Wonder Woman: a tale of two movies

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this post, because I wanted to make sure that I was writing it for the right reasons. Reading this article by Tabby Biddle at Huffington Post helped me clarify that I was not just being a random crazy person, and that my feelings were shared by at least some women. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I agree with the sense of confusion and anger the writer felt at this iconic movie.

It’s funny, how a movie about women’s empowerment made me feel like that.

As the Huffington Post article describes, if you’ve seen Wonder Woman, you know the beginning is full of badass women. However, the main plot of the movie actually starts when Steve Trevor crash-lands his plane into the island of Themyscira. The pace really picks up here. Diana makes the somewhat strange decision to leave the island that is her home. Her mother makes the decision to not send anyone with her, which is curious since she is constantly worrying about Diana’s safety. The world of women, the world of sense in this case, since the character’s decisions do not jive here, begins to fall apart.

Diana leaves Themyscira, and journeys to the land of the patriarchy. And this is where I get annoyed.

There were so many opportunities to do a movie about World War I, one of the greatest conflicts of our history and one that is often overshadowed by the more recent World War II, in a way that would really shed light onto the politics and issues of the times, onto the broad way that the “war to end all wars” affected so many people. Not just the men who went to the fronts, but the women.

Oh, you didn’t know there were women at the fronts in World War I? Spoiler warning: women are everywhere.

Now I will say that Wonder Woman did a decent job of showing more than the pressed, American white male hero for this movie. Steve was definitely a focus, but there was an attempt to express nuance. The reference to the genocide carried out against the Native Americans, while a bit pat, was at least a step in the right direction. But somewhere, Wonder Woman decided to embrace the “exceptional woman” trope. Diana is able to hack it in the trenches, but Diana is an exception. She has super powers. Her hair is always perfect. She’s not even human, actually, so why should she be held to human norms? This echoes pretty strongly as well with the “just one of the guys” trope we see in a lot of media. The only woman Diana encounters is Etta Candy, a secretary. When she is introduced, Diana immediately denigrates her  and her career. “Where I come from, we call that slavery.”

By itself, Diana’s relationship with Etta would not be problematic. Put in the context of all of her other relationships with human women, it becomes so. We get, in order: the refugee who has somehow crossed no-man’s-land to be hysterical in the trenches; the elite ‘German’ woman whom Diana presumably beats up and leaves naked in the woods; and the evil scientist who, in the end, has simply been the pawn of a man and a male god masquerading as a man for the whole movie, despite her genius. (I could go on about how the only physically disabled or disfigured person with speaking lines is said same female scientist, but that’s a whole other post.)

Even in Themyscira, Diana was held apart. In that case, it was because she was a god (unknowing, but still a god). When she comes to the human world, it is made clear that, though she is treated like a woman at points, she is in fact included as one of the guys because of her godhood. That would be a sticky thing to deal with no matter who else was on screen with Diana. The fact that only men are onscreen for ninety percent of the time skews this equation from sticky to downright uncomfortable.

So, back to those women of World War I.

A good place to start is talking about how much the economic landscape changed in places like London during World War I. All the men were at war, for the most part, which meant, as in the US in World War II, that women stepped up to fill their jobs. Women weren’t just secretaries or spending their time shopping – they were working in factories, featured in propaganda posters, and probably doing other jobs besides. Women were everywhere. Half of a given population is women, on average, and half of the men were at war. For every one man on the average street, it would be fair to say you should see at least two women.

And women were on the front, too, mostly in noncombative capacities. Women were ambulance drivers, nurses, doctors, and reporters. Notably, Flora Sandes even served as active military. She received seven medals. Many of these women were British citizens, but women from other countries – France, notably, and others involved in this sprawling war – played similar rolls. Not one of these women, or one woman like them, appeared in this film.

Wonder Woman has been praised as a feminist movie. Perhaps the first half of this movie was in fact feminist. There were several named female characters, and some really interesting backstory and character dynamics (that unfortunately did not get developed to my satisfaction). But feminist writing does not only include women who are exceptional or outside of the patriarchy. It must engage with the patriarchy not just by sending a character in to yell at some old white dudes, but also by refusing to embrace the narratives accepted as history.

There are other things worth discussing with this movie. Steve Trevor’s almost-fridging is notable, as is the question of virtue and womanhood. Why the decision was made to base the movie in World War I and whether it actually furthered the thematic content of the movie as argued is worth exploring. Also, I could write a whole post on how I almost convinced myself that I liked this movie after reading Joss Whedon’s rejected trashfire of a script and the way that women are constantly gaslit for wanting fair and equal representation in media. But just paying attention to historical context and opportunity would have made this the movie we deserved, so I’ll stop here.

Further reading regarding some badass broads who were on the frontlines, mostly in World War II:

Rejected Princesses

Clare Hollingworth

 

 

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Honeymoon (We’re back, cont’d)

So, honeymoon! What did we do? Where did we go? What did we eat? All important questions, obviously. For this post I’ll tell you some cool overview stuff and for later posts I’ll come back and dig into some of the experiences I think will be useful from a world-building/fact-finding perspective, just because there was some really cool stuff I learned at some different museums and I think you will enjoy it.

We were gone for two whole weeks, and we stopped a lot of places, but most of our time was split between the city of Montreal, Canada, and the lovely state of Vermont. So I’ll start with Montreal and see how far we get. We’ll be moving back into writing stuff soon, for sure, and if I have any good news I will share in real time, of course. But you only get one honeymoon, hopefully. This is the first long vacation I have taken since my career shift two years ago, so we definitely lived it up.

The wedding, as mentioned, was amazing. It happened Saturday. We took all of our things home Sunday and tried to recuperate, and then Monday about noon (much later than intended) we headed up the interstate. This was a roadtrip, you see, which is an awesome thing if you’ve never gone on one with just a couple of close people. You need to get the balance right – enough stuff brought with you that you aren’t upset when you need something and don’t have it, but not so much that you can’t all sleep in the car if you need to. A fine balance, roadtrips. We hit ours pretty perfectly – our trunk was full, and a good portion of the back seat, but not so much we couldn’t lay our seats back if we needed to. That first day, we made it all the way up to Syracuse, NY, about a nine hour drive from our little corner in Virginia, listening to audiobooks and napping and generally doing as you do.

The next day, we continued our journey to Canada by way of northwestern New York. We found a little city called Oswego for lunch. The food wasn’t exceptional, but we got to see the borders of Lake Ontario.

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Next, we crossed into Canada through the Thousand Islands. The border crossing was quick and relatively painless, actually, in some ways more painless than flying. It was my first time crossing a border via land. The only disappointment was that they didn’t stamp our passports. I love having stamps in my passport.

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Right across the border, we stopped at a tower from which you could admire the landscape. You can see the border crossing, and the bridge we came over, and all of the many islands that dot the largely aquatic landscape. I’d love to visit this place again – they have river cruises and haunted castle explorations. I was sad we were only passing through.

Next, we arrived in Montreal!

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The S.O. was severely disappointed in the coffee situation but this is coffee at my speed. I’m not a regular coffee drinker, unless it’s cold brew. Unfortunately, part of the reason I’m not a coffee drinker is also the caffeine intake, which he desperately need but I am not dependent on. That was a hard transition for him, all that espresso.

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We went to the Musee des Beaux Arts and saw a plethora of amazing artwork. Most of the art you were allowed to take pictures of, and this lovely really struck me. It’s from the floor of the museum that focuses on Inuit Art. This one was called Transformation, which seems to be a fairly common theme in the art we saw on that floor. It’s lovely. We also saw an amazing piece called Sea Change there, which I posted about on Twitter that day, if you were following that. The Musee des Beaux Arts has several buildings, each having several floors, and like many buildings in Montreal they are connected via underground passageways.

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After visiting the daytime exhibits of the museum, we climbed the nearby Mont-Royal. This is where Montreal gets its name, and is the highest point in the city. No building can be built higher than its peak. There is a lovely observation deck from which you can look out on the city below.

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That wasn’t the end of our experience at the Musee des Beaux-Arts, however. We also saw a lovely Chagall exhibit while we were there, which was super immersive. I’m always a fan of special exhibits like that if they are well-executed, which this one was.

Later, we went on to visit the Botanical Gardens and the Biodome. The Biodome was phenomenal, and you should definitely go, even though it is a bit expensive. Both of these attractions are located near the Olympic Stadium, which is pretty far away from the downtown, so we had to take the metro.

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I really, really enjoyed the Botanical Gardens, and I’m going to do a whole separate post on one of their exhibits for world-building purposes, but in the interim look at those peonies!

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We also saw this 275 year old bonsai on loan from Japan. That tree has lived about ten times as long as I have, which is baffling to think about.

Of course, all of these things exist outside of the most famous part of Montreal, which is Old Montreal. Those winding cobbled streets are where you will find the most tourists. And the crown of that experience is the Notre-Dame Basilica. We went, and it was gorgeous. The most stunning part, however, was the chapel that is in the back of the basilica, where no photos are allowed. No photos do the whole thing justice, honestly, but I’ve tried to capture the grandeur of the main section of the building here.

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Alright, that’s it! Tune in next week for my Vermont adventures!

And we’re back! (Wedding edition)

Friends, Romans, countrymen….we are back in the USA, and back at home! Which means I have so many things to tell you about, because I was gone for two weeks which is literally forever.

Coming back this week has been crazy hard, what with getting back into the swing of things, and the next few weeks I’ll probably mostly be posting about my trip experiences. Trust me, there is some awesome world-building fodder and other such in there, but if you are reading for reviews, etc, I am staying away from those until I settle down a bit and could get some reading done. I have to be honest, I did next to no reading on the honeymoon – with a couple of notable exceptions, mostly in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence – so the only thing I would have to write about otherwise is Wonder Woman and I’m not ready for that yet.

Anyway, digressions aside, I’m married!

It was a super hot day, and we thought we were going to get thunderstorms. Everything took twice as long as expected setting up. I should have been absolutely stressed, possibly hysterical, but I felt distantly calm. All that stress had been burnt out in the weeks before, and I was ready for whatever was going to happen to happen. So at 2pm, after managing set-up for four hours, I left and took a shower. There were spiders in the shower – we were out in the woods, and spiders are to be expected – but the water pressure was good. I washed my hair, blow-dried it for the first time in ages, put on my dress. Stuck the S.O.’s ring in my dress pocket along with the vows I had written but still hadn’t memorized. Ten minutes before pictures my friend finally finished pinning flowers into my hair.

Then the S.O. and I descended from our cabin out into the whirl of family. Everyone had arrived early, and it was hard to wrestle people aside for pictures. The set up was gorgeous, it was hot and the rain never fell, and everyone we loved was there. Someone rounded them up to settle them into their seats, and we said our vows. My dad cried. I cried. The S.O. cried. He was so dapper and lovely.

We had homegrown flowers, and home-baked pies, and stuffed peppers and goat cheese raviolis. We had beer and wine and good fiddle music. The band made me sing – an old ballad of love unto dying, which seemed appropriate considering. We had secret Scotch, which I drank far too much of, and lots of dancing and laughing and crying and goodness.

It was absolutely perfect. I have zero pictures to speak of, and a cup full to bursting still, two weeks later. There will never be another night like it, and that is as it should be.

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Feminist YA SFF by Melissa Eastlake

Greetings! By the time you read this, I will probably be in Canada enjoying some maple-syrup-covered delights. That’s what people eat in Canada, right? In all seriousness, I’m told the bagels use maple syrup somehow and it makes them extra delicious.

This week, we have a lovely post by Melissa on her favorite feminist speculative fiction young adult books. A mouthful, but totally worth a read. Her bio is at the end, so please check her out!


When I was a young reader, YA fantasy felt more real to me than the world I lived in. The books I loved were fun or beautiful, but they also explained power and politics in an evocative way that history class couldn’t—or wouldn’t—analyze. I’ve been a devoted YA reader and writer ever since. With a sharp, discerning audience and fast pace, YA is on the leading edge of realistic representation. Since I know Amanda’s readers are interested in feminist fantasy, I’m here to share a few of my favorite feminist stories in YA SFF.

Ash by Malinda Lo

This queer retelling of Cinderella is a contemporary classic, and one of the books that expanded my ideas about YA, fairy tales, and stories themselves could be. Love triangles in YA catch a lot of flack, but in deft hands they turn romances into stories about choice and agency. Fairy tale characters can lack agency as allegorical worlds or authorits pull them toward allegorical fates. Ash flips that convention, telling a story about a girl finding her decisiveness and voice. She chooses not only between lovers but between worlds.

“Desert Canticle” by Tessa Gratton, from The Anatomy of Curiosity

The Anatomy of Curiosity is a writing book, pairing novellas with essays and marginalia that explore different elements of craft. “Desert Canticle” is a master class in inventive, meaningful worldbuilding. Characters from two conflicting cultures working together to defuse magical bombs in a war-ravaged desert world. The magical system is just gorgeous, and the matriarchal society and character arcs explore how gender conventions are created—and create us. Writer or not, you’ll think in new ways about how worlds are built.

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Island of Exiles explores gender and sexuality in its worldbuilding, as well: there are three genders, asexuality is named and accepted, and bisexuality is normalized. These conventions are woven into a unique and fascinating desert world, revealed along with complex relationships and a vivid magical system. Khya, the main character, is forced to question stories she’s always accepted, and she finds the process as eye-opening—and devastating—as many of us right here on earth do.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

For worldbuilding that explores power and identity in a way that’s accessible to younger readers without ever talking down to them, this lower YA/middle grade novel is perfect. You’ve got beloved fantasy tropes, with a young girl learning to use her magical powers and fighting a big bad with a team of friends, as well as a deep exploration of Nigerian mythology and a cast of characters who are funny, relatable, and diverse across many intersections.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

My personal favorite is contemporary fantasy that puts a magical or supernatural twist on the world we live in. Paper Valentine is set in a normal town, combining a wonderfully strange, tender ghost story with the threat of a serial killer. Without preaching, it reflects on the power structures between and around girls.


Melissa Eastlake’s debut novel, The Uncrossing, is coming in 2017 from Entangled Teen. She lives in Athens, Georgia with her partner and dog. Find her on Twitter @melissa_e.