I’ve seen a lot of women in my Facebook and Tweetstreams saying things like, “There’s never been a superhero like this before!” and “I didn’t know this was what I wanted so much.”
I’ve also seen a lot of replies like, “So I guess you’ve never seen Ripley, or Furiosa, or Sarah Connor, or Rey, or Red Sonja, or any other female-led action movie since the 70s, huh?”
Well, of course we have. Who the hell doesn’t love Ripley? Who didn’t come back from seeing Mad Max: Fury Road in the theater and tell everyone to go see it? But here’s the thing: We still haven’t seen anything quite like Wonder Woman before. Why?
BECAUSE NONE OF THOSE FEMALE ACTION HEROES HAD PEOPLE TELLING HER THAT SHE COULDN’T DO THINGS BECAUSE OF HER GENDER.
Ripley lives in an apparently post-sexist world. She’s an officer on a spaceship. No one says to her, “No, you can’t advise the captain because you’re a woman!” If she’s on the bridge, no one says, “You can’t be in here, you’re a woman!”
Same with Furiosa. Although the world she lives in is obviously sexist and women are treated like cattle, EVERYONE is treated the same way. But there’s no one in the movie suggesting that she can’t be an Imperator because she’s a woman. No one is saying she shouldn’t drive a war rig because she’s a woman. No one suggests that if all the male generals and political leaders are talking in a room, that she might be confused by it all.
Same with Sarah Connor. Kyle Reese comes from a future where women and men fight alongside each other. He comes from a future in which Sarah Connor is KNOWN as a warrior-type woman who taught her son how to be a soldier. He’s there to protect her, but never once does he say, “You need protection because you’re a woman.” He knows she’s capable. Kyle KNOWS she’s going to save the damn world. The fact that she’s a woman doesn’t make him think she’s less capable of ANYTHING.
So when we say we haven’t seen a female hero in a huge production like this before, doing what Wonder Woman does … it’s true. We aren’t ignorant of film history. If you’re like me, you’ve taken every single scrap of every single warrior heroine who ever graced the screen – cringing sometimes, but so glad for every Alice in Resident Evil, every Bride, every Rey, every Red Sonja, every Supergirl (yes, the movie one), every Elektra, every Catwoman (but Michelle Pfeiffer’s over that other monstrosity because a COSMETIC COMPANY? REALLY?) and Tank Girl and Barb Wire and Lara Croft. You really think we haven’t seen those? And you really think we don’t know when we’re seeing something DIFFERENT? AND NEW?
Because it is. She was told she couldn’t wear those clothes. She was told she couldn’t be in that room. She was told to keep her voice down. She was told she couldn’t help the people she wanted to help and that she couldn’t cross No Man’s Land.
And I’m so glad they set it in WWI when all of that is overt. I don’t know how it would have played in a contemporary setting. Not that there’s equality now but that people are just better about pretending inequality doesn’t exist.
Anyway. Seeing that response over and over as if one kickass heroine is the same as any other, as if the experience of WATCHING them kick ass is the same, no matter the context…it just bothers me. I love all of these movies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Aliens. I can’t tell you how many people I urged to see Fury Road or describe the utter joy of watching Furiosa on screen.
But it wasn’t the same as watching Wonder Woman.