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Wonder Woman Review

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I saw Wonder Woman the other day and thought about writing up a review… then I read David Edelstein’s shit show of a review and his subsequent shit show of an apology for said trash-ass review and realized that it’s my duty as a woman and a human being with (common sense) and a background in film to write something up about the movie, so here tis…

In the critically panned Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne summons Diana Prince – otherwise known as Wonder Woman – out of hiding. And thank Zeus, he did. With an impressive weekend box office debut, the first female-lead super hero flick in over a decade sparks a glimmer of hope for the DC Extended Universe films which have (up to this point) stood in the shadows of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and their constant onslaught of wins.

Wonder Woman made her first appearance in DC comics in 1941 and has since been well-known among comic readers as well as everyone familiar with the hit TV show from the 1970s (or the re-runs, anyway) and has pretty much been engraved in our collective superhero memories. In other words, this movie directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, is well overdue and has been highly anticipated.

Jenkins, well aware of this pressure, starts the movie off on an awe-inspiring note. We meet Diana Prince – Wonder Woman’s alter ego – similar to how we met her in Dawn of Justice, she’s an antiquities curator at the Louvre. The setting is dreary and grey as she looks at a mysterious photograph from her (very) distant past. Moments later, we’re whisked away to the beautiful island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. A sea of vibrant blue, white sand, lush foliage and Amazonian warrior women. Gorgeous, fierce warrior women training, skillfully riding and doing tricks on horseback, shooting arrows and being outrageously bad-ass. The sudden burst from slow and dreary darkness to action packed brightness is a smorgasbord for the senses, reminiscent of the moment Judy Garland’s Dorothy opens her eyes to a world of technicolor. Unlike every superhero movie we’ve ever seen up to this point, in this one, there are powerful, interesting women everywhere and well . . . we are NOT in Kansas anymore.

 

In this setting, we meet Diana as a precocious child, naturally inclined to becoming an Amazonian warrior and being shielded by her overprotective mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) who clearly knows something that Diana does not. Regardless, Diana is trained by her aunt, General Antiope (outstanding performance by Robin Wright) and grows up sharpening her warrior skills in the event that the evil god of war, Ares, might return and wreak havoc. After a shocking discovery about the extent of her powers, Diana does not have much time to process before she is saving a blue-eyed damsel in distress, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), from a watery death immediately after his airplane crashes off the coast of Themyscira. It’s at this moment that the outside world of men meets our heretofore peaceful Amazonian kingdom. The Amazons’ perpetual training is put to the test in our first (and my personal favorite) epic battle scene that sees our warrior women going to battle against German soldiers who pursued Trevor to the island. The warriors utilize their horseback riding skills, archery, deft hand to hand combat and bad-ass-ed-ness to kill these dudes but they’re no match for the mens’ weapon of choice and the only weapon that doesn’t rely on physical strength or effort – guns. This battle is hard won by the Amazons and sets our protagonist on a mission to end the Great War (World War I), a phenomenon Diana believes has been brought on by Ares in an effort to destroy mankind. Shortly before they leave the beautiful, peaceful island of bad-ass women being awesome, viewers get one last treat in seeing Chris Pine naked.

From here, we are brought to the grey and dreary world of London and everything is in direct contrast to what we’ve seen in Themyscira. The movie makes no qualms in showcasing that although our main character, Diana, is a fish out of water that believes she’s been shaped from clay and brought to life by Zeus – she did not just fall off the turnip truck. She can write in and speak over one hundred languages, is well-versed in the sciences, politics, philosophy and, of course, combat. She knows what a penis is and what it does but just doesn’t understand why having this body part dictates so many confusing rules for society. Trevor acts as Diana’s guide, but he learns quickly – as does the audience – that at no point can he or any man protect Diana. She has this part covered and frankly it’s just not that kind of party. Trevor instead attempts to explain and translate the muddled, unspoken languages and rules of mankind, which is even more futile as Diana only sees the world in black and white and right and wrong. “Just take me to the war so I can stop Ares,” she demands and despite his confusion and trepidation, Trevor has no other choice.

In a nod to the first superman, there is a scene after Wonder Woman is given her alter ego, Diana Prince, where she protects Trevor from some bad guys in an alley. Diana deflects the bullet (wink, wink) with her arm cuffs and makes light work of them before heading to the Imperial War Cabinet with Trevor as he hands off a notebook to his superiors. In this scene, the men are flustered at the idea of a woman being in their midst while Diana, however, is outraged at the cowardly and morally backward decisions that are being made by these so-called leaders. This common theme runs throughout the film as Gal Gadot’s piercing eyes, inquisitiveness and confidence lends to the character not so much a doe-eyed innocence but, an unabashed idealism that questions and challenges pointless traditions. In a sense, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman lightly touches on the endless frustrations of woman-hood in an excruciatingly backward male-ran society.

Despite all of the fighting scenes up to this point, Wonder Woman does not quite wonder woman until the scene where she is literally in the trenches. Not understanding why she can’t just cross enemy lines, Diana bypasses Steve Trevor’s admonitions and climbs onto the battlefield with shield and sword in hand, completely taking on every bullet. In this scene, beautifully shot and extremely intense, the superhero takes form. If you didn’t believe Gadot before, you do now and similar to the motley crew that follows her – the viewer does as well.

Jenkins attempts and succeeds in giving Wonder Woman an optimistic and hopeful take on an otherwise dreary world. And she does it in a way that does not strip the character of her wisdom or fierceness. Steve Trevor is also a fully realized character who recognizes and trusts the hero’s abilities early on and – when he’s not following her lead – he utilizes her as a kind of highly intelligent weapon. The romantic portion of the film is mutual and light staying in line with the film’s PG-13 rating but there doesn’t feel like too much is missing in this department as the sexiest scenes take place on the battlefield.

Despite all of the salacious action sequences that utilize quick cuts, slow motion superhero jogs/leaps/walks, and tremendous explosions, the movie manages to avoid the recent DC Extended Universe mistakes of taking itself too serious and being too brooding. Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy, for one, is delightful and while Trevor’s weird group of buddies should have been fleshed out more, they were introduced on a fun note and managed to add some light moments. The “bad guy” characters, however, could have used a bit of work as Lundendorff and particularly Doctor Maru had a campy thing going on that I’m still trying to figure out whether I liked or not.

There’s one glaringly bad casting choice that’s made and it comes as a reveal near the end of the movie. It’s a spoiler, so I’m not going to give anything away but I will say that a VFX moment only helps to magnify and confirm this unfortunate decision. Although this sets the climax back a bit it doesn’t manage to break up the film’s momentum and the movie is delicately brought to an end leaving us in the exhilarating afterglow of having actually watched a DCEU movie that wasn’t straight trash.

Ultimately, Patty Jenkins managed to climb out of the proverbial trenches and do what no man could. How deliciously appropriate!

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For Black girls who have considered suicide when the light skinned girl decided that talking about her mixed ancestry for 2 hours wasn’t enough.

I haven’t written on this blog in a minute, but after checking my pending posts I noticed that I have some good stuff that has yet to see the light of day. So at the risk of being outdated in my material, I’m just going to post the shit and keep it moving. With that said, this post was written in November of 2016. Enjoy!

You ever have a long ass conversation with someone and think about all of the things that you wanted to say but didn’t… when it’s too late?

I did.

I recently had a conversation with a light skinned woman of mixed heritage/race. She was part Black, European and Asian. In appearance, I would have guessed she was Latina although she said most Black people just assume she’s Black and that’s what she identifies as. (I’m terrible at these things, to be honest. I’m not good at guessing accents,  or countries of origin either.)

Throughout our conversation, I could tell that her mixed race was something that was very important to her. It was something she brought up constantly, without prompting. Even before meeting her, I checked her social media profiles  and noticed that it was just a list of her entire racial breakdown.

We talked a ton about how she identifies and why she feels that mixed women aren’t given enough of a platform to speak about their specific issues. We talked about light skin privilege and she expressed that she feels that it is a burden and she has more anger toward racism than other Blacks because of it. At times I didn’t agree with her feelings, but I’m a good listener so I took in what she had to say.

After a restless night, I realized that this was one of those conversations that was going to bother me. Why? Because there were so many things I’d left unsaid.

I have a ton of mixed race friends and many of our conversations always ended with them telling me how hard they’d had it, with no regard whatsoever for the plight of those with dark skin (who undoubtedly have it harder.) And I’d always tried to argue with them that there’s another side to the light skin thing that they’re not acknowledging. But this never seemed to sink in for them. Light skin privilege is not so much a privilege but a burden, they’d say.

Fast forward to now, I’m having this conversation and it conjured up so many memories. And my only regret was not being able to say the perfect thing at the perfect time. The best way to get it all out, though, is for me to just say what I feel right now with no pressure. So here are some of the statements that the woman made the other day and the replies I wish I’d have said to her and many of the mixed race/light skin people who’ve made these same kinds of statements to me before.

“In situations where I’m treated better than my Black counterparts, I feel that this privilege has been forced on me and that leaves me feeling angry and helpless.”

Forced privilege doesn’t come close to having no privilege. Ex: If a bunch of your friends were wrongfully thrown into prison with the exception of you, you will NEVER be the helpless person in the story. Never. No matter how upset you were over what happened. If anything, you are in a better position to try to get them out of jail – by using the ‘forced privilege’ you were blessed with – as opposed to turning the focus on yourself and cursing the fact that you are free. Use your privilege to help those who don’t have it otherwise, it’s a waste. Also, turning the situation into a way to center yourself is disgusting and wrong.

 

“When I get angry, people think it’s cute. They don’t take me serious. They think I’m safe.”

Yet another good problem to have. Use it. As a Black woman, nearly everything I say is taken out of context. (Look at Michelle Obama. She is one of the most glorious women alive and they’ve tried to reduce her to an “Angry Black Woman” stereotype.) Personally, I am silenced at every turn. If you are allowed to speak up, then do it. Amplify the voices of Black people who have been silenced for centuries. Don’t curse your privilege, USE IT.

 

“Light skinned people are angrier than regular Black people because they’ve gone through so much more. They’re never ‘Black’ enough for the Black people or ‘White’ enough for the White people. We have more fire in our spirits because of this.”

Yes, there are identity issues that mixed race people must deal with but that does not make them angrier, more fiery or more righteous than anyone else. If anything, light skin people have the privilege of being more visible. They’re given more representation in Hollywood and in print media, among other advantages. With all of these advantages come platforms that allow more lighter complexioned people to speak up on issues that darker people are not given as much opportunity to talk about. This does not make them more fiery or upset, this just means the world is more likely to see them speaking about issues and allow it. (See Jesse Williams, Amandla Sternberg, etc.)

 

“I wish racists could see that I’m just as much of a threat as someone with darker skin.”

No, you don’t. And even if you did, what would be the point? Unless you want to be killed in the street. Unless you want everyone to know that your life doesn’t matter just like all of the other Black lives that have been snuffed out with impunity. Philando Castile didn’t commit suicide. He didn’t want to die and be a martyr. He was killed and the rest of us that have the privilege of being alive, used this situation as – yet another – example of why we need to continue the dialogue and civil unrest until something is done about it. We don’t need more dead bodies. We need action. And again, what would your being seen as a threat prove? It would strip you of the very privilege that might actually help the rest of us in the cause. Use your privilege to help the cause. Use your privilege to help the cause. Use your privilege to help the cause. Anything else is a selfish waste of time.

 

Too bad I don’t get a do-over. Any who, I understand that being of mixed race has its struggles. But a red flag always goes off for me when people shoehorn a ton of info about their very specific racial makeup into conversations without prompting. A racially ambiguous friend once told me that “What are you?” is one of the most annoying and commonly asked questions they receive. So with this in mind, I’ve never asked anyone that question and to be completely honest, I’ve never really cared to ask. Why? 3 main reasons …

1) There’s usually no reason for me to ask.

2) I’ve never found it particularly interesting and lastly…

3) I don’t even think to ask this when talking to people.

Either way, I’ve sat through a lot of conversations with my mixed-race brethren in which they’ve broken down to me what they identify as, why they identify as such, how much of each culture is in them and the history of their family’s racial makeup. And for someone who didn’t ask… this is exhausting.

Granted, it’s not the worst thing that could happen and I’m not completely oblivious to the idea of bringing up things that are important to how we navigate the world. I just hope that with this blog post, I can provide some perspective for those who feel that the struggles of being of mixed race is a subject that they must lead with or shoehoas opposed to allowing the conversation to organically progress there.