The other day I opined on my Facebook page about how the recently released movie Wonder Woman was being praised by reviewers and other culture critics in a rather hyperbolic, if not absurd, manner as a rare instance of showing a strong, empowered woman on the silver screen. I offered previous examples of women who starred in and demonstrated guts and grit in films such as Alien and Aliens, with Sigourney Weaver, and Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. Unlike WW, a comic book creation with “superpowers” that enable her to battle and dispatch the baddies, the above noted three movies had female leads who faced rather dangerous, potentially deadly enemies but who had no superpowers. They had guts and guile and determination. They were humans. Comic book heroes or heroines are inherently not humans. No human is born with superpowers, nor can any human somehow, through sorcery, or exposure to super-duper radiation or potions, or even enough PCP, can become a superhero. They’re all based on COMIC BOOK pop culture.
The implication that Wonder Woman is a “feminist” trope, and thus a pine-scented breath of fresh air to offset the stench of our current political polluters and traditional, strong male imagery in the pop culture seems to be, if anything, insulting to any thinking woman (or man!). Really? Strong women are so rare in real or fictional incarnations that it takes a CGI cartoon action movie with a female lead to FINALLY give women their due?
Here’s some other films you may have heard of (or not): Norma Rae, starring Sally Field in the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton, who valiantly fought and won labor rights for herself and her fellow textile workers. Or how about Julia Roberts in the eponomously titled movie, Erin Brockovich?
How about the recent film Hidden Figures that explores the real female African-American mathematicians who aided in our early NASA efforts to conquer outer space.
Leaving cinema, other flesh and blood, determined and notable women such as Marie Curie. Rachel Carson. Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, both NASA astronauts. How about Grace Hopper, who was an Admiral in the U.S.Navy during the WWII era and who went on to invent the first “compiler” for computer programming language?
Needless to say there are many, many more examples of strong women to learn about and admire. And, agreed, many of the above noted women have been given their due in biographies, if not films, whether dramatizations or documentaries. But, certainly, in comparison to their male counterparts, there is definitely an inherent cultural gender bias, politically, socially, economically, racially and otherwise. So, okay, even Wonder Woman is the exception and not the rule, for what it’s worth, in the comic book-inspired pop culture, with its “spiderMAN” or “superMAN, or “batMAN” or even a Mister Robot.
But I prefer to admire strong, determined women who are depicted, whether as fictional characters or born, as we all are, part of humankind, and not from an action comic pantheon where their wonders are simply granted them at the stroke of a pen or computer generated.
Oh, and just this day, another film has opened that features an exceptional woman, Megan Leavey, played by Kate Mara. Megan joins the Marines and is sent to Iraq, and she’s assigned to clean up a “messy” K-9 unit, when she bonds with a particularly aggressive dog name Rex, with whom she manages to form a human to canine bond. This true story dramatizes Megan and Rex’s heroic efforts that saved numerous U.S. combatant’s lives–until both she and Rex are wounded by a IED and taken out of action. We’ll see if it makes much box office revenue. Certainly it can’t compete with that kick-ass comic book woman.
No, Megan Leavey, is just a flesh and blood Marine, with her flesh and blood canine partner, Rex who, along with his male and female canine brothers and sisters are known as–what else?: Man’s best friend.