Like many of you this weekend, I saw the new super hero(ine) movie Wonder Woman, and also like many of you I especially loved watching the excitement of the young female audience as they watched the newest Justice League member unveiled. I’ve heard a lot of moms of girls express gratitude that their daughters can grow up trading in Barbie for Amazonian princess action figures and that’s completely awesome.
I do not have a daughter. I am raising two boys. But as I watched this movie, my heart resonated with that same feeling of: This is the super hero movie we needed. Wonder Woman is so important to me as a mom of boys, and here’s why:
1. I want them to value women.
Wonder Woman is not a feminist film. At least not in the “girls rule, boys drool, and the patriarchy is the root of all evil” way, but it puts an enormous value on women in a much-needed way for this genre.
Diana is a powerful female role model not because she has a haughty “I can do everything you can do but better” attitude, but because of how she approaches things in a completely different way, as a woman who refuses to discard her femininity in order to be ‘stronger.’
Instead, her action is fueled by compassion and a fierce desire to see justice for innocents. The war has a face for her. She is a woman who can’t help but run toward a crying baby, overcome with a desire to hold it, and seeing animals mistreated tears her up.
She prizes wisdom (I’ve always found it interesting that the book of Proverbs personifies wisdom as a woman running through the streets beseeching men to be wise…Hello, Wonder Woman).
She is vulnerable, pure, she is eager to learn and is defiant only in the face of evil and injustice. She is an encourager (when one soldier fails to complete his mission and wants to stay behind she gently chides him, “But who will sing for us?” deterring him from quitting). She cries often, and it never looks “weak.”
When she meets her ultimate enemy, her strength, genetic heritage, training, and even her weapons aren’t enough. In the end, only the fiercely devoted love can fuel her to fight hard enough to end the war.
Wonder Woman is victorious because she has love, compassion, and yes, self-control. She refuses to take her suffering out on anyone but the real enemy even if it would satisfy her suffering for a brief moment. She is a woman in every way, leading by example in pursuit of peace, emotionally distraught by chaos and suffering but not deterred by it.
2) I want them to partner with and empower the women in their life.
While Wonder Woman gives girls an incredibly empowering figure to look up to, Steve Trevor is a pretty admirable hero himself and the partnership he forms with Diana on their mission to end the war is a great (if imperfect) example of a male/female partnership that empowers a woman’s gifts.
Diana is fairly innocent of what she’s embarked on when she first sets out on her mission, but Trevor takes it all in stride and answers her questions without condescension. When they disagree, he doesn’t talk down to her. Maybe things would be different if she hadn’t earned his genuine respect by saving his life, but nevertheless he treats her with dignity and guides her well in the new world without being harsh or breaking his word to her.
While there are certainly moments when he fails her by doubting her perspective (assuming she is too naive to understand reality), she does have a lot to learn from him as well about the realities of his world, and the overwhelming take away of their relationship is one of partnership.
In their first battle on the front, she steps out to prove herself in courage and he responds by organizing the guys to provide the shield set up she needs to take down a sniper in the battle following. Once there is a mutual trust, Trevor empowers her to be her best self, and she responds later with her gratitude the way only a woman can.
But the true beauty of the film comes at the end. Trevor finds Diana to say goodbye, telling her there is a job only he can do: “It has to be me.” (I love that this line is in a female-directed, female-led film. Partnership!). She doesn’t understand in the moment the full meaning of this, but he leaves her with an assurance of his love and sets off in the plane to lay down in his life in order to save thousands of others.
Until this point, Wonder Woman has been losing the fight against her arch enemy, but at the moment she realizes that Trevor has sacrificed himself, her enormous love for him fuels her to finish evil off and save the world. His love for her gave him the bravery to lay down his life to save many, and her love for him brought out the best in her and gave her the power to defeat the war.
Personally, I’d rather raise a Steve Trevor than a Tony Stark.
So, yes- My boys may still run around humming the cartoon Batman theme song and when they’re old enough to see the Avenger films they may want a few of those posters on their wall, but you better believe that they will grow up with one of Wonder Woman right up there with them, because while they may like all of the other ones, this is the super hero film my boys need.