Monday, 19 June 2017

I've Seen Wonder Woman Three Times in Ten Days Because...

Blending into the background.
Incognito. Anonymous.
Despite the impression I sometimes give, I don’t like standing out in a crowd. I am full of loud-mouth opinions (all of them correct!) once you get me started, and I hope I will always have the courage to challenge fundamentally wrong statements when I hear them, but I don’t seek the limelight. I’ve never wanted to be a performer, do anything on a stage, or have a milestone birthday bash with lots of people looking at me. It's just not me. I like wearing glasses because they're a prop to keep myself partially private, (as well as enabling me to see, obvs) I walk through life keeping myself to myself, hoping no one at a bus stop starts polite conversation, always happier to blend into the background and be anonymous rather than making a scene.

So it was quite a surprise to me how much I wanted to run out of the cinema cheering aloud and shrieking with glee after watching Wonder Woman, last week. Not only that, but I felt about seven foot tall as I strode back to my car. I understood what it was like to have supreme confidence in myself, rather than keep my eyes down and avoid people in case they were going to make me uncomfortable by talking at me. I was full of the joys of seeing female power, strength and purpose depicted so blatantly and so beautifully onscreen. I was empowered!

I have been deflecting metaphorical
bullets with this ease, all week.
The movie itself was fun but this is not going to be a review. I am not your usual superhero movie fan, ostensibly because I don’t like superhero movies. Other than Captain America - watched in a South Australian drive-in in the early hours of the morning in 2011 (clearly, the only way films should be watched) - this is my only other experience of the genre. Get your Wonder Woman reviews here, or maybe here, if you prefer, but not from me. This is not a review. This is instead, an appreciation of how important and rare it is to watch a film that depicts female power from a female perspective.  

My own life is lived from a female perspective. I know, mad isn’t it. I see everything in the world that same way. And whilst I can empathise with others’ situations, my default perspective will always be that of female. (For example, I can’t get through an episode of The Good Wife without wondering how Alicia is able to run from court to court in the heels she wears - the wardrobe person has got to be a guy, right?) But here’s the thing. Many of the books I read, the TV programmes I watch and the films I see, are created from a male perspective. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Men’s perspectives can be just as interesting and valid too. The novel I am currently reading is by Andrew Cartmel with a male first-person narrative by the hero. I love the TV series Sherlock – written by clever men about a clever man. I also read Lee Child's books about Jack Reacher – a egalitarian badass who sorts out the bad guys in the midst of getting regularly laid. All these things are great escapist fun but none of them are from a female perspective. And that is fine. It just needs to be recognised as such. It also needs to be recognised that the male perspective isn’t just another person’s view. It’s the predominant view.

The mens can be entertaining too! 
And when something comes along showing the non-predominant view once in a while – in this case, a big budget, female superhero movie with a female director – it is the most wonderful feeling ever. It’s a confidence boost. It’s a view of the world that comes from the same place as my own, but has taken me beyond my own experience. It eggs me on. It makes me want to try harder because I’ve been shown someone (in this case a fictional comic book character, granted) who is on some level a version of myself, but then is timesed by a million to be souped-up and exceptional. 

This bad boy cost £15. A bargain!
When I go and watch a Liverpool Ladies FC match I feel a similar sense of satisfaction. Watching twenty-two women be stronger, faster and fitter than me is inspiring. I have no desire to join them on the pitch, but I’m often motivated to get on the treadmill after getting home from a game. That has literally never happened after any male football match I’ve watched. Seeing the essence of yourself reflected in excellence, is transformative. And should not be so unusual as to be worthy of a blog post.

And of course, my perspective isn’t the only one out there. It isn’t as simple as dividing everything into a Male or Female viewpoint. The valuable stories that belong to people of colour, gay men and women, the trans community, the poor or the disabled, all do two jobs. They represent and depict the lives of people that are out there, needing role models as much as everyone else. And then they inform. They educate and spread the word to people with differing experiences. There are lots of perspectives of which we could all benefit to see more, alongside the predominant perspectives already out there. Stories told by the people involved, not about the people involved. That distinction is important.

Just working out what
my super power should be.
For now though, I’m happy about Wonder Woman. I’m happy that along with the introduction of characters like Rey in Star Wars, little kids see gender equality more than used to be visible. I'm happy that the BBC has started to show women's football. I’m happy that amongst the Disney Princesses for those that want them, there are choices for the kids who aren’t into the overt prettification of their toys. Because if watching Wonder Woman at 39 gives me a massive confidence shot in the arm, imagine what it would have been like if I’d have had that when all my views of the world were forming. I'd be super human now!

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