Last Friday, my husband and I bit the bullet and hired a babysitter. We ate an early dinner, bought advance tickets, and sacrificed a full night’s rest in order to stay up late and watch an actual, big-screen movie together. The first in years. When you have two kids under the age of 3, late-night movies aren’t exactly the top of your priority list. There isn’t a summer blockbuster on the planet that can separate me from my beloved sleep. Not without regret, anyway.
But this movie was going to be the exception.
I could feel a buzz in the air as I stood in line for popcorn. In front of me, a mother and her preteen daughter proudly marched up to the counter in head-to-toe Wonder Woman costumes. If I wasn’t sure before, I was now: This movie was going to be something special.
As the lights went down and the reminder to “silence your cell phones” came across the screen, I was shocked at the butterflies building in my stomach. I took a slurp of my Coke Zero and squeezed my hubby’s hand.
“Why do I feel so nervous?” I whispered.
He smiled sweetly and squeezed back, a silent affirmation.
But as deeply empathetic as the man is, there is no way he could understand the wave of emotion that washed over me as I witnessed a lifelong hero being brought to life. Our first glimpse of Princess Diana came in the form of a 9-year-old girl, observing from a hillside as Amazon warriors trained for battle. For those of you who are new to this incredible world, Amazon warriors are all women. I know. I have chills just typing that. The child Diana watched her heroes and mimicked their motions, punching and spinning in the air, with a look of fierce confidence painted across her freckled face. She was an unbridled spirit. A warrior at heart.
She was completely untouched by the bounds of patriarchy.
Taking in this scene as a both a woman and a mother, I was deeply moved. Never mind this child was an actress, or that her world was entirely fictional.
This was a little girl I once knew.
A little girl who at a family birthday party, stood proudly in the center of her friends, donning the cape and crown of her favorite superhero. A little girl who believed in the possibility that one day, maybe when she was just a little bit older, she could fly. A little girl whose tiny hands wielded an imaginary golden whip, keeping the boys at the playground in line.
Her heart was full of innocence and unadulterated magic. No man dared tell 4-year-old MK that she couldn’t take on the world.
Because, after all, look at Wonder Woman!
Sadly, 30 years later, the magic in that childlike heart was slowly stripped away. Wonder Woman fully integrated into a society that reminded her, over and over again, of her place as a woman. I was reminded when sexually active high school boys were “just being boys,” but the cheerleaders on birth control were referred to as “sluts.” I was reminded when a trusted adult destroyed my trust and stripped away my confidence in my sexual agency. I was reminded when I was hired as a property manager, but referred to as a “secretary” by the men in the office.
Every day, over the course of 30 years, I was reminded that Wonder Woman really didn’t exist. She couldn’t.
As I watched Diana grow up on the big screen, I almost held my breath. I was emotionally preparing to be devastated at the inevitable turn in her character’s story. Because it seems that Hollywood can’t allow a female superhero to just be. They always have to give her character the “damage treatment.” I guess a powerful woman just isn’t interesting enough. She has to lose her confidence and lose her magic…only rediscover power through her love for a man.
And to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could take it. I wanted to imagine that the same little girl who grew up watching the warriors would simply, you know, become one.
Imagine my sheer joy when she did.
*small spoiler alert*
In a World War II rabbit hole, as hellfire rained down, Diana sloughed off her civilian clothes and revealed herself to be the best Wonder Woman we could ever have hoped for. As the men surrounding her protested, “No! Don’t go! It’s too dangerous!” Gal Gadot boldly ascended the ladder, out of the rabbit hole, and into No Man’s Land.
Where she proceeded to destroy her enemies, one at a time. Because she could.
When the movie concluded, my hubby looked at me and smiled.
I grinned ear to ear and replied, “It was perfect.”
And to me, it truly was.
Wonder Woman is a bold, unapologetic counterpunch to every magic-crushing blow society has dealt our daughters. She is emotionally complex, but not dependent. She is beautiful, but not defined by her beauty. She is powerful, and she doesn’t apologize for it. As I lay in bed that night, replaying so many amazing scenes through my head, I could feel the spirit of a little girl bubbling up inside of me. Her cape and crown intact, her invisible whip lashing around the playground. Her eyes dark with confidence and her heart full of, well, wonder.
This is the superhero our little girls deserve. And I have to say, we’ve waited long enough.
It’s about damn time.