As a young child I never quite felt like I fit in with other girls my own age. While other girls were interested in playing princesses and having tea parties; I was locked in my room with my plastic horses pretending to be Xena, who at the time was one of very few strong female roll models I had available to me on television.
The environment that I grew up in was oppressive and very emotionally abusive and as a result I longed for a female roll model that wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself in hopes that it would somehow give me the strength to make it through my days until I too could be free of my oppressive surroundings.
Our roll models as children shape who we become as adults, whether anyone wants to admit that or not it is absolutely true. I grew up looking at these strong women with perfectly sculpted figures: Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Conner on Xena, and of course Carie Fisher’s perfect body in the Star Wars franchise. Today I am an outspoken and strong woman, but I also grew up with some things I never would have expected having grown up watching my roll models on tv fight monsters and bad guys in bikinis with perfect rock hard bodies that don’t jiggle or move ever and that gift was the precious gift of a lifetime of complex body image issues.
The new Wonder Woman film recently came out and is the first blockbuster film in a long time to have been directed by a woman and the first comic book film to be directed by a woman. I’ll say that one more time for the people in the back, this is the FIRST comic book based film to be directed by a woman since the explosion of comic book films has occurred, and despite the overwhelming success of the film (i.e. nearly $200 million globally on opening weekend) no further women are slated to direct anymore comic based films through to 2019. Patty Jenkins has received enormous amounts of praise across the board for her work on this film and all I can say is that it’s nice to see real women on screen. Women who age, and women whose bodies move and react to what they are doing; none of this stomping around with no thigh movement. I would also like to say that as a long time fan of the character of Wonder Woman, I think Patty Jenkins, did a phenomenal job reviving her.
William Marston created Wonder Woman in the 1940’s which was an oppressive time for women’s rights; we had recently won our right to vote, but society was still set on keeping us in our place, silent and looking pretty in the corner where we belonged. This did not sit right with Marston who was a progressively minded fellow and when All-American Comics came to him and asked him for a new kind of superhero he knew he wanted something different than the super powered and high tech equipped heroes everyone had come accustomed to and he decided to write a hero who solved crimes with the powers of love and truth and at the urging of his wife, Elizabeth Marston who was a lawyer in a time when only 2% of lawyers were female, he made his new hero female; and thus Wonder Woman was born and in her pages he hid his agenda of female empowerment and breaking the bondage of male oppression.
I read my first Wonder Woman comic when I was 13, I already had a healthy appreciation for the comic world as I had discovered a box of old Spider-Man comics many years before and had become quite a fan of the Amazing Spider-man universe and all of his shenanigans, but when I first picked up that Wonder Woman comic, something changed in me, I hadn’t realized until that moment not only that there were strong female super heroes, but that they did not require fancy powers and could solve their problems with more than just weapons. Wonder Woman made me feel comfortable with me, I didn’t have to be a fighter to defend myself, I didn’t have to be what everyone else wanted me to be to fit in, and most of all she gave me the strength to face my fears knowing that even if I didn’t win I’d be ok in the end.
It has been 15 years since I read my first Wonder Woman comic, and being able to see her on the big screen has made me very emotional, but knowing that a woman put her there and knowing that I still argue daily with people who think there isn’t a need for more films directed by women so that little girls can grow up with confidence instead of body issues because the media is giving them something from a healthy perspective and not just something with constant sexual undertones because sex is this ever underlying presence in everything men produce. It saddens me that this world automatizes cars and cures diseases we thought were incurable 10 years ago but we still have to campaign constantly for gender equality but I think movies directed by more females should be not only an obvious place to start because as someone once said, “art is the highest form of hope” but also, just a very simple step to make towards progress.