I’ve seen every Marvel movie with my kids, ever since they were old enough to take to superhero movies. I had never until Wonder Woman taken them to a DC movie, because DC movies, historically, have sucked. (Fight me.)
Wonder Woman was even more fun than I’d hoped. The battle scenes were thrilling—seeing beautiful women of all ages and colors being fearless and strong and canny and graceful was not only exciting, but also strangely moving. When Robin Wright (no longer the unlined, demure, angel baby of The Princess Bride) plunged three arrows into the sand, leapt in balletic slow-mo into the air, grabbed all three and shot them into three evil Germans, the entire audience erupted in delighted screams. The theater we were in was pretty evenly divided among genders (perhaps because it was in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, domain of gay men), unlike many other audiences I’ve read about, and we all felt united in joy and giddy glee at female power. This has never happened to me in a theater before, ever. And I am old.
[Mild spoilers ahead] I loved how Wonder Woman played with gender roles. The only nude scene belonged to Chris Pine, and the camera ogled his gorgeous gleaming wet body the way it has eyeballed gazillions of female bodies since time eternal. (Even The Big Short, the smart and witty movie about the financial crisis, managed to include a soft-focus hot girl in a bathtub. In a story of men destroying the American economy. It was a feat.) As is canonical in the comic books—created by a man who fervently believed in female equality and the seductive sexual potency of bindings and bracelets—Diana rescues Pine’s character Steve Trevor from the ocean in a beautifully shot underwater scene (kudos to director Patty Jenkins). I loved that in the horseback-riding scene, Steve got the white horse—canonical filmic girl horse color. I loved that the perspective, in almost every scene, was female. Seeing Gadot in a gorgeous gown with a huge freaking SWORD under it, hilt peeking out from between her shoulder blades like fabulous jewelry, was a delight. And when Diana, who has grown up on an immortal all-female island, sees her first baby, she stops short (while being dragged through a crowded London alley) and squeals, “a BABY!” my daughters and I squealed along with her. It was such a quintessentially female moment, presented with affection instead of an eye-roll. It would not have happened in a movie directed by a dude.
And I was surprised at how touched I was by Gadot’s Israeliness. Her accent is unmistakably Israeli, compared to all the other Amazons’ generic I-enunciate-crisply-in-a-vaguely-British-manner-to-indicate-that-I-am-unspecifically-foreign accents. Like most American liberals, I have deeply uncomfortable feelings about Israel alongside my sense of connection to it, so it was strange to feel pride and familiarity (every camp counselor, ever!) in the way the heroine spoke. Josie kept leaning over and whispering “she sounds so Israeli!” Thinking about someone who served in the Israeli army playing a character who reflects on the moral ambiguity of war added a ton of nuance, too. I was perversely delighted by Lebanon banning the movie, which I hope will bring attention to the anti-Semitism underlying many Israel boycotts—anti-Semitism that is generally dismissed in America.
Wonder Woman turned out to be a gift that kept on giving. Gadot, like me, is the mother of two daughters (hers are Alma and Maya, names I heartily approve of, unlike other stupid celebrity children’s names like Apple, Heiress, Ace Knute, Bronx Mowgli, Zuma and Moxie Crimefighter); she was five months pregnant during re-shoots, a fact that fostered a discussion with my kids about evolving attitudes about what women can do during pregnancy (once upon a time in America, they were fired from teaching jobs!). Wonder Woman helped us talk about systemic inequity, body image, the ridiculousness of those male screams that believed their exclusion from the all-women’s fundraising-for-Planned-Parenthood screenings of the movie amounted to persecution. (We also talked about the Internet’s fun response to male pouting.) We talked about the National Review’s hilariously hateful review of the film (“In all film history, Leni Riefenstahl and Kathryn Bigelow remain the only women to exhibit proficiency at kinetic filmmaking”) and David Edelstein’s gross review (delightfully parodied by Jezebel) that focused almost solely on Gadot’s attractiveness.
I knew the movie would be feminist fun. I didn’t expect it to be a Jewish parenting educational opportunity, too.