ALPHA: exploring current events & concepts from the framework of who & what holds power, fleeting or lasting, in Western pop culture.
By Dawn Pichón Barron
The facts up front:
1. Yes, I liked the movie, Wonder Woman, because I like strong, capable fighting women of various skin colors, ages, and phenotypes.
2. I am middle-age at 45, biases and world-view arranged around lived experience.
3. No, I am not dissing those who rally ‘round and cheer the pop culture icon of Wonder Woman.
However, questions plague and bicker in the good cop/bad cop manner as I consider if I believe this modern-day Wonder Woman to be a true alpha, an authentic, reliable, and resonate thing I can whole-heartedly support.
The movie opens with the young Diana, daughter of the Queen of the Amazons and Zeus, unaware of her power or privilege. Cringe worthy naivety and purity mark this Diana as one who must be protected and kept safe, albeit from a place of motherly love, but we cannot forget that Diana is special and privileged for reasons others have put upon her, not by her actions at this point.
She has done nothing to deserve this adoration as she has yet to fight for anyone or anything.
And there is also this niggling and perhaps a tad acrimonious thought trying for purchase inside my brain: how is the love child of the Queen of Amazons, portrayed by an undoubtedly gorgeous and very fair-skinned blonde woman, and Zeus, in this story a stalwart, gingerish white man, a child/woman of indeterminate ethnic physicality?
Diana’s motivation for justice is provided by the washed to shore man, of course young and semi-noble and “above average” in appendages. The story of Aries and the promise to rid the people of his destruction and so-called brain-washing (because humankind could not possibly be corrupt and morally bankrupt on their own) means that Diana must be the savior, the hero. Possibly because the story is following Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, Diana must leave her island of women, her home, and her way of life to enter into the isolating world of the other. And in true assimilation fashion, she must hide her true identity in order to survive; she must somehow fit in, for the greater good of her mission.
This is how the other claims her.
She cannot go back to her people, and she must be wary of showing too much (skin and power) in order to fulfill her life’s mission.
This is called compromise, not feminism.
There is also a woman nemesis, which ameliorates the story that defects and imperfections of any kind on the female form—whether self or other inflicted—create someone kind of unlovable, and sometimes downright hateful and hated. The nemesis might even be more intelligent, duh, she’s a scientist, but from the brief glimpses of longing in her eyes and the strangely captured relief and acceptance of any touch (recalling the cheek graze), being smart only equates with evil in this story.
While the man dies for the cause and the spark of lust or love extinguishes before consummation, I envision the difference if the catalyst for Diana becoming Wonder Woman was a woman, or a child, how that would change the vibe of her desire to fight being complicated by a potential love interest that is a man.
What it doesn’t change is that Diana is fighting for all humanity, and she is fighting a powerful “god” and a powerful man-driven world. That, I can get behind.
The use of a woman’s body as a weapon and not used as a weapon is the most powerful reason to appreciate the movie. War is waged on women and children, and the vulnerable that cannot protect themselves, so to this I fully support the rise of all the Wonder Women.
Dawn PIchon Barron is a mixed indigenous/white writer and educator working at the Northwest Indian College-Nisqually Campus. She is founder and curator of the Gray Skies Readings Series in Olympia, WA where she lives with her wingman and teenage love spawns. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yellow Medicine Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Pontoon, the anthology Washington 129, the anthology Of A Monstrous Child (Lost Horse Press), Oregon Quarterly, and her chapbook "Escape Girl Blues" will see the light in 2017 (Finishing Line Press). Follow @pigeongirlsgot.