Why Wonder Woman Made Me Cry

wonder-woman-movie-2017-gal-gadot-images I have never cried in a superhero movie before.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a total cryer in movies: indie, family dramas, romances, etc. But not action, not movies like this. And yet, last night, about halfway through the movie, Diana (Gal Gadot) is putting on her crown and embracing her destiny, and I am totally tearing up. She was about to kick ass and save a lot of people, but that's not why.

I'm sitting there crying because in about the first 20 to 30 minutes of the film, there's a fight sequence where the whole battleground is filled with WOMEN. Like Lord of the Rings-style epic battle. Except every one of the "good guys" is NOT. A. GUY. (Apart from cutie pie Chris Pine, of course.)


I'm crying because the movie passed the Bechdel test in about the first five seconds.

Because I didn't realize until I saw hundreds of women kicking ass on a beach that I had never seen anything like that before. And how much that informs my feelings about myself and womanhood and my own power.

I was crying because on the way into the theater, I saw two girls around five and eight in Wonder Woman outfits running around and kicking and yelling and starring in battles in their own heads. Or because I saw little boys realizing that girls can kick ass, too.

And mostly, I was crying because I couldn't help but wonder if we lived in a world where one of the most compelling superheroes of all time didn't take this freaking long to get her own franchise (while we explore male characters pretty much to death), would we be more comfortable with seeing women in positions of power?

Would we be less obsessed about emails?

We're in a geopolitical place right now where the worst elements of patriarchal masculinity--ego, pissing contests, thirst for power and wealth for power's sake--are actually informing our domestic and foreign policies. Of course, Diana and the Amazons, who were created to spread peace and not war, an antithesis to that energy, are the heroes we need.

Wonder Woman is a great movie. It's one of the best origin stories I've ever seen. It's funny. It's heartfelt. It embraces femininity and female power without making light of it. It delves into sexuality without making Diana an object. It shows that a love of peace can be a badass, POWERFUL stance.

Go see it. Show the Hollywood bigwigs who have likely been saying for years, "but will enough people see an action movie if it's only got a woman?" how very wrong they are.

Show the industry that we need more Patty Jenkins's, because we already have tons of Michael Bays.

Vote with your wallet, and hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more movies like Wonder Woman and Hidden Figures.

Or go see it just because it's a damn good movie.


Loving this today: Dove on why you're prettier than you think

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk] New installment from Dove's Real Beauty campaign. It's so important to remember this when we try to judge ourselves. And as YA writers, it's so important to keep in mind that what we write adds to this ongoing conversation. Here's to characters that learn to trust and love themselves (even if they struggle, as every girl does).

Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) on life

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson Last Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing Nick Offerman, the actor who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, do stand-up, though it really shouldn't be called stand-up--more a long speech about life peppered with musical numbers and general hilarity.

From what I gathered his personality doesn't deter much from his meat-loving, government-hating, woodworking character on the show. But he's a good bit less angry and a lot more heartfelt. And his show was, as well. After a host of comedians like Seth MacFarlane and Daniel Tosh, it was also refreshing to see a comedian who was pro-women, pro-equality, pro-gay, etc. He didn't have to tell a rape joke. He didn't have to make fun of minorities. Or those in this country who don't have equal rights. And he managed to be funnier than all the hacks who rely on those sorts of things and then defend themselves in the name of comedy when what they're saying isn't even all that funny.

Among his advice for living was to go outside, spend less time on your iPhone, work with your hands, have romantic love and say please and thank you. He told some raunchy jokes but none were at the expense of women--in fact, most were just about how passionately he loves his wife of 13 years.

It was a gut-splitting show, and above all, inspiring, not just for life but for writing. It was a reminder to say and write what you think and believe. Into everything. Because if you don't use your opportunities to speak to people for that, than what's the point?

If you ever get a chance to see him, definitely go.

Feminism and YA

Bella Swan vs. Hermione Granger It's been hard to read the news lately, especially concerning women. The horrific rape and death of the student in India has left all of us wondering what we can do. I just got back from breakfast with a good friend, and we both could only really talk about how bad things are. It's hard to see solutions when you hear about things that are so brutal and heartbreaking.

I think a lot of the people who say that there is no need for modern feminism were silenced by what happened in India. But the truth is, and maybe not to the same extent, but it happens here, too. Jessica Valenti wrote a good piece in the Nation on America's rape culture, and it shows that there are so many reasons why feminism is still necessary, whether across the world in India or right here in the U.S.

All of this got me thinking about the role of feminism in YA lit. These books are being read by young girls (and boys) when they are at their most impressionable. And while we think a lot about how much mature content can be included in this evolving genre (I struggled, myself, with whether to include swearing in my book--I chose to include when I thought it was necessary, as that is how teenagers talk), I think we don't focus enough on how these characters and their entire outlook affect kids at one of their most developmentally crucial stages of life.

An obvious example is Bella Swan in the Twilight series. Much has been written about Bella as a dangerous role model for young girls. I won't add too much here. Except for the idea that we should be encouraging young girls to literally trade their souls, their humanity, and their entire family and community to be with their first love is scary (oh, and I never understood the appeal of stalker-like Edward). Worse, though, is the sheer number of knockoffs that Twilight has inspired. And I'm not talking about just vampire books--there are tons of  stories and series created around young girls who make literally every decision for love.

I've read several dystopians that all had the same plot--Girl is in oppressive world, Girl has Cool Best Friend who hates the oppressive world, Girl clings to the ideals of that oppression, ignoring/falling out with her friend until Boy arrives to explain to her how oppressive it is, then she understands, then they fight evil together and ride off into the sunset (usually leaving Cool Best Friend behind). This plot device bothers me because A) it's pretty predictable and boring, but B) why do these characters need romance to have their awakening? Can't they reach that decision on their own? Or with the help of their kick-ass friend? It feels very 1950s, like they can only vote the way their husband does. What if the girl doesn't have a boy falling all over her (I didn't in high school)--will she just go on thinking her oppressive society is really cool?

Of course, there are the obvious heros. Katniss Everdeen. Hermione Granger. They are smart, self-assured, strong, powerful, magical, interested in boys but not solely motivated by them. They are delightful, and I wish I'd been as cool as them when I was that age (hell, I wish I were as cool as them now). But they are also fantasy characters. Sure, without the bows and the wands they'd still be awesome, but most of us weren't like that in high school. So the question is--how do we create feminist role models in contemporary young adult lit? In realistic young adult? We could make them act and move independently of the dream boys (or the dream girls), but is that realistic? I, for one, thought about my crushes a lot in high school. Plus, love is fun to read about (and write about).

I think the biggest thing we can do is to have them fight their own battles. It doesn't matter if it's for the state of the world or for the state of a friendship. I think that's the biggest difference between Bella and Katniss--Bella joins Edward to fight his battle, Katniss fights her own. On a smaller scale, in realistic YA, it means having them argue with their parents, question their teachers, realize that popularity doesn't always lead to happiness (Cracked up to Be is a great example of this), or that having a great boyfriend doesn't define your whole life (Mia's decision in If I Stay). They can mess up, they can do stupid things, they can cry over love and hurt their friends say things to their mothers that they will most definitely regret later (that's being a teenager). They don't have to be perfect feminist role models, but at the end of the day, we should at least be writing characters who live for themselves and not for someone else. At least that's my thought on the matter. I'd love to hear how other writers feel.

Oh, and on a lighter note, there's this, from Buzzfeed (Bella Swan vs. Hermione Granger). It's also the photo above.