I just finished watching Wonder Woman. What a movie!
Photo credit to Sarah Satrun.
It couldn't have come at a better time for me, as I just finished the first draft of The Sea Queen, and I have been consulting with my amazing illustrator Megan MacPhie about how best to bring her to life. Megan's a good decade and a half younger than me, so sometimes we find ourselves with frame of reference disparity - I go to movies and images that influenced me in the eighties and nineties for inspiration, at which time Megan wasn't even born!
This week we were coming up with the Sea Queen's character study, so that Megan knows how to draw her in the various illustrations for the story, and I ended up sending her images of the female gladiators from the 90s. Gladiators and perhaps Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the only other times I can remember feeling even *remotely* this inspired by a female on screen. And even then, there was a whopping dose of the male gaze included in both those programmes, so although I could admire their physicality and strength, it was always within the context of their attractiveness being of primary importance.
Wonder Woman absolutely blew those both out of the water. Created by a woman, this is a movie that has absolutely no time for the male gaze; and yet its women are astonishingly beautiful in their power. I actually started crying when the battle on the beach began, and that progressed to proper sobbing when Wonder Woman climbed up out of the trenches into No Man's Land.
That scene! I've never seen anything like it. The tweet above from @elizaskinner absolutely nails why this is such an important movie; and why in particular that scene was revolutionary. Watch her climbing up that ladder; the camera shows flashes of her body and weaponry as she ascends - if this were a movie filmed by men, the flashes would show a glimpse of thigh or buttock as she takes a step up, maybe a cleavage shot and a breast gently lifting as she reaches for the next rung on the ladder. Instead we get the backs of her muscular knees, a grasping hand, her shield and her lasso, and it's awesome.
This is about her power and her strength, not about how she looks. Wonder Woman has ZERO time for the male gaze; she has shit to do and a whole pile of men in her way, but is that going to stop her? Nope. Because she is learning about her power, and she's beginning to realise that she's absolutely unstoppable.
So yeah, we have currently shelved Gladiators of the 90s in favour of Amazons in terms of our inspiration for the Sea Queen. I have been anxious to write my women as people, rather than as objects. Only one woman is described in much physical detail in my stories, that's in The Weaver when my ordinary heroine meets a lecherous king. We get a description of her through his eyes, and it's very much the kind of sexualised, body-centric appraisal that you would expect from a character who was based on an unpleasant dream I had about Donald Trump!
Megan and I are now working on making the Sea Queen even more
badass and strong-looking in the illustrations (aside is an early version), and I'll be going back through the story as a second draft to flesh out her not-so-inner warrior. It's exciting, and based on my visceral reaction to seeing Amazons exuding power on screen, I really hope my own warrior woman will inspire the tweens (and, ok the parents) whom I hope will read and love my book when it's finally ready.
We are all Wonder Women underneath the layers of social conditioning to be weak, small and meek. Let's own it!