I saw Wonder Woman this week. I loved it! I loved that Diana was fiercely strong, physically and emotionally. She kept her integrity in the face of a world vastly different than she'd ever experienced before and stayed true to who she was and what she believed in. She didn't need a man to rescue her nor give her life meaning, but her love interest, Steve, enhanced her life and her understanding of what's important in life. When she stated that “it’s all about love,” she was talking about more than romantic love. Yes, she loved Steve. But it was also the love for her new-found friends and the love for humanity that allowed her to defeat the God of War. I loved that her strengths went beyond being able to kick-ass. She was as strong in her love, compassion, and femininity as she was in her fighting ability. These are the attributes I try to write in my characters and what I think of as a strong female lead. I think the world needs these types of characters in our stories--books or movies. This is how writers can influence the world and empower women. And I hope we see and read more of this type of character.
In case you think having strong female leads means the men in the story are emasculated, I don’t believe this is true. In Wonder Woman, Steve is a strong male, who also has strength of character and does the right thing, not to impress Diana or anyone else, but because it is the right thing to do. He cares about saving lives and ending the war, just as much as Diana does. In my Malvers War series, the leading man, Blazel, is both naïve and innocent, and strong and determined to save his people. Both Rizelya (the leading lady) and Blazel are caring and compassionate—and can kick-ass. Just as in Wonder Woman, they risk their lives fighting evil not for glory or greed, but for duty and love.
Even though Wonder Woman succeeded in providing an amazing female superhero, the film also failed. Once Diana left the Amazon island, there was only one other female character in the movie, and that was Steve’s secretary, whose greatest contribution was helping Diana find a suitable dress –and one phone call. The Bechdel test was developed to evaluate films on whether they include female characters that are more than placeholders. To pass this test there needs to be 1) two or more women with names, 2) who talk to each other, and 3) talk about something other than a man or clothes. If the Bechdel test is applied to the major portion of the movie, it failed, and I was left feeling a bit disappointed.
This movie is being lauded, rightfully so, for having a female director, which helped make Diana the successful character she is. But where I see the movie could have done more was to also have at least one female screenwriter. It isn't enough to just have more actresses in powerful roles and more women directors; we also need more women screenwriters beyond romance or chick flicks. Women can--and do!--write amazing action-adventure stories, and thrillers, and any other type of story.
Even though I feel the movie could have been better, I still love it and highly recommend it. If you love a strong, well-rounded characters with heart as well as the ability to kick-ass then you'll love this movie. If you want your children to have good role models in their lives with Diana and Steve, take them to see this movie. Tell Hollywood by our purchasing dollars that we want more of this type of movie, characters, and directors.