I was going to use the cliched “Unless you’ve been living under a rock…” here, but maybe you’re better off under the rock.
One of many internet controversies that have captured the news recently regards Alamo Drafthouse’s plans to show a woman-only screening of the Wonder Woman film. (Be sure to read Belle and Pete’s review!) For women, with women, run only by women, no boys allowed. Predictably, the internet panicked, with men purportedly claiming that the concept of a women-only showing is wrong. Why? Who the hell knows why people get upset about these things these days. But upset they got, and the news was occupied with the issue up until the President misspelled something on Twitter and Kathy Griffin cut his head off.
With the internet, it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on, who’s saying what, and how many of them are. Nonetheless, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so “some” ends up being inflated into “a lot” and we end up arguing about the unknown number of men complaining about this rather than the vast majority of people who aren’t.
Still captivating but lost in the shuffle was Stephen Miller, a very male conservative internet pundit who decided to very publicly buy a ticket to Alamo’s woman-only screening in Brooklyn. Why? His own words are “just going to see a movie.” The deeper motive behind that seems to be buried under the 900+ replies to his Tweet. Maybe this is a professional act of trolling. Maybe he’s doing it to drive up his publicity. (Which might very well be working since he’s now got 81,000 followers on Twitter.) Maybe he’s trying to make a statement about a conservative perception that liberals and feminists oppose gender discrimination but then here’s an on-its-face discriminatory event. Maybe it’s all three. Regardless, apparently it’s his right to do so since 1) he’s got his ticket and 2) it’s illegal in New York to have gender-discriminatory sales. (A copycat blogger has apparently filed a discrimination complaint against Alamo with New York’s Human Rights Commission, and who knows where that will go.)
Anyway, people are angry that a guy is going to a woman-only screening, because he’s intruding on a safe-space women event. People are also angry that other men are, at large, complaining that it’s discriminatory, and why isn’t there a male-only showing of anything, and blah blah blah.
This is America. This is what we do now: we get offended by something, and we yell, and other people yell back, and the first group of people yells back at the second group, and so forth, and we just get uglier with each other, and then we move on to the next issue to fight over. It’s unsurprising that nobody has figured out how to bridge the widening gap between, well, everybody in America, because these arguments go unresolved and both sides end up walking away thinking the other is a bunch of idiots. In other words, you may think that Stephen Miller and that other guy and every other “discrimination” crier is a bunch of spoiled man-babies who don’t understand women’s issues. What may shock you is that they walk away thinking something equally awful about you.
Anyway, I don’t want to talk about any of that. Seriously. Drop to the comments below if you want to discuss the merits of a female-only showing of Wonder Woman. My position in a nutshell is that it’s fine on sheer principles of free association, although nobody should object if a theater also did a male-only showing, so there, that’s equality, the end. I’m not discussing it any further.
Somewhere in the conversation, the fact that this movie is about Wonder Woman is lost on everybody.
It gets incredibly frustrating when we have these pop culture freakouts and people end up acting distinctly not like the superheroes they claim to emulate in the first place. Remember last year when people were issuing death threats to Marvel Comics because Captain America came out as a Nazi? I mean, yeah, that’s a betrayal of the core of Captain America’s character…but issuing death threats is also very distinctly un-Caplike. You don’t like how your hero is portrayed, so you…act exactly like the kind of person your hero would take down.
So, conceding the point that Stephen Miller is probably professionally trolling and that the man-bros who are claiming a women-only WW screening is discriminatory are really just whining about girls being in their clubhouse–a lot of the response I’m seeing elsewhere is pretty un-Wonder Woman-like, if that makes sense. It’s namecalling, it’s immaturity, it’s furthering the divide betwen people who–rightly or wrongly–think differently in this country. You don’t have to like it or agree with it in the least, but your response sets the standard of who we are going forward.
People responded to Miller on Twitter with clever witticisms such as “Imagine being such a triggered crybaby that you have to swing your dick at a women-oriented event just to show everyone you have one.” Or the guy who said “lol everyone will be in there enjoying themselves, and then there’s you, alone, the one friendless loser who wanted retweets on Twitter.” Or the person who decided to just reply with a bumper-stickerish meme of “male tears.” Yeah, ok. Ha. You had a laugh, made yourself smile and the other side angry. Has anything improved other than your endorphin levels for a few seconds? What’s your rate of changing hearts and minds with memes?
And I don’t even want to get into the comboxes at a certain popular pop culture website which ran a prominent article on the situation. I respect peoples opinions and right to express them, but people comparing Miller’s ticket purchase to an act of rape was…disheartening to say the least.
Like I said, this is distinctly not Wonder Woman-like behavior, and for crying out loud, “war is bad” is kind of the whole theme of the movie. Yes, Wonder Woman is a tried and true warrior, and yes, she kicks considerable ass. But the Diana of Themyscira is also an ambassador of peace. Peace. She kicks ass and even kills when she has to, but not always, and not with delight. Maybe that’s why she’s known for using a lasso over a sword.
I can’t make a rock-solid case that Wonder Woman would definitively not be posting “male tears” memes as a way of making her point, but I suspect she wouldn’t. The character has been around for over 70 years and has had wildly different interpretations and characteristics. Sometimes she’s warlike and violent. She’s killed before, and brutally. I don’t think she’s ever reveled in it. Sometimes she’s graceful and reserved. Smug, self-righteous, and sarcastic has never been her style.
The Diana of Themyscira I know goes beyond just being powerful. She’s also a teacher and someone who appeals to our better angels. Would she give Stephen Miller a smackdown and toss him from the theater? Probably not. She’d probably even protect him against any threats of violence if someone tried to forcibly keep him from the theater. She might use the entire situation as what people used to refer to as a “teachable moment.” If a women-only screening is an opportunity for sisterhood and a shared safe space, this is an opportunity to show that to him instead of barring the door (to which he has legal access) and making the forbidden closet of mystery all the more exciting.
Look, our culture wars really feel like they’re coming to a head lately. Controversies hit the news and instead of addressing them, we just point fingers at the other side and yell “you did it too!” and cite examples, and then the other side argues “that was different” and no real progress is made. We name-call and sulk back to our corners and increasingly look at each other as “us” and “them” with respective bubbles between us. Just this week, Kathy Griffin and a photography team decided to faux-decapitate the President as “protest art.” People rightly called it out, but not many people looked back at how we reached the point where somebody thought it would be OK to do that, did they? Because making fun of people to make our point is all we do anymore. Decapitating them in jest is just the far end of lousy behavior we’ve already decided is normal.
When you see Wonder Woman this weekend, really try to think about what Diana’s approach to, well, anything would be in our modern society. Think about the message of sticking this movie in the middle of “the war to end all wars.” World War II was a much clearer good versus evil fight. World War I was ultimately a bunch of people fighting each other because they all thought they had to, and the “bad guys” in that historical war are a lot less clear than we’d like them to have been. Think about how war eventually seems to become its own end, and fighting seems to be burned into our natures.
Wonder Woman as a character is not supposed to be someone poisined by hate, vitriol, sarcasm, exclusion, or any other gut reaction which seems to rule us lately. Wonder Woman is about love, and peace, and yes, defending the good, but only weaponizing when needed. If you have a point to make about this movie, think carefully about who your role model is and how she’d act in your place.
(Featured image by Phil Jimenez)