Wonder Woman proves we need more heroines
The first 45 minutes or so of Wonder Woman did not leave me feeling very emotional. Sure, the idyllic island inhabited only by women was awesome, and I loved watching badass baby Diana take control of her own destiny. But I certainly didn't find myself weeping the way so many women said they had while watching the new iteration of this feminist superhero.
Watching the film through a feminist lens was a joy unto itself. I loved the way the greatest Amazonian warrior of all time wanted a baby, so she made one. I loved that the Queen was first and foremost a mother, that her strength outside of battle came from protecting and nurturing her child. I loved that the other warriors fought as fiercely as any characters in any action film, but they also wept openly. These women, even those playing secondary characters, were allowed to be complex and were not required to trade empathy for strength. I loved that Diana was totally independent but still fell in love with the guy. And I appreciated that the love story was peripheral to the plot.
I spent most of the film just basking in the glow of a story that spoke to the audience differently than any other I had ever seen. And that's when it started to hit me. I had never seen those characters on film. I went to film school. I've seen more films than I could ever count. I've studied feminist film theory, and yet ... I have never seen a character like Diana. And as she ran out of the trenches and into her first battle, the tears started rolling down my cheeks.
She ran into battle alone after being warned by the men in her group that it was futile, after having her motives questioned, after being told she didn't belong there in the first place. She was compelled by her desire to help people, and she bravely led the charge. And the men in her group followed her, they provided cover and assistance, and they supported her. Sure, it's a fantasy. But for a few hours, it felt so good to see it play out.
Last night, I had a terrible recurring nightmare that I've had for years now. Usually in this nightmare, I am completely helpless to stop the bad guy and save my friends and family. I wake up in a cold sweat, and it takes me hours to fall back asleep. But last night's bad dream was different. I was in control of the situation. I commanded their attention, and I was able to lead them to safety. I was able to protect those I loved. It was a small but measurable difference.
Seeing heroes on screen is important, but when they look like you and sound like you, when they fight for things you believe in, it literally feeds your soul. It contributes to your confidence and self-worth on a subconscious level. My hope is that little girls will be inspired enough by Diana that they will go on to write and film new heroines. Let Diana merely be the first.
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