“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. I’ve touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they’ll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever. “
The first time I went to see the movie, I went with an eight-year-old. While she munched on her Swedish Fish and played with gooey, icky-green slime, I fought to control the tears that were rolling down my cheeks. Steve Trevor was dead. Dead. I couldn’t believe it. Well, at least the movie theatre was dark. No one could see I was bawling like a baby, only more silently than one. It didn’t help that Steve Trevor was played by Chris Pine, an actor I absolutely adore because he’s also Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movies.
It is a little embarrassing but whatever, I’m just going to admit it for good. I am a big, ol’ softie.
I am also an activist. A Feminist. A Queer Person Of Color. And one of the millions of people who say #MeToo. Yes, I am a Survivor.
I also LOVED Wonder Woman.
And I was absolutely appalled when certain women of color, queer activists, and a host of other people bashed the film for being too white, guilty of heteronormativity, and of course, starring Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress who served in the IDF like all Jewish Israelis must.
I didn’t agree with them and I still don’t. I have received tons of hate and terrible remarks for my views. But I stand by them and I am disappointed that the film didn’t win any Oscars.
While watching the award ceremony last night, I was absolutely glad to see that the Oscars are not so white anymore, that there was a space for people of color, queer people, and for difficult conversations we have been avoiding for decades. The best part of the night was the performance by Common and Andra Day. Ten activists representing the changing social consciousness of America stood up with the two singers as they moved the hearts of millions of viewers with their rendition of ‘Stand Up for Something.’
And in that vein, I was glad to see such a diverse group of people represented in the nominations and the wins. But as I said before, Wonder Woman deserved to be on that list too– because no matter what one thinks, it makes a strong feminist statement; one that echoes even outside the academic and elitist intellectual circles where loaded terms like intersectionality, queer theory, pinkwashing, and femonationalism are thrown around with little care.
I identified with Wonder Woman because an olive-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed actress with a “foreign” accent made me feel like a part of the conversation. I remember asking my friend’s 6-year-old daughter (who’s Pakistani) why she liked the film. This was her answer– “She speaks funny. Mommy speaks funny too. Mommy is Wonder Woman.”
In that moment I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt more included by the fact that the heroine of this wonderful film didn’t “sound American.” Immigrants reading this would know what I’m talking about. We are told so often that we will be bad at customer service or that our good English is a “pleasant surprise,” because we don’t “sound American.”
Then, the second thing I loved about Gal Gadot’s Princess Diana was her gentleness. For me, the sweetest moments in the movie came from her naïveté. When she cooed over a baby in a pram, when she tasted ice-cream for the first time, when she decided to go ahead and help the people of Veld, when she danced with Steve and experienced her first snowfall– All of it brought a smile to my face. To me, that was the complete sketch of a woman. Yes, we wear an armour (literal in her case, figurative for the rest of us) and we fight our battles with the ferocity of a tigress. But we are more than our battles. We are more than our battle scars. It bothers me that in recent times, women with a strong maternal instinct have been sidelined in the conversation about Feminism. We have to be badass, look badass, and take everything with a grain of salt. Everything else deserves only lip-service when possible.
But I call BS on that. We decide for ourselves. Individually. If I like babies, caring for my loved ones, talking things out instead of arguing– that still makes me a Feminist as long as I stand up for myself. No one gets to tell me that just because I am gentle, I am subservient to my partner.
Next, as a bisexual woman, I rejoiced where Diana, a princess from an island only inhabited by women says unabashedly to Steve that men are needed for making babies, not so much for pleasure. Aha!! I knew it. The ladies of Themyscira were definitely getting action. And that was normal. That was their everyday. No frills or excessively painful discussion to make the movie more obviously pro-LGBTIQ. Awesome!!
In the end, the part that killed me also summed up some important life lessons that all people in general and women in particular live by. Happiness, for instance, comes in little bite-sized pieces. A lick of ice-cream, trying on dresses, snatches of humor, an unexpected snowfall, slightly off-key singing on an old out-of-tune piano, a single night of passion– moments that are meant to be cherished and remembered and savored. After all, in real life, there is no such thing as a forever. People don’t always have a happily ever after. Death, distance, and sometimes, circumstances beyond our control change who we share our life with or if we live it all by ourselves.
That was a lot to pack in barely two hours. And Wonder Woman did it beautifully. Even if it didn’t win an Oscar, it won hearts, including that of a 6-year-old Pakistani girl.