Spoiler Alert (But, for real, just go watch the movie.)
I’ve wanted to write something about Wonder Woman, but I decided to wait a while. Well, it’s been a while, so let’s dig into the No Man’s Land scene.
Now, I don’t cry during movies (unless it’s Shadow returning home at the end of Homeward Bound because that old dog coming up over the hill makes me cry every freakin’ time), but I totally started crying when Diana climbed up that ladder. Full on tears, y’all. I might even have audibly sobbed once before the scene was over.
After seeing the movie, I got online and saw a lot of other women admitting they’d cried through the same scene. That made me feel like less of a cry-baby, but it also made me wonder why it had such an impact.
Obviously, I can’t speak for all the other women out there. Each of them came to the movie with their own experiences, which helped shape their reactions, but maybe I can break it down a little on behalf of women like me.
First, let me refresh your memory a little.
Diana, Steve, and their trio of characters who represent all those well-meaning, but casually sexist men we all know have arrived at the front.
Seeing all the suffering around her, Diana insists they help the people there, but Steve tells her that it’s impossible. Both sides are entrenched. If anyone so much as pops their head up, they’ll be gunned down by the other side. There’s no forward movement. Both sides just sit there, suffering, and waiting out the war because the risk of trying to move forward is too great.
Maybe it sounds like what we experience when we try to challenge the status quo? When women try to pop their heads up out of the trench and say, “I’m more than an object. You aren’t entitled to me. I don’t fit into any of these whore/virgin/mother boxes you try to shove me into. I’m not going to play by your rules.”
We get gunned down. Sometimes, literally.
And so many people around us are like, “Just keep your head down. It’s just how the world works. It’s not worth the risk to try to fight it.”
But we can see how “the way things are” is hurting the people around us. We can even see how it’s hurting the men around us (like poor Charlie with PTSD).
When Diana declares she’s going to do something about it, no matter the risk, and she climbs up that ladder, while the men are yelling, “No!” not even because they want to keep her in her place, but because they’re genuinely concerned for her, it’s a moment that resonates with so many of us.
How many times are we told “don’t”? It’s not safe. We’ll get hurt.
But Diana does it anyway.
And that’s when something really amazing happens.
I’m not talking about Diana deflecting bullets with her gauntlets. Or her running across the field without getting scratched.
It’s Steve’s realization. “She’s taking all the fire!”
Since Diana’s the target of all the fire, and distracting the enemy, the men standing behind her can come up out of the trench and move forward.
If a few brave people are willing to come up out of the trench, and take all the fire, all those people standing behind them can come up with them, without taking such a big risk. When one person is willing to sacrifice their safety and security to move forward, we can all move forward.
Women might not be facing actual gunfire, but they face a lot when challenging the systems we live within. And challenging those systems absolutely bears a significant cost.
As Steve and the crew move in alongside Diana, they start shooting at the Germans. Diana is having none of that. Remember, she believes the Germans are good men, being influenced by Ares.
So what does she do?
She doesn’t attack the German men. She leaps into their trench and smashes their machine gun.
I want to repeat that.
She doesn’t smash the men who are hurting people. She smashes the tool they’re using to hurt people.
The patriarchy is the tool we use to hurt women.
Y’all. She smashed the fucking patriarchy.
We don’t smash the men who benefit from the patriarchy or actively use it to oppress women. We smash the patriarchy.
But that’s not where the battle actually ends. Next, Diana leads the group into the village.
By now, the men have seen what she can do and trust in her abilities. She’s the leader because she’s the most competent member of the group.
After separating so she can clear out a building, they all come back together in the village square to confront a sniper who’s sitting up in a bell tower. Everyone’s pinned down by a sniper they can’t reach. Charlie, their own sniper, can’t make the shot that will eliminate the threat. He’s clearly been too traumatized by his experiences in the war.
And this is where it gets really great.
Steve sees a large piece of metal on the ground and remembers seeing one of the Amazons leap off a shield. He knows Diana can do it too.
He tells the other guys to follow his lead and they pick up a large piece of metal for Diana to leap off of.
That’s when a group of men literally lift a woman up into a position that’s above their heads because they know she’s the most qualified person to get the job done.
A bunch of tough-guy men lift a woman up so she can get shit done. So the entire village can be liberated.
And they don’t bitch and whine about it. They don’t pat themselves on the back for how great they are for doing it.
They just do it because it’s the obvious thing to do.
To sum it up, here’s what’s happening in these scenes:
- A woman sees people suffering and wants to help.
- Men tell her it’s too dangerous.
- She walks out there, anyway, and the other side tries to gun her down.
- While she’s drawing all the fire on herself, it gives her friends an opportunity to advance safely.
- After the other men in the trench see those few men advance, they realize it’s safe for them too, and they come along.
- When the woman gets to the other side, she trashes the tool of oppression, not the person wielding it.
- The men in her group realize she’s their best chance and elevate her to a position of power so she can save them all.
It took me a while to realize that’s what I was seeing while watching the movie. The first time I saw it, I had an intense emotional reaction, without fully understanding it. After thinking it over, and seeing how many other women reacted the same way, I realized this is what I was seeing.
I was watching the (someday) end of sexism play out over a World War I battlefield.
I was seeing how we could be.
It’s that deep desire for a better world that made me cry. Because, y’all, I know we can get there. I know it.
Some of us just have to be brave enough to draw the fire for a while.