of a human, a snowman, a moose, and trolls.. I mean.. where do we start with this. Elsa is not a strong role model. She is a teenager. And Wonder Woman. Well, what can I say, the girl wasn’t doing it by herself. At no point in her life was she left to her own devices or given her own agency. She is supported by men, who have their own agenda. But allow her to show her humanity. 

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Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie, and her humanity, her empathy and sympathy for the human condition gave the film much needed depth that films like Batman struggle with. Dark Knight was a study in how we should feel sympathy for someone but because of the male gaze, it felt frustrating and frankly wasted good story time. And this is also why I struggle with the idea that Wonder Woman is a feminist film, or frankly that it has a feminist gaze. Yes, it is important to see more female role models for girls, to see strong empowered women. To show Hollywood that yes, if you film it, we will indeed come. In droves. We love this shit. However, the film was not feminist. Don’t cheapen the idea of feminism but suggesting that giving a woman a sword and letting her fight her own battles it is feminist. The same old story, I mean it was almost as formulaic as a Disney movie. We have a lead, a love interest, the foil and then we have the supporting cast who help move the story along. 

Wonder Woman (série tv)
Lynda Carter Directed by Vincent McEveety

However, I don’t want to put anyone off watching this movie, it flowed well, the acting was fantastic. There were plenty of laughs which felt natural and not planted (looking at you Marvel!) and there was chemistry amongst the various characters. The story was not forced, it didn’t feel shoehorned and there were some really heartbreaking moments. The fight scenes were fantastic and honestly, this is a movie that will have wide appeal without really trying too hard to appeal to everyone and ending up not appealing to anyone. 

But I would just like you all to remember, some of us grew up watching Sigourney Weaver,Carrie Fisher and Linda Hamilton kicking ass. Not inspite of being female, not because they are female. They were just strong characters. And going forward, Gillian Anderson, Sarah Michelle Geller. I could go on. But the point is, that many of us have unknowingly had strong female role models whether we analysed it or not. Nor is it a bad thing to be inspired by a male rolemodel. I agree having strong female leads and roles are important. But we need to have them just because, not to make a political point. Because frankly, making it political muddies the water unnecessarily. 

I really hope that you enjoy Wonder Woman for what it is, a fun comic inspired movie that gives a welcome break to Marvel. I really enjoyed the colour pallet, where Marvel tends to go with very bright, clear colour pallets in their movies, there is a clear definition between good and evil. DC continue to do colour studies using muted hues, in this case, a wash of blue. It worked well, there was still enough brightness but it help cast the mood over the entire movie. I mean there was a war going on, people died. This wasn’t a touchy feely, nice movie to feel good about. The killing started almost at the outset. But it handled this well. There was enough character development that you didn’t feel anyone was just there to fill up some dialogue. This for me, is what DC has always been good at. Looking at the reality, that things are not always going to be bright and beautiful. That life can be hard, gritty, things are not always easy and it is how we handle what is thrown at us that teaches us something about ourselves. Life is hard kids, it is dirty, and you will get bruised, but your true character will show through 😉 There have I rescued you all from the feminist rant?

One final thought. Can we edit the last 10 mins from a movie. Please. Just stop. When you feel the sappiness… just cut it right there. 

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Thanks for reading 🙂

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