Let’s begin with the basics: Wonder Woman is a terrific film.
I saw it on opening night with my wife; as a DC Comics fan, Wonder Woman has become one of their three most iconic characters, along with Batman and Superman. She’s a driving force in their new universe, as she should be. The film does an excellent job of laying out her origin story, and it beautifully balances the feminist underpinnings of the character — she comes from a society in which men are disdained and is eminently more powerful than any man she comes across in the non-Themyscira world — with obvious femininity. She’s a true heroine in the film — she fights for the innocent and is willing to kill in order to do so (she’s far harder-core than Batman). She’s a feminist for certain (she scoffs at the notion of a secretary as a sort of modern-form slavery). At the same time, she goes out of her way to coo at babies (yes, feminists, women like babies) and she falls head-over-heels for a heroic man, despite her own statements about men being unnecessary for pleasure. Early in the fim, she tut-tuts the notion of marriage, as does he; by the end of the film, they’re both on board.
Plus, she’s played by the wonderful Gal Gadot, a two-time mother who was pregnant during filming and just happens to be Israeli. She also served in the IDF for two years.
All of this makes her character unpalatable to the harder-core feminists, who base feminism not on equality of rights but on abortion and man-hating and forceful opposition to Western standards of beauty. Here’s Christina Cauterucci at Slate: “To me, whatever chance Wonder Woman had of being some kind of feminist antidote to the overabundance of superhero movies made by and for bros was blown by its prevailing occupation with the titular heroine’s sex appeal.” Cauterucci even implies that Chris Pine’s character quasi-rapes Diana because “her capacity for consent is somewhat blurry,” her never having met a man and all.
Here’s dude feminist Steven Rose at The Guardian: “the film feels obliged to give Pine his own equally heroic story arc. Men might be unnecessary for pleasure, but they’re still essential for big-budget action movies, it seems.”
Plus, Wonder Woman fights against the Germans in World War I. This makes her an emissary of American militarism. On Tuesday, Josephine Livingstone wrote at The New Republic, “Wonder Woman has no use for global history except as grist for American exceptionalism, which animates the storylines of so many heroes in the comic book universe, from Captain America to Superman.” Oh no! We mustn’t teach young ones about the fact that the United States saved Europe from fascism … twice. That would be terrible!
Most feminists seem enthused about the movie overall, it should be said. But the fact that many are ticked should show how out of touch the radical feminist movement has become. The film is great for teenage girls, and while it’s clearly a fantasy — nobody, man or woman, could rush through the bullets of World War I in the way Wonder Woman does, but it’s men who typically do the fighting in war, and for rational reasons — it demonstrates that strong women need not be anti-baby or anti-male.
One of the reasons that the movie went over so big is that its brand of feminism is taken for granted in the West. Sexism is no longer a major issue in American society. It's hard to imagine anyone seriously objecting to a fantasy female character fighting baddies while kissing babies and falling in love with a strong male character in traditional fashion. That's what feminism should be.
But not according to the more militant feminists. Which is why they're so mad. For no reason.