What I Learned from my Disappointment in Wonder Woman

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Annie Rim -Wonder Woman3

We are in a stage of parenting where going to the movies is a low priority. The amount of planning and coordinating seems better spent on a date in which we look over a candle-lit table and have a great conversation. But when Wonder Woman hit the theaters, I knew I wanted to prioritize this film.

 I spontaneously texted my mom as we drove to church—Can you watch the girls after lunch? We want to see Wonder Woman. A quick affirmative text back meant that we suddenly had a date afternoon!

I had read articles about what an incredible film this was, from a feminist point of view, from a spiritual point of view, from a comic book nerd point of view. I went in with expectations high, ready to be inspired and filled with the fire of girl power. 

I left disappointed. I won’t go into all the reasons it didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations—from the fact that, after Diana leaves Themyscira, island of the Amazonian women, the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (in which two named women have a conversation about something other than a man) to the reality that it is still the male hero who saves the day.

As we drove home, my husband enthusiastically declared it a 5-star film!!! (All exclamation points belong to his optimistic nature.) I hemmed between 3.5 and 3.75 stars. (All precise decimals belong to my overly analytical nature.)

When will we stop taking baby steps? I asked. When will we finally have an action movie with a female hero, no strings attached?

I often feel this way about life, in general. I get so tired of taking baby steps. When people tell me that Black Lives Matter—it just takes baby steps for the system to change. Or when I hear that we do want to honor Indigenous Lands—it just takes baby steps for the government to treat them as sacred. Or that women are making strides in the workplace—it just takes baby steps to earn equal pay and sustainable maternity leave.

When are we going to take an actual step? When are we going to stop relying on milk and move to solid foods?

 I look at my two-year-old who has been walking for a year now. She did, indeed, start with small, unsure baby steps. She would fall often and resort to crawling. She needed the hand of a taller, steadier grown-up to help her. But she quickly moved out of that phase. She is now running and climbing and jumping off furniture. I often have parents ask me at the park if she is really ok climbing such a tall ladder. She did take baby steps, but now she is a fluent walker, ready to take on the world.

Baby steps are necessary. They are part of how we as a society and culture grow. But 200 years of oppression? Two thousand years of patriarchy? Millenia of slavery and injustice? When do we stop taking baby steps and start moving forward? I get antsy, wanting more, longing for peace and reconciliation. I want Jesus to redeem this Earth now, to return it to its full glory.

I wonder if this impatience is part of the longing Paul talks about in Romans. He likens the earth’s groaning to a woman in labor—a state of being where we have no control over timing but must give ourselves to the present. The earth is groaning for change and yet we take small steps. I am groaning for justice to speed up and yet I am overwhelmed with work to be done.

I’m learning to breathe … To inhale the Holy Spirit and recognize that what seems like baby steps really are leaps, that we really are moving forward. I’m learning to balance baby steps with huge leaps. I lean on books about social justice; on the Dangerous Women Tribe, where world-changing work is highlighted and happening daily; on small steps like attending a conference at the local Islamic center in hopes of learning more. This mix of big and small keeps my hope alive and my cynicism at rest.

I’m learning to be thankful for these baby steps—because baby steps really do bring people together. But I’m still holding out hope that, by the time I can take my daughters to a PG-13 superhero movie, the female lead saves the day.

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Annie Rim
I live in Colorado where I play with my daughters, hike with my husband, and write about life & faith. I have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I am honored to lead the Red Couch Book Club here at SheLoves. You can connect with me on Twitter @annie_rim or on my blog: annierim.wordpress.com.
Annie Rim

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  • Shaley Hoogendoorn

    So good Annie! I am holding hope with you. xx

    • Glad to be in the presence of dangerous women like you, Shaley!

  • Amen, sister. I went on some walks at the beach with my tots this weekend and as we crossed over some rocky places, I kept telling my son to step where I was stepping and walk right behind me. Baby steps leave an indention for those who follow behind us to widen the stride and go further. How awesome that your kids will grow up thinking it is “normal” to go to a conference at an Islamic center. Some day they’ll realize how extraordinary it is and continue to blaze the trail of love for those who follow them.

    • Oh, thank you for these words of encouragement, Natalie! Many days I wonder what my girls will takeaway from all this grappling…. And perhaps the whole point is that they see it’s ok to grapple in the first place, right?

  • Annie, I love that you are both analytical AND visionary!

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  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great essay, Annie!

    I look at the ‘baby steps rather than leaps’ thing as a reflection of the complexities inherent to the issues.

    It’s kind of like “When will we find a cure for cancer?” Frame the question like that, and the answer is, “Well, never.” Cancer is a host of individual maladies that have to be treated individually. Accumulated knowledge may accelerate the process, but there won’t be a magic bullet short of our developing the technology to repair DNA sequencing.

    And for a baby, a step IS something of a leap.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/08/your-dying-spouse-347-freefall.html

    • I love the perspective that baby steps are leaps for babies. Thank you for that shift, Andrew!

  • Ah, but don’t you remember EverAfter when Drew was the true hero/heroine – and Beauty and the Beast – both versions – the beauty won the day! (violin music in background) I best spread the freedom in Christ for our 3 daughters by living free indeed, myself. I’m working on an essay in my head: Why I’m Not a Feminist and Why I’m Not Not a Feminist – maybe because I had a strong mother, but mainly because I embrace Eph. 1.

    • Yes! Ultimately, it’s not the heroines on the screen that matter – it’s real life, day-to-day strong women. Thanks for that reminder!

  • Fritha Washington

    I got excited about wonder woman and then watched some trailers where it seemed like she was powerful but not as amazing as the handsome man. Despite all the powers. Argh! Baby steps indeed…

  • I, too, get so impatient for justice and redemption. Some days the believing life feels long and hard, like the work will never be done. Glory be for small steps. Love these words, they’re and encouragement. Thank you.