Wonder Woman & the problem of violence

wonder woman & the problem of violence.pngWe need strong women in movies and fiction. The helpless, screamy women of far too many movies offer little to the imaginations of girls and boys who see them on their screens — girls who will grow up into victims and boys who will grow up to victimize them if this is their imagination for the feminine.

The new Wonder Woman movie is a tonic. It offers strong women who are actually women, not women pretending to be men. Their friendships are feminine. Their bodies are feminine. Their minds are feminine.

Too often women in the recent rash of superhero movies are merely hotties who play second fiddle to the uber violent male heroes. And while Gal Gadot is certainly a beautiful woman, the designers of her costume did an admirable job in presenting her as beautiful in body without over emphasizing certain aspects of her physique — no plunging cleavage, no skin tight assets. Absolutely feminine without being a pin-up.

She’s confident. She’s intelligent. She speaks her mind. She won’t bow to stupidity. She acts with courage and intention when others waffle. Here is a woman whom all can admire, regardless of liberal or conservative bent. I’d love for my daughter to have the character and purpose she emulates.

But then she gets violent.

For some reason, we’ve equated strength with violence in our culture.

Instead of being content with strength of mind, strength of character, strength of purpose, strength of morality, strength in body, strength in relationship — that’s a pretty good list of strengths, isn’t it? — we seem to think all of those add up to nothing if we don’t all throw in strength in violence. Diana has it all and so she must also be violent.

Granted, the movie reserves most of her violence to defensive violence. She’s a protector far more than an aggressor. And yet, she kills aggressively when she believes it will achieve her end goal. And that grieved me, which I believe the writers of the movie intended it to.

And then there’s this: When we have women hitting men, guess what we also end up with? Men hitting women.

Diana hits men and men hit her back. And in a culture that’s struggling with domestic violence, I cringe to see that happen.

I am grateful to see a woman who is able to stick up for herself and for others, using every power of mind and heart and body to do so, but I struggle to see women hitting men and men hitting women. I know there is a battle of the sexes, but I had hoped with a movie that shows Diana to be so strong in so many other ways we might be presented with a Diana who is strong enough to redirect our violent urges instead of throwing herself headlong into them. (I know, I was asking too much. It is a superhero movie after all.)

Violence is a problem. The movie acknowledges it as such. But then it dives right into it.

Wonder-Woman-1-1.jpgIn an ironic role reversal from most other movies, it is a man who is weaker than Diana who shows himself capable of absorbing violence into himself instead of perpetuating it on others. This is the Jesus way. On the cross, Jesus takes the violence of humanity into himself — and some would say that he also absorbs the violence of God’s wrath into himself as well. Instead of dealing out violence, he redirects it into himself. And by doing so, he becomes the real hero of the movie, accomplishing what Diana’s rage at Ares cannot.

I don’t expect any movie to be perfect, much less a superhero flick. But I was quite pleasantly surprised at the reimagining of Wonder Woman. There’s so much to love here. Now, if we could only overcome our preoccupation with violence ….