It's now been over a month since Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman hit theaters, and it's being hailed as one of the best comic book movies in recent years. Dominating theatres since June, it has grossed over $700 million worldwide and is on track to pass $1 billion as the weeks go on.
Wonder Woman is very much a feminist movie and has had an impact on women and men. We do live in a patriarchal society, but we have made strides to push for equality between different genders. In lieu of this, the movie can help push men to learn some crucial lessons about gender relations — here are four main lessons that can help us as a society to continue moving towards full equality. So let's talk about this, man to man.
1. Men Can Be Saved By Women
One of the very first scenes in the movie shows Diana saving Steve Trevor from drowning. Later on, she protects Steve from a bullet. He thanks her for saving him, and doesn't push her away to say he could have saved himself. If Superman can save Lois on a regular basis, then Steve can certainly be saved by Wonder Woman.
A part of toxic masculinity is the idea that men are stronger than women, and any indication otherwise means that a man is weak. However, being in the presence of a strong woman doesn't make someone any less of a man — in fact, women help men every day. For staters, women are doctors, lawyers, mothers, friends, scientists and there’s nothing wrong with letting a woman help you. It’s not unmanly, it doesn’t make you a wuss and it sure doesn’t make you less of a person.
There’s a moment in the film where Charlie wakes from a nightmare and sees Diana trying to help him. He gets irate, refuses her help, and storms off with his gun. This man, who is obviously struggling with PTSD or a similar issue, doesn’t want to be seen as weak by Diana. He doesn't want her help because he doesn't think he should need it. (We will also come back to this scene later.)
It's important to accept that women can help men without men being seen as weak. Women can save men in any kind of sense, be it physical, emotional or even spiritual.
2. Women Don't Need a Man's Permission
Back when the first trailers came out, we were presented with this iconic moment:
This is a lesson that many men need to take to heart. Women do not need our permission to do anything, from the smallest issue of whether they should wear a certain article of clothing, all the way to whether they should be fully in control of their own bodies. While it's true Steve may have had the best intentions, Diana does not need his permission to do anything. Diana is in control of her own destiny. She enters into a room full of men debating after Steve tells her to stay outside, she crosses No Man's Land after being told it's impossible, she goes ahead and enters the village to fight, she finds a way into the gala on her own, she goes to her final showdown with Ludendorff on her own accord. All of these show her own agency and aren't somehow presented as mistakes just because she didn't listen to a man.
It’s very ingrained in our culture for men to try and give women permission in some way shape or form. Many men think they can control who their female partner spends time with, or whether or not they can work. Many fathers think they can control their daughters, far past the realm of normal parenting and parental protection. Men try to control their wives or girlfriends, or even just their platonic friends. I’m sure many of us have heard a female friend say some variation of the words, “Oh, my boyfriend doesn’t want me to do that." Far too often, this isn't the result of a healthy relationship, but rather one where the man tries to be in control.
Women are independent people. Women deserve the same rights as everyone else, and women deserve to be in control of themselves. This seems like an obvious idea, but there are some people who don’t think along the same lines. We as men need to do better and continuously view all women as independent people, holding ourselves and our male friends to higher standards.
3. Men Should Embrace Their Feelings and Emotions
A byproduct of a patriarchal society is men having to shy away from anything that could be considered too feminine. It has been this way and it still is. Intimacy between guys is seen as gay. Showing emotions is seen as being too feminine or being a wuss. Reactions to seeing a man cry are ever-present examples of this. God forbid a man or boy cry without being told to "man up," "get over it," or various worse phrases I think we can imagine.
Now let's return to the scene with Charlie's nightmare. Charlie begins to shift in his sleep and cry out, and Diana tries to comfort him and make him realize he is safe. He doesn't want to address the emotions he is going through — fear, shame, guilt. In the real world, men are often expected to keep emotions like this hidden at the risk of being viewed as weak. It shouldn't be this way, and men shouldn't worry about the risk of showing their emotions.
On a more positive side, there is Steve's profession of love for Diana before he sacrifices himself. He felt the need to be open about his emotions before it was too late and it is a moving and critical scene. Even though the following idea is a cliche, it reminds us not to bottle up feelings and emotions in case we don't have another chance to reveal them.
And in the end, the soldiers — now freed from Ares' control — allow themselves to feel relief and to embrace one another. Even Chief brings one of the German soldiers into a hug. Intimacy between men is something that shouldn't be avoided, and there’s no need to follow any expression of emotion or connection to a man with "no-homo." The world will become a better place when openness, emotionality, and intimacy isn't something men scoff at.
4. Men Can Be Inspired By Women
I think it's a safe bet to say that Diana inspired many people during the course of Wonder Woman — Steve, Sameer, Chief, Charlie, the entire village of Veld (although they had an untimely end). We can see all of these people are inspired by her in some way.
There are numerous notable women in history and in the present day. Many are leaders and role models, not just for women, but for men as well. Men should embrace being inspired by women, both in real life and in fiction.
Wonder Woman — Diana Prince — is an inspiring character. She stands for truth, justice and love. All of these ideals were exemplified in Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman. Fighting for these ideals, and winning, has struck a chord with many audience members. So many people, of any gender, have been inspired by this movie. I think we can all learn from a superhero who believes in the power of love.
Wonder Woman will return in Zack Snyder's Justice League this November, and in her future sequel!