One of the things about privilege is the people who have it often have time to worry about it. So for the last couple of weeks I chose to use some of my privileged thinking time to mull over the ramifications of Wonder Woman. Here’s how it went, and excuse the whiplash (Golden Lasso of Truth-lash?). My husband Danny and I took our six-year-old daughter Clara to see WW at 9am on opening weekend at our local Alamo movie theater. Clara brought her Mattel DC Superhero Girls 12” Wonder Woman dollie. It is almost a Barbie, except with muscles and bigger anime style eyes and smaller boobs. (She doesn’t play with it so much, frankly, but my theory is that we have so overwhelmed our little only child with toys that she will never play with anything, which is another one of those privilege problems that I am not supposed to actually worry about.)
We sat in the front row of the movie theater in these fabulous reclining seats they have, and when the part of the film came when WW dashes through No Man’s Land in order to save “women and children” from slavery, Clara actually stood up, grasping her doll in one hand and ROARED like a sports fan.
“I’m done,” Danny repeatedly said after that. “Watching that was why I became a father.”
Meanwhile – and I hadn’t told Danny this because I honestly (and privileged-ly didn’t choose not to think about it), I knew that Gal Gadot, the actress playing WW, was a Sabra and had been in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), and also that her instagram showed her with her daughter praying for fellow IDF members, and against Hamas. In the photo and her daughter were wearing matching blue kerchiefs and covering their eyes as they lit shabbos candles together. Her daughter is about the same age, it looks, as Clara. Yup, in a confusing twist of fate, Wonder Woman is a zionist and a Jewish mother (for the record, I am only one of these things).
In the week after seeing the film, I bought Clara a full and overpriced and cheaply made WW outfit, Golden Lasso of Truth and God Killer sword sold separately (all items ripped or broke in some way within 24 hours of receipt, and now I have to deal with Amazon). I also read approximately 37 think pieces about whether or not WW the movie was racist or disappointing on an intersectional level or whether Gal Gadot was white and why or why not this mattered (possibly; she is; it does).
I’m not particularly a comic book fan. I’ve never read the Wonder Woman source material. I haven’t see any of the most recent Batman movies (except for the LEGO one), nor do I know the difference between Marvel or DC. I haven’t read Jill Lepore’s reportedly excellent book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, though I did read an article she wrote for The New Yorker about seeing the film with her son and his friend. So I went into my first viewing of the film without the knowledge that WW is bisexual and has a black friend/sister/nemesis named Nubia (Nu’Bia in more recent iterations), or that we really should have spent a lot more time on the Island with Robin Wright as Antiope.
After reading all the think pieces and spending almost $70 for very poorly made toys, I swore I would not spend any more money on this Wonder Woman.
But then it was hot and a half day of school and Danny was in Chicago and Clara was sad about her friends leaving for the summer and that is how we found ourselves walking through the literally gritty neighborhood of downtown Brooklyn to the Alamo to see the movie again. Because sometimes parenting says fuck your principles.
And that is when I discovered the true joy of walking with a six-year-old girl child who is dressed as Wonder Woman with a sword and silver knee high boots (the latter hand me downs, I swear) through a crowd of lunch-breaking workers and denizens of downtown Brooklyn. People were cheering when they saw her. Including women on a smoke break outside a homeless shelter and a cab driver stuck in traffic. Then we actually got to the theater (front row again) and sat next to — as we came to find out — a crane operator and her BFF who is a lieutenant in the Fire Department. They were both black 30-ish women, and wearing metal WW crowns and WW novelty t-shirts. They were day drinking, eating popcorn, and having an afternoon of it.
Can I admit that I was surprised to see them there, two badass (on professional qualifications alone) black women? You see, I’d read so many think pieces that I forgot actual people don’t always act like the people I read about on the internet. Clara and these ladies whooped it up throughout the movie (they especially enjoyed it when I told C that “aroused” meant “happy”) and when one of the few black Amazons came onscreen (several of the think-piece writers had described her portrayal as “animalistic” because she takes all the hits from the other Amazons during training and doesn’t have wider character development) they ROARED as Clara had the first time she saw the film. Because watching a badass woman being badass is fucking satisfying, especially these days. After the film, Mona (the crane operator) gave Clara the metal crown off her own head, and they took photos together, and now we’re Instagram friends. It was awesome and made me feel, if not better about Gadot being a Zionist, at least better about life and especially Brooklyn.
Then the Senate tried to pass healthcare without anyone getting to read the legislation and it all became a movie again.
Which is the power and lack thereof of movies and superheroes, right? What’s happening in the world feels so unreal. These people in power hate jews and black people and rape women and don’t care if I live or die. The day after we saw WW DC cops pulled disabled protesters out of their wheelchairs in front of Mitch McConnell’s office and then took them to a facility without ADA compliant bathrooms. Philando Castille’s killer was acquitted. In Seattle, Charleena Lyles was shot in cold blood by police, in front of her children. Thank the God I do not believe in I get to take my white daughter to the movies in peace. Even though I swear Trump would smash my child’s head against a wall if he thought he’d make – how much – 10 million? 20? More?
Clara twirls “like a ballerina” for a dandelion or a cookie. Leaving the house, coming home. Every moment, every event is an excuse to twirl. When does she grow out of that? When does life become less exciting to her? When does she really learn she is not going to get to be Wonder Woman, and certainly not if things continue the way they are.
We will probably take her to see Wonder Woman again. Summer in the city is hot and it’s a better choice than Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. At some point soon, Danny and I will explain the problems with the film and its star. We’ll get her the real comics, so she’ll see WW with a black woman fighting beside and with her. And then we’ll need to explain the male gaze and media’s hypersexualization of women. And Trump will probably still be president.
Elizabeth Isadora Gold’s writing about motherhood, books, music, and feminism has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, Tin House, The Rumpus, Time Out New York, and many other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter. Her nonfiction book, The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Out Lives was published by Atria Books in 2016.