I switched off long ago to the mass media and its soul sucking messages about what you should and shouldn’t be saying/teaching/showing your daughter. There are too many things out there which simply work to undermine our female self-esteem and courage like the inane culture of celebrity, beauty, fashion, social media trolling and Trump’s America, just to name a few. I’m not having any of that. But I have a radar for a good lesson in life so I recently headed to the movies with my 11 year old girl.
Hunkered down with some popcorn and choc tops, my daughter and I immersed ourselves in a girl’s only viewing of the new DC film, Wonder Woman. Forbes magazine has confirmed that it is set to be the box office hit of the season and it’s no wonder (no pun intended). Mothers and daughters are off to the movies in droves, and if it has the same effect as it did on us, the conversation about what is at the core of the film continues long after you’ve left the cinema.
I was an avid fan of the TV series, which starred Lynda Carter, and aired in the mid to late 1970’s. So where has this role model been all these years and why has it taken nearly 40 years to bring her back in her own movie? It was also that long ago that many of my vintage first experienced the subtle yet psychically ‘in your face’ persona of Princess Leia.
The release of female hero movies is not a lone event, rather a response to the undertones within popular culture where there is a ground swell to experience positive, ‘unhindered by tradition’ female role models.
Like any type of art, film is a popular tool to mirror the aspirations or times that we live in. Disney stepped into the foray of the female hero and warrior, and the questioning of an arranged marriage with the 2012 movie, ‘Brave’. Again, Disney put the female hero front and centre with Rey in ‘The Last Jedi’ in 2017 with the reawakening of the Star Wars franchise. And only days ago, the BBC made the announcement that the current Doctor Who would regenerate for a 13th time as a woman, much to the chagrin of some die hard Whovians, both male and female. The original fable on which ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is based seeks to provide some sort of outdated martial guidance. Strip away the castle and the dresses and this type of approach doesn’t bode well for any modern day woman. That is why this popular story, once again recently released by Disney, is also changing direction somewhat on the screen.
But what is it within these stories, exactly, that finds the grip with audiences? I sense it’s a lot of things and sometimes it’s deeply personal and maybe unconscious. If I can put it into words it is this.
These stories show girls and women who are either adopting their own course, rewriting or totally ignoring the ‘rules’, and whom are not waiting around for permission. For me this is what the current and immediate future generation of feminists subscribe to. There is no trying to find equality within the patriarchy’s rules. There are new ways of thinking and doing. It’s more ‘go your own way’ and young women now have this option within their life repertoire. The old checklist of ‘be a good girl, get a good job, get married and have children by a certain age’ is torn up and in the trash. My mother recently reminded me of the advice, given to her by her quite progressive grandmother, which was ‘Become a nurse, marry a doctor’ and the age old adage of ‘Cute doesn’t last’.
Those type of sayings would be even more funny if we didn’t have to deal with the ongoing reality of current changes to women’s rights around the globe, particularly in relation to women’s reproductive rights within the US. So to balance our euphoria with these female heroes, it is no wonder that the newly released television series of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, is shaking up discussion about how quickly power and control can change our way of life. It brings to mind another saying about ‘everything old is new again’.
But these positive cinematic role models with their truth lassos and light sabers couldn’t have rocked up at a better time. Politics is having a hard time of marrying the gulf between the generations and what they value. Things can easily swing. We must be diligent as women and remind ourselves of how utterly capable we are of creating the change the world needs, with or without golden arm bands.
We came out of the film and my daughter said, ‘Thank you for all you have taught me, Mum’. But in truth I’m teaching both my daughter and my son that they can make their own rules so long as their intent is good, respectful and contributes to making the world a better place. Good life lessons should not be gender based. Most of all, the message I want to share with them both is to have courage to shake the status quo and courage to accept others. Because that’s how heroes all of persuasions are made.