By ALEX DE LEON
I recently saw the movie “Wonder Woman.” It has received near universal praise and has been hailed by critics and audiences as a triumph of female empowerment.
I liked the movie. I thought it was entertaining. It was well-paced and the action sequences were fantastic.
I was a little dumbstruck, however, by the assessment of Wonder Woman, played by stunning model and actress Gal Gadot, as an exceptional female character.
She kicks ass in the literal sense, beating many a German soldier to a pulp. And she does show a strength of will that is laudable.
But the idea that Wonder Woman should be a model for strong female characters in cinema is mistaken.
After the release of the film, “Avatar” director James Cameron gave an interview with The Guardian newspaper in which he said:
“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over ‘Wonder Woman’ has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing.”
He was roundly criticized for his comments both inside and outside Hollywood.
I agree with him.
It comes down to this: Though empowered, Wonder Woman is still a male construct from a sexist past. She was created by white men in the early 1940s, not exactly a time for diminished male patriarchy.
Sure, she was more independent than most any other female comic book character of her time, but she’s a gorgeous Amazon woman who lives on an island of gorgeous Amazon women traipsing around in a loincloth, i.e., a male fantasy.
She does have admirable qualities that aren’t physical, of course, and she is extremely likeable. But none of this changes the fact that she’s a hot girl doing cartwheels in a skimpy outfit.
At one point, she is obliged to attend a gala which requires her to don a stunning ball gown, again showing off her body. Why?
Because Gal Gadot, that’s why.
It’s typical Hollywood objectification.
Wonder Woman’s other major quality is her ability to kick someone’s ass, on display ubiquitously throughout the film, apparently meant to satisfy men’s thirst for violence.
What we end up with is a character who serves up the two things that men find most appealing: action and sex.
They sell, which is ultimately the goal of “Wonder Woman’s” creators.
The insidious and sad part about the film is that it tricks women and girls into thinking Wonder Woman is an example of a strong woman.
Instead, she’s the photoshopped size-zero Victoria’s Secret model who makes teenagers and moms feel bad about themselves when they look in the mirror and see love handles and stretch marks.
A truly strong female character has strength of will and complexity. She is not defined by her sex appeal. She is not a male fantasy.
Sarah Connor from “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” is a strong female movie character, who, not incidentally, is a creation of James Cameron.
She is focused, smart and capable, but she is also flawed, which makes her real, unlike Wonder Woman.
Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, is not a supermodel. She’s not about being sexy in any overt way. She’s selfish, unhinged, and as Cameron put it, “a terrible mother.”
She has no cape and she sure as hell wears no ball gowns.
She kicks ass in sweats and a tank top, Doc Martens and cargo pants.
She pushes through the hurt and the loss and she keeps going.
That is real strength.
I only hope that one day, people, especially women, will wake up and see characters like Wonder Woman for what they really are: a money-making scheme meant to bilk unwitting viewers out of their undersized paychecks.
As it is, women are under the impression that Wonder Woman helps break the chains of male domination, when in fact, she and her female audience remain in bondage, however attractive those bonds might be made to look.