I wasn’t all that interested in seeing Wonder Woman until I read about the fight scenes – or rather, the weeping in response to the fight scenes. Apparently, something about this film was moving people to tears. This was enough to intrigue me, so even though superhero action-adventure isn’t my typical genre, I set my skepticism aside to see what was so damn affecting about a sword-wielding, armored-leotard-wearing superheroine fighting bad guys.
The movie was basically two hours of this: Diana (aka Wonder Woman) being like, lol nope, I’m doing what the fuck I want – ignoring male directives as she barges ahead, asking no one’s permission as she climbs out of the war trench to stare down machinegun fire, easily swatting away bullets, protestations, and all manner of patriarchal bullshit with a simple flick of the wrist.
I didn’t really know how much I needed to see this until I was seeing it. A woman winning. There was something immensely powerful and surprising soothing about entering an imaginative space in which an unstoppable woman exists, if only as a mythical fantasy.
Diana is a woman patriarchy can’t harm. She’s totally oblivious to its expectations for one thing. Pretty much everything about her – the way she dresses, speaks, acts, and fights – breaks all the rules. And there are no consequences for any of this! She can do whatever the hell she wants without fear of retribution or threat of violence (from any human person, at least). She doesn’t destroy patriarchy – it’s still obviously there blundering around in the background – she just renders it laughably impotent. And seeing this onscreen was just so goddamn satisfying.
So there is definitely a legitimate critique to Wonder Women and films like it. I know. Like, can’t we just move away from militarism and violence-based problem solving all together? To which I say, sure, that sounds nice…but not today. Nope, for now, this is the thing I need. I’ll save my pacifist idealism for another time.
It was the power of telling another story. And I needed another story. In my line of work (domestic violence advocacy), this is what happens: people get hurt; patriarchy is deadly, and women can’t stop bullets. The stories that flow from these circumstances are often scary and hard. But we can tell more than one story, and this is our superpower. As human beings, we may be more beholden to the laws of physics, time, and space than your average superhero, but even though we can’t fly, blast through walls, or hurdle multi-ton objects great distances, we do have this: our imaginations. And using them well is the only way I’ve ever really seen healing happen.
Because the life reality we experience is often disappointing or worse. We sometimes have the power to fix or change external circumstances, sometimes not. But what we always have is the power to make meaning, move creative energy, and generate feeling states by telling our stories the way we choose. These are some of the stories I’ve seen heal people: I survived; I am resilient; this is not my fault; I am capable of change; I’m going to make it through this; I’m not alone.
This is why I cried when I saw Wonder Woman – because it was a resonant, true-in-another-way story – one that opened space, created connection, changed my mind, and pulled me toward some vague but palpable vibration of possibility. It reminded me that our stories matter; our imaginations create worlds; and each one of us possesses a robust arsenal of unassuming but mighty superpowers.