Love Transcends: Gender, Equality and Teaching Wonder Woman as an Anti-War Film

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Much has been written about the phenomenon of the Wonder Woman film. From the onset of its June 2 release, the film became the most “tweeted” about movie of the summer season thus far. I found myself tweeting my fondness and sharing a critical reflection from my daughter who’s note was even mentioned by the Hollywood Reporter.

Not just as a parent to both a girl and boy is the film important about gender characterization but as a teacher of media studies, the film is a crucial reminder as to why popular cinema is so urgent and critical to understand. Wonder Woman is so much more than a film about a female superhero, but rather a mirror to the thinking of a particular time; shaping conversation but also born out of a world in desperate need of women and men who see and value each other  for their shared strengths, weaknesses and personal histories .

Recently I interviewed academic Susan Jeffords (celebrated academic and author of such incredible texts including: “The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War” and “Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era“) for a teacher / student resource I’m developing titled The Catholic Filmmaker (my follow up to The Catholic Film Reader published by the Catholic Curriculum Corporation). In our conversation she notes not only why equality is so critical as a global need but also what popular culture means as a form of literacy about who we are and how we see people.  You can see a segment of the interview below.

Wonder Woman provides us as teachers with an incredible opportunity to dialogue about why we all must be advocates for equality; the film is not just about Wonder Woman fighting to restore order in a world of chaos created by “man”, but also the displacement of characters who create a mosaic of our times; an actor with the “wrong” skin colour, an Indigenous man with a  colonial history, a solider suffering with PTSD and a military hero burdened with the notion of masculinity itself.

Whereas films such as Batman V. Superman and Captain America: Civil War invite conflict to varying degrees both in terms of narrative and the spectacular cinema that audiences expect, Wonder Woman gives that  spectacle, but through a journey of a character looking for war and who then recognizes that love is more powerful than the most militarized weapon. Where Batman V. Superman and Captain America: Civil War  build towards the promised spectacle of battle showcased in their trailers, Wonder Woman reminds us that “real” war impacts all involved; regardless of sides, colour, race etc. In regards to the politics of today, Wonder Woman echoes the urgency of  the powerful female voices needed at a time where the mechanism of global conflict has been escalated by definitions of masculinity (yes, Trump is an easy parallel to this). As such, Wonder Woman  is very much an anti-war film as the character of Wonder Woman herself recognizes that love is truly transcendent.

Over the course of the summer, I’ll be working on the Catholic Filmmaker which will include more of Dr. Jeffords, along with filmmakers and classroom ready resources that support the authentic  integration of  short film, documentary and music video production, through the gospel lens,

Stay tuned for more !

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