Townsend: Wonder Woman and its message to boys and girls

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By LAURA TOWNSEND

laura-townsend@uiowa.edu

I spent this afternoon getting my nails done at the Coral Ridge Mall, a spontaneous splurge to kill time. Across the room, two middle-age men were getting pedicures. One man explained to his nail technician that they were outdoorsmen and mechanics. Not the men you might typically expect at a nail salon.

As I watched them, I thought about a conversation I had that morning with the 9-year-old I baby-sit. She excitedly told me about the superhero movie she wanted to see: Captain Underpants. “He fights a toilet,” she giggled. I smiled, happy that this little girl still gets kicks out of toilet humor. Girls and boys, after all, are not so different. What we presume is entertaining for one tends to be just as entertaining for the other, whether it’s getting nails done as an adult or laughing about toilets as a child.

For this reason, Wonder Woman has been on my mind a lot since it opened earlier this month. Diana Prince is not just a female superhero. She is a fierce fighter who still embodies compassion. Gal Gadot, the actress who plays Diana, is a soldier and a model. She is proof that we can be more. Through her and the character she portrays, she teaches viewers that a woman can be everything. Women can be graceful and strong, beautiful and intelligent, kindhearted and a fighter.

Just as getting a pedicure is as relaxing for men as it is for women, Wonder Woman can be equally inspiring to all sexes. Diana presents the idea of a superhero who is complex in her thinking and her actions, facing moral dilemmas and choosing to fight for what she believes in.

For girls, she is an inspiration. She teaches girls that they can be brave, bold, fierce, and loving. They can stand up for what they believe in, and they can win. Girls can be powerful.

Boys have as much to learn from her as girls do. Through Prince, boys have an example of a strong woman. The lack of strong female characters arguably plays a role in how boys perceive, and place limitations on, girls and women as they grow up. With a female superhero who is as entertaining and thrilling to watch as Superman, boys are taught that girls can be just as mighty as boys can.

Wonder Woman is a breakthrough in entertainment because of its female lead and its female director. This movie, which is dominating the box office, will change the way Hollywood represents women in the future. Its message to boys and girls — each gender is allowed to love the same movies, be inspired by the same heroes, and laugh at the same jokes — is momentous.

I imagine the two men, the little girl, and me all gathering in the same theater to watch a woman defeat evil, and I smile because I know that dream is not so far-fetched after all.

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