I wanted to watch Wonder Woman on opening weekend because it felt important. It’s just a movie—not the pinnacle of the feminist movement—but it is the female superhero movie right now, and that was enough to make me want to go. Mind you, I knew absolutely nothing about the plot or the character—or the DC universe for that matter.
What I didn’t expect was to end up crying 10 minutes into the movie. Not allergy-induced tears, either; I had serious, made-for-the-big-screen tears streaming down my face, noticeable enough that it made my younger brother laugh.
I’m not at risk of spoiling anything here—there’s no terrible tragic beginning that we’re so accustomed to seeing in the first scene of superhero movies. I was watching a bunch of statuesque women in gold armour scoop shields off the ground while on horseback, flinging arrows and swinging swords, while a tiny girl with black hair watched and swung her fists through the air. It felt so momentous, it drove me back to the theatre to watch it all over again two days later.
“When was the last time you watched a movie with a scene like that?” I asked my mom when I got home. “A scene where there are only women on screen, no men? Where each woman’s defining characteristics are strength and power, and no one is being sexualized?” She couldn’t think of one; neither could I.
In a now-viral Tumblr post, one user explained what I was feeling perfectly. “Watching a superhero movie directed by a woman is like putting glasses on for the first time. I didn’t realize how much I had to squint through the ‘male gaze’ ‘till suddenly, miraculously, I didn’t have to.”
That’s what makes Wonder Woman so special. Director Patty Jenkins did not portray Wonder Woman’s Diana as a passive, sexualized object. “She wasn’t there to make men drool,” writes the user behind the “Creative Words, Powerful Ideas” profile. “She wasn’t there to be sexy and alluring and flirt her way to victory, and that means she big, muscular thighs, and when they absorb the impact of a superhero landing, they jiggle, and.that’s.WONDERFUL.”
The post concludes with a rallying cry for the female gaze: “Thank you, Patty Jenkins, for giving me a movie about a woman, told by a woman, so I can see it through my eyes, not some dude bro who’s there for boobs and butts.”
And we know that women and girls around the world are just as voracious in their demand for more of this content—because they’re saying so. At the same time the Tumblr post went viral, Jenkins tweeted out a list of anecdotes about kindergarten students reacting to the movie the week it was released.
My producer just sent me this… ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE! This makes every hard day worth it. Thank you to whomever wrote it!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3DzIaMueIh
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) June 11, 2017
Seven girls playing together during recess on Tuesday all wanted to be Wonder Woman, but instead of fighting for the title they had agreed to be Amazons instead so they could work together to defeat evil.
Another boy who was obsessed with Iron Man announced that he had asked his parents for a new Wonder Woman lunchbox.
My personal favourite: A boy threw his candy wrapping on the floor, and a 5-year-old girl screamed, ‘DON’T POLLUTE YOU IDIOT, THAT IS WHY THERE ARE NO MEN IN THEMYSCIRA.’
While I’m unlearning the instinct to squint through Male Gaze Glasses, it’s comforting to know that there are still young kids looking around lens-free, seeing women as they truly are: strong, powerful, important.
Anyone want to go see Wonder Woman again with me?