OPINION: You're a wonder, Wonder Woman
I recently watched the new Wonder Woman movie, but more importantly, I watched it with my two oldest daughters.
I don’t typically consider context when evaluating films. My basic criteria involves whether the movie made me laugh – yes – made me cry – no, that was dirt in my eye – and did it pull me into the story? Absolutely!
To briefly play the role of movie critic, Wonder Woman is a great movie, no qualifiers. I stared, wide-eyed at the action, and I cheered when the good guys accomplished the impossible.
However, I’m not writing today as a movie critic. Today, as a father, I’m writing an open-letter thank you to DC and the creators of this film. I’ve been a comic book nerd for as long as I can remember, dating back to when I could buy comic books with change that I dug out of the couch.
I read comics, traded comics, pretty much lived and breathed comics. Without my being consciously aware of it, the heroes in those comics shaped much of my perspective. They made me want to fight evil, protect the weak, and save the world. They made me want to be a better person.
Included in that pantheon was Wonder Woman, and while I’m fairly sure I wasn’t consciously thinking of her as a female role model, she was awesome. She was unique, not just because she was female, but because she was distinct in her story and approach.
By contrast, Supergirl always seemed to be Superman as a girl. Even Batgirl was just a female version of Batman. As my daughters would eventually ask, “Why are they ‘girls’ and not ‘women?”’
But, Wonder Woman was an Amazon; she was a warrior. She was not an extension of someone else’s origin, and she was also apparently very difficult for writers to understand. Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman was great, but short-lived. Since then, Wonder Woman has never received the type of treatment that Batman and Superman have gotten.
Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, I’ve grown up and become the father of three daughters. I’ve shared with my daughters my love of comic books and the history – continuity, for you nerds out there – of the various characters and universes. It was easy to point to Wonder Woman as a role model, but it became increasingly difficult to explain why so many movie versions of Batman, Superman, and Spiderman (yes, I’m mixing Marvel and DC) were steadily being produced, but not a single version of Wonder Woman.
Was it really so hard for us to grasp the concept of a singularly female superhero? Was it impossible to tell a story that wasn’t just an imitation of a Superman movie?
Sadly, the answer seemed to be yes. And, then came Gal Godot. When I took my daughters to see “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it contained the moment for which, as a father, I’ve waited for years. When Wonder Woman appeared with sword and shield for the first time, my daughters cheered out loud. And, so did I.
Let me emphasize that: My daughters jumped, cheered, and clapped, and so did I. It was that important.
So, a few nights ago, my daughters, my neighbor and her daughters, and my niece and nephew – because boys need to see powerful female role models as much as girls do – went to a late-night screening of Wonder Woman.
I was nervous because I knew that this had the potential to be very disappointing. It could just be a female version of Superman, or Lara Croft in a Wonder Woman costume.
This film had a lot to live up to and it had to be uniquely Wonder Woman. It succeeded beyond what I could have hoped for.
It was a powerful movie, with a strong lead, that showed Wonder Woman as a woman of power, conviction, and genuine emotion.
It was thrilling and wildly entertaining – at times funny, at others poignant. It was a great story about a great hero, and it made us all believe.
In short, it gave my daughters a Wonder Woman for their generation, and it gave me hope for ours.
If we can figure out how to genuinely bring strong women into our stories, maybe we can figure out how to celebrate the real-life Wonder Women who walk among us.
And, we better figure it out fast, because I believe we’ve got a bunch of inspired girls in our future.
Manuel Alvear is many things – among them a Texan, a father, and a longtime journalist. If you want him, you can find him – on the viewpoints page of the Burleson Star.