‘Wonder Woman’ calls for a reimagining of cinematic feminism

It’s hard to put into words just how much this movie means to me.

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When it comes to superhero movies, I’ve got pretty low standards.

I know it. My friends know it. My mom knows it. And my sister, the self-proclaimed film critic of our family, knows it and talks about it with me at length, often disparaging my taste in films while she preaches down at me with the great knowledge of YouTube’s Cinema Sins and Screen Rant behind her.

But this long overdue silver screen interpretation of the most enduring female superhero of all time surpassed my standards and even those of my sister. It also surpassed everyone else’s expectations of a female-led superhero movie associated with a superhero brand that just can’t get it right (and with a female director at the helm, no less).

Right out of the gate, the movie made cinematic history, earning over 100 million its opening weekend, according to the Associated Press. Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” also has a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sunday with close to 250 reviews, higher than any recent DC movie, including “Man of Steel,” “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and all Marvel films except the first Iron Man, according to Vox.

But it’s not about the money or the ratings or the number of people who gave it a good score on the “Tomatometer.” It’s about what it represents to me and many other female moviegoers sick of watching the same superhero formula film: hope.

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I legitimately swooned every time she burst into action. Source: Comicbookmovie.com.

[READ: Why Wonder Woman Should Have Her Own Video Game]

Don’t know what I mean? Think about this for a minute.

Two little girls sat down next to me in the theater. One was blonde and generically cute while the other, her sister, was dark-headed and clumsy, tripping (adorably) on her feet. In her hand she held a Barbie doll with jet-black hair, a familiar red and blue dress and two silver bands clasped around her thin plastic wrists. A tight coil of rope at her hip swayed back and forth as the girl held it, gesturing wildly in her excitement as her dad settled her and her sister down with some popcorn.

Whether or not those girls were old enough to see the movie is not in question here – but if it was, I would probably say they weren’t, as the very first preview was rated “R” and the movie itself featured an amount of violence that befit it’s World War I subject matter. What’s important to them and to other little girls across the country is that for the first time in recent cinematic history, a woman was able to fight and kick butt on screen in a genre of movies generally reserved for men. And what’s more, she wasn’t overly sexualized, much to my relief.

In fact, none of the Amazons were. Their costumes and weapons were appropriate for their Greco-Roman origins and the slow-motion cinematography used during the fight scenes only further highlighted their athleticism and ability, something that is distressingly lacking in other movies depicting female fighters. It seems, to Hollywood, when we aren’t whimpering weaklings, we’re over-sexualized she-demons with about as much venom and malice as a pair of boobs locked behind a tight corset.

[READ: Why ‘Sexy’ Modding Isn’t Really Sexy At All]

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Not overly sexualized, but perfectly athletic and able, Diana and the other Amazonians are the strong women we need from our superhero action movies. Source: Ew.com.

But “Wonder Woman” proved that women can be tough and sexy and intelligent and witty and funny, all without being hyper-sexualized or put on display for the infamous “male gaze.” Not only was Gadot’s portrayal of Diana as funny and charming as it was youthful and emotional, she was a Grade A badass. I fell in love with the way she moved, the confidence in her fighting and her looks and the way she held herself throughout the movie: like someone royal, some awe-inspiring and, well, like someone wonderful.

I fell in love with “Wonder Woman” and with Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the timeless character. It was so important to me that this movie do well and I’m absolutely relieved that it did. Not only because it would have been a death sentence for all other female-led superhero movies, according to the tone of coverage surrounding the movie before it was even released – and that’s an issue for another blog – but because it showed girls, and Hollywood producers, that women are capable of kicking butt and looking hot. Of being sweet and funny while also being tough and heroic.

Of being an icon for a new generation of girls and feminists, ones who deserve a stronger third-wave, or a newly defined fourth, and who deserve to play with Wonder Woman action figures and baby dolls and Barbies and toys that don’t fit into the strict gender binary our consumer culture often forces them into.

It’s hard for me to overstate just how much this movie meant to me, and how much it will mean for a new generation of moviegoers. While it’s easy to say that this movie has finally shattered the impenetrable glass ceiling for women in Hollywood, we can’t get complacent. The same thing was said about movies like “Bridesmaids,” “Thelma and Louise” and “9 to 5,” and here we are, still working towards gender equality in Hollywood and pretty much all other facets of life.

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All three of these movies have shattered expectations and cinematic norms, but the glass ceiling has remained firmly intact after each release. Source: Amazon.com and Wikimedia.org.

While I could easily continue to talk about how much I loved this movie and how much more can be done towards making it a truly feminist movie, I think it’s important to remember that these things take time. Yes, “Wonder Woman” is not the magic bullet for female equality in Hollywood some might have wanted it to be, but it can get us there and, if we all work hard enough, we can help it stand for more than just an awesome female superhero movie – which it undeniably is.

We can help it stand representative of a new wave of feminism, or a revisited old one; one that calls attention to the new problems women are facing in our age of social media and technology and one that shakes up the postfeminist narrative that has invaded our media culture.

One last thing. To all those men angry about women-only screenings: Get. Over. It.

Look around a movie theater next time you go to a major action movie like “Fate of the Furious” or “Die Hard” or any Bond movie or the fifth Transformers movie coming out June 21. Those are pretty much all men-only screenings. Besides a brief stint in the silent movie era, almost all of cinematic history has been defined by male movie successes, and even those that flop – “Green Lantern,” “Batman v. Superman” or the Tom Cruise “Mummy” reboot to name a few – are usually given another chance to wow us or, more likely, flop again.

So shut up, sit down, get used to it and let the power of Lara Croft (and Diana of Themyscira) be with you.

Oh and Rocksteady? Don’t think this lets you off the hook. I’m still waiting for a Wonder Woman video game to match your Arkham series.

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Condescending casual sexism or gaming’s “Girlfriend Mode”

I find the term “casual sexism” to be a bit of an oxymoron.

 

There’s nothing casual about sexism.

It isn’t a lazy Sunday afternoon spent reading books or lying in a hammock somewhere with a fancy cocktail in one hand. It isn’t a Friday at work where you can wear blue jeans instead of blazers or a flowy dress instead of a tight pencil skirt.

Sexism is men cat-calling women on the way to work, following them down darkened alleys to scream obscenities at them to then get unreasonably angry when those women don’t respond favorably.

Sexism is women being beaten for the mistake of being born female, being paid less on the dollar, and being told they are somehow less than men.

Nothing about sexism is casual and yet casual sexism exists. And it’s more prevalent than you might think.

Sexism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women” (emphasis theirs). As the definition implies, sexism is often intentional and based on perceived social roles and the violation of them.

What’s different about casual sexism is that it’s sexism that is so ingrained and common that we forget it’s even there.

It happens when women aren’t hired for jobs because their bosses are worried they’ll only work for a few years before popping out babies and draining the company’s paid leave reserves. It happens when men make jokes about hairy lesbians or bright young things that are too pretty to work or too gorgeous to have brains. It happens when women take leadership positions and the confidence they would have as a man is described as having a “bossy” or “bitchy” attitude.

It happens in a hundred different ways every day in our society, our media, our everyday lives and even our video games.

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Alanna Vagianos at the Huffington Post compiled a list of #QuestionsForMen tweets that perfectly describe the hundreds of ways sexism is ingrained in our society.
Source: Huffingtonpost.com.

Examples of casual sexism in video games are all too common. Most of them involve rewarding player characters with women (particularly prostitutes) in games like “God of War” and “Grand Theft Auto,” and violence against women (of which prostitutes are a significant number) in “Red Dead Redemption” and “Bioshock.”

[READ: Stuffed in refrigerators, or why gaming’s number one trope has got to go]

But casual sexism is more than just outright violence. It’s often as little as a thoughtless disregard for female players or their representation in video games of all genres.

Take for example the Gearbox hit “Borderlands 2.” Out of the two female characters, at least one was specifically designed with female players in mind, and not in a good way. Gearbox lead designer John Hemingway wanted to, “make, for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree.”

Thus the DLC mechromancer, Gaige, was born.

Although Gearbox quickly condemned Hemingway’s description of the character, the “Girlfriend Mode” skill tree, officially dubbed “Best Friends Forever,” still exists in all its condescending glory.

gaigeeeee

Called one of the cutest characters ever made by lead designer Hemingway and given a condescendingly named “Best Friends Forever” skill tree with gems like “Close Enough” that don’t require players to aim and a potential reference to women in the kitchen with “Cooking Up Trouble,” it’s easy to see casual sexism at work, once you start paying attention.
Source: Playbuzz.com.

Hemingway presented Gaige’s “Girlfriend Mode” as a way to be more inclusive of non-player audiences, but he actually just alienated women, nearly 48 percent of the gaming population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Nuances of language and meaning aside, there’s a significant percent of the population that definitely did not take issue with Hemingway’s statement. And that’s what’s so scary about casual sexism.

Because it’s an attitude that is generally assumed and co-opted by men that refuses to allow any deviations or changes in belief. Pew did the math, and 60 percent of Americans agree with the statement “most people who play video games are men” with 31 percent disagreeing and another 9 percent unsure if it is true or not.

It’s something I assumed until I started really looking into the demographic breakdown of video game players when I started this blog. And if everyone holds this idea, nothing is going to change and casual sexism will continue to be a problem.

Because it is a problem. Whether you’re violently murdering a female character or “helping” gamer girlfriends play by condescendingly lowering skill requirements in a “Girlfriend Mode” created just for them, casual sexism in video games is a problem because it reflects casual sexism in society.

And if we change our attitude in our video games and other media outlets, then maybe we change our attitude in society as well.

So combat sexism, both casual and not, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

casual-sexism

Why Wonder Woman should have her own video game

If Lara Croft can make a comeback in the video game industry as a champion of female representation why can’t Wonder Woman?

For all that I’m a hardcore Marvel fan, DC has some of the most recognizable superheroes in existence.

Superman is the quintessential good guy with a heart of gold.Batman has become the model for superhero with a tragic backstory, the bad-cop foil to Superman’s patently good-cop behavior.

And Wonder Woman is the embodiment of female beauty, brains and badassery.

Which is why I think she should have her own video game.

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Source: Nerdist.com

All the aspects of a good game – excellent story, depth of character, engaging gameplay mechanics, beautiful graphics, etc. – exist within the story of Diana of Themiscyra. And if designers base their story on the new Rebirth arc by Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark, and Liam Sharp, the story potential may result in a new iconic incarnation of Wonder Woman that could forever influence the story of her character.

Not to put the cart ahead of the horse or anything, but I think Rocksteady would do a great job of designing and producing a Wonder Woman game befitting a new generation of female-friendly gamers.

Despite my grievances with the 2015 release of “Batman: Arkham Knight,” I think Rocksteady has proven their commitment to bringing the DC universe to life with their Arkham trilogy.

So why not branch out a little, play around with bringing the most powerful feminist icon other than Rosie the Riveter and Beyonce to consoles across the world?

Production of a Wonder Woman title would also give them a chance to correct the misogynistic mistakes of “Arkham Knight.”

another badass diana.jpg

Source: Hollywoodreporter.com

No other female superhero has endured the test of time quite like Wonder Woman.

Since her first appearance in Sensation Comics #8 in 1941, Wonder Woman has been a symbol of female empowerment for generations. Despite a brief stint in the sixties as a powerless glorified spy, she has endured as a beacon of hope for women throughout history, fighting for love, justice, and gender equality.

She fights for brilliant ideals, for love, equality and justice. She embodies all the potential of the female spirit, all the love and hate and hopes and dreams of the pure, unfiltered female soul.

She inspires at every turn, kicking ass and taking names while wearing a sexy superhero costume that empowers more than it demeans.

Her confidence is legend and something all girls should aspire to whether you’re actually taking out bad guys left and right or just working hard every day to play video games on the weekends.

Giving Wonder Woman a video game would give her another avenue of influence in the age of super-masculine superheroes and video game protagonists.

Not only is more female representation something gamers need, it’s something we deserve.

We’ve seen enough of the scruffy white dude with a sad past and a hard heart mowing down everyone in his path on a quest for guts, gold and glory. We’ve suffered through enough man pain, usually caused by the death of a wife, or mother, or girlfriend at the hand of an enemy.

And we’ve definitely had enough vacuous first-person shooters championed by macho manly men with skinny waifs at their sides.

Diana Prince as Wonder Woman deserves to have a video game just as much as Bruce Wayne as Batman does, as much as any male protagonist does. With Rocksteady wrapping up the Arkham trilogy, I think they should look to Batman’s DC ally for inspiration in their next project.

Not only is a Wonder Woman game something we need, it’s something we deserve.

Whether we realize it or not.

So game on, my wondrous Wonder Women, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

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