I didn’t know what to expect showing up to an advertised all women’s screening of Wonder Woman where radical outrage mongers on Twitter were offering bounties to either mace me in the face or dump soda on my head.
To avoid any possible conflicts in the lobby or media (The Daily Show had offered to tag along to “document” the adventure, as did provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. I declined both.) I purchased tickets to an earlier showing of another film, then simply walked past security into the theater showing Wonder Woman directly across.
When I took my seat there were no hisses. No soda bombs. No photographs. No Daily Show ambushes or mobs of proud boys, whatever the hell they are. No managers asking me to leave.
I was greeted by a lovely waitress who asked to see my ticket and nothing more. So again, why the controversy over a summer superhero film that had very little cultural controversy leading up to it’s release?
When Alamo Drafthouse New York declared on their website “No Guys Allowed” to limited screenings of the film, they had entered questionable legal territory. According to the state of New York, public settings (movie theaters included) cannot discriminate based on gender, or the ever so progressive and fluid terminology, gender identification. Alamo fudged their language to include “men who identify as women” on their website, but continued to advertise “Women Only” and “No Guys Allowed” screenings elsewhere, including in tweets and Facebook posts. Even so much as advertising such a public screening is legally problematic for Alamo, per New York code 8-107 citing unlawful discrimination.
What is interesting, is in all the coverage and media given to Alamo by outlets such as The New York Times and NPR, not a single journalist questioned Alamo’s legal right to offer and enforce such screenings. They questioned the philosophy, or took the position that this was some big event or accomplishment for women. But at the heart of the matter was real discrimination on the part of a business.
The legality was challenged by a law professor in two cities, New York and Austin. Albany Law School professor Stephen Clark (A gay man) filed a civil rights complaint with the city of New York. Those complaints are still pending.
In regards to the ticket I purchased, I received multiple media requests from both left and right outlets including The Blaze, UK Daily Mail, local New York networks & radio interviews, leading up to the screening. I declined all requests. Beyond a couple days of Twitter mobs, I didn’t really understand the problem about supporting a film that was being called an all-encompassing example female empowerment.
By the reaction upon arrival, it became apparent how Twitter outrage is not real life (surprise) and as I had predicted, that no one in the theater would care. This was a movie theater, not a college campus and everyone there was there for the same reason. It’s the most anti-climactic case of a man buying a movie ticket in recent history.
Any apprehension dissipated, not when the movie started, but during the preview of the upcoming Justice League film, strangely enough. When Aquaman’s Jason Mamoa came on screen with water splashing all over his tanned, shirtless tattooed chest, an entire theater of women wooed and whistled. They totally objectified him. There were similar hollers at the screen when Chris Pine emerges nude from a bath early on in Wonder Woman and awkward tension between his character Steve Trevor and Gal Gadot’s title character.
So how was the rest of the film? Is Wonder Woman the feminist, man-hating, Twitter politicized, soda throwing dream it’s being cracked up to be? Has the cultural left taken another seemingly fun innocuous cultural touchstone and claimed it as their own thing for only theirs to possess?
Wonder Woman, in terms of tone, may be the best superhero film since The Dark Knight and that’s mostly attributed to director Patty Jenkins who was able to bring a seriousness and sharp cinematic eye to the surroundings that is severely lacking in the bloated cartoonish CGI festivals of Marvel’s universe. DC Warner Bros. expressed a desire, with little pressure from PC mobs, to have a female director helm the picture and possible sequels.
They settled on Jenkins, who guided Charlize Theron to her first Oscar win for the transformative film Monster, but had no big budget action film experience. Jenkins was the anti-Snyder, a deliberate director focused on story rather than gloomy bang and up until the 3rd act, that’s exactly what Wonder Woman delivers. Jenkins handles Wonder Woman’s first costumed appearance from a WW I trench better than Zach Snyder did with Ben Affleck’s Batman crouching in the corner of a ceiling.
But what separates Wonder Woman are the quieter character driven moments that allow the cast, even the supporting roles (the best of being Lucy Davis as Trevor’s secretary), to make the most of the screenplay (written by Allan Heinberg).
One of the film’s best scenes includes no punches, or lassos, or even dialogue. After Gadot’s Diana and Pine’s Steve share a dance in the snow—her first—they then retire to a bombed out room. The scene is lit only by lantern candle light and acted through the actors’ facial expressions. It’s a scene that belongs in a war torn period piece, not a summer superhero movie. These are the character driven moments that allow the viewer to become invested in their destinies much more than the trap of CGI models throwing rocks and cars at each other.
Jenkins understands this, as Christopher Nolan understood this, and the whole of the DC cinematic universe, for the foreseeable future, would be better off in her hands. If little girls are looking for a role model, they shouldn’t be looking up at Wonder Woman. They should be looking up at Jenkins.
The script is loaded with themes of girl power as Gadot’s title character makes her foray from female dominated greek island to World War I England. There are some kooky fish-out-of-water themes but it’s never overbearing in the political sense. The wokeness isn’t wasted on Wonder Woman, and is instead spent on a group of hired soldiers that accompany her to stop a German general (who may or may not be Ares, the God of War) from gassing all of Europe. Her entourage includes a totally woke Native American Indian and muslim(?) who only wanted to be an actor but couldn’t because of racism or something.
What makes Wonder Woman work, and what’s been severely lacking in the DC universe, is the character actually enjoys what she does. This was hinted at briefly in her cameo appearance in Batman v Superman. While Affleck’s Batman growled and Henry Cavil’s Superman screamed through grinding teeth, Gadot would offer a flirtatious smirk with every hit from the monster Doomsday. That carries over into Wonder Woman and hasn’t been seen since Robert Downey’s Iron Man or Christopher Reeves’ Superman. It’s not in Batman’s character to grin or smirk and it’s not in the universe Zach Snyder created for a scowling Superman. It’s been sorely needed, and much welcomed.
In the end, what made Alamo’s publicity stunt all the more head scratching, is the character arc of Wonder Woman herself. While her all female family clan of Amazons believe mankind isn’t worth the effort because of their own superiority, Diana Prince believes in fighting for both her species, and mankind, equally, to better both of their worlds.
Wonder Woman is only a movie. It doesn’t belong to women or men, the right or the left. It belongs to anyone who chooses to participate in it, regardless of what one group of people say, or one movie theater chain.