My family and I went to see the new Wonder Woman movie over the weekend and enjoyed it, along with people all over the world. Yes, there is a feminist message inside the movie, which is to be expected when based on a comic book character designed from the very start to be a feminist icon. However, the message was pleasingly low-key and was balanced by the heroism of her male counterparts.
I must confess, after the insanity of creating a “safe space” for women to watch this movie without any men in the audience, I walked into the movie theater with some trepidation, expecting it to be Ms. Magazine with flashy CGI and a soundtrack. This did not happen, partly because director Patty Jenkins realized that a hero (or heroine, in this case) appears more heroic if what they do goes far beyond what even extraordinary humans can do. Fortunately, Steve Trevor (portrayed by Chris Pine) provides a male counterpart whose exploits could be compared (literally) to that of the gods. The female empowerment angle is still there, but it doesn’t get in the way of Wonder Woman being a darn good movie.
Let’s compare that to last summer’s feminist tent-pole movie, the remake of Ghostbusters, which featured an all-female cast. It was marketed from the very start as A Very Important Landmark in feminist cinematic history. And for months before it opened, it was talked up as a movie that will break through the glass ceiling and show the world that sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
It also stunk. Nobody went to see it, and the movie disappeared from the cultural landscape like an early-morning fog.
Somewhere along the line, the cast and crew forgot that the purpose of an entertainment medium like a movie is to entertain, and even the most important of messages gets lost if the audience is not enjoying what they’re listening to.
Those of us inside the evangelical church in America might learn a thing or two from these two movies, and two other movies with widely varying box office receipts.
Based on the best-selling series of books, Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind series had been touted as a movie that was the equal of anything that secular Hollywood was churning out at the time, but when audiences finally got a look at the movie, it was a cinematic and financial flop.
Compare this to Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ. The message of the Gospels was there as much (or even more) than in Left Behind, but Gibson took care to create a good movie that happened to be Christian (versus a Christian movie that may or may not be good). Because of that, Passion remains the most-successful independent movie of all time.
The liberal left is slowly (ok, not-so-slowly) turning itself into a secular religion, complete with their own sins and eschatology. From time to time, their attempts to move the needle on the cultural dial suffer from the same foibles other religions do: They forget that not everyone shares the same passion for their faith as they do. This presents a clear opportunity for conservatives to step into the gap and garner the attention of American culture while the liberal left is off acting like the Neo-Puritans they really are.
Are we up to the challenge?