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DC's recently released film Wonder Woman has sparked a lot of controversy. First there are complaints about bringing in more female superheroes, then issues when there was a female-only screening of the movie, and most recently conversation about whether or not the film is actually as feminist as is perpetuated.
Many argue that the film is not feminist in the slightest. The use arguments such as the fact that she is dressed in short skirts and isn't able to access her powers until Steve martyrs himself, meaning she lacked the ability to do it on her own. However, these arguments are surface level and miss most of the nuances that the film demonstrates, some of which relate back to the comics.
Throughout the film, Diana called out men in WWI London out on the misogyny. She refused to take it and made sure people knew she found it unacceptable. Her upbringing on a female-only island prepared her for a life where female deserve respect and are not valued as less than, and she is not afraid to say it.
Furthermore, when Steve went about forming a team, they didn't want to work with her due to the fact that she is female. That is, they didn't want to work with her until they saw what a strong, impressive fighter she was, despite her status as a woman. She does not like people thinking less of her, and when they do she works to show them that she is more than she ever imagined.
One of the largest complaints about the film is the fact that Diana has a romantic interest. They say it takes away from her strength as a woman and the feminist nature of the movie. To this I say why can't a woman have a love interest? Diana is still an incredibly strong, powerful woman, even with a love interest. It doesn't take away from her power at all.
Another argument is that Diana doesn't fully access her powers until after Steve's death. Critics of the film say that Steve martyring himself shouldn't be the catalyst for her finding herself. After all, people had been telling her time and time again that she was more powerful than she thought. Why did it take her so long to realize?
Looking to the comics, Diana is able to reach her power through moments of deep emotion. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that she would be able to fully access her powers upon the death of someone she cared so deeply about. It is less about her not realizing she was capable; she demonstrated that time and time again and even said it outright. She just needed an emotional catalyst to help her access her powers. Steve didn't inspire her or show her that she could do it; he gave her the emotional push she needed to do it. And in the final battle, she did it on her own.
The fact of the matter is, Hollywood is not ready to create the perfect feminist film that completely moves away from objectification and every cliche and slight that subverts female independence. But Wonder Woman is a film that is leading the charge in moving towards that direction, and I think it is important that critics recognize that. You can't expect something that doesn't yet exist and likely won't exist for quite some time to just magically appear; it is going to take awhile. I know the phrase take what you can get is frustrating, so I won't say that. Instead, I say work with what you get, call out its issues, but also recognize the ways in which it is moving towards better feminist film.