Compassion and Strength Collide in Wonder Woman Jun21

Compassion and Strength Collide in Wonder Woman...

After watching Wonder Woman, a friend and I were talking about an image I’ve been seeing around the web: it shows a picture of Robin Wright and Carrie Fisher as Princess Buttercup and Princess Leia, next to a photo of them as General Antiope and General Leia, with the caption, “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.” I love this because of the cultural shift it represents. Though Hollywood has been moving away from this, princesses have traditionally been depicted as weak characters, damsels in distress who are just waiting for a prince to save them. But generals are symbols of strength, leadership, and authority. Not only that, generals are active; they affect the plot of their story lines and have agency over their own decisions. For someone who has disparaged the lack of substantial roles for women in Hollywood, seeing Diana finally get her own movie—a movie that was done well and subverted a whole bunch of sexist tropes, mind you—is a big deal. Even more encouraging is the fact that young girls are growing up with big movie franchises, like Star Wars and Ghostbusters, giving them the role models boys have had for decades. Not everyone sees this as a good thing. The discussion around strong female characters always includes some who argue that strong female characters, like Black Widow or Katniss Everdeen, aren’t “real” women because they don’t display traditionally “feminine” characteristics. These writers bemoan the fact that strong female characters don’t follow their male counterparts’ leads or accept their femininity by embracing their nurturing sides (and, in doing so, completely ignore that these characters often do act out of love for their family, like Katniss sacrificing herself for her sister). They insist that it’s unrealistic for female characters...

Taking Off the Masks Jun20

Taking Off the Masks

Glasses on, he’s a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet. Glasses off, he’s a Son of Krypton, ready to save the universe. Glasses on, she’s Diana Prince—a sweet, unassuming officer in the US military. Glasses off, she’s Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazonians. Their glasses serve as masks to hide their secret identities. I love that, for at least these two, the disguises they wear are in their “regular” lives—they take off their “masks” to be the hero that is natural to them, instead of putting one on to become something “other.” Many superheroes wear masks that are important to their survival. Masks allow them to function in regular society so that they can have something of a normal life, gather intel, and protect their loved ones from villains who might seek to hurt or control them. Masks offer protection, boundaries, and retreat. In The Princess Bride, when asked by Fezzik why he wore a mask, Wesley replied, “It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” His answer is a flippant comment to dodge the question, but it is also a truth. Masks are terribly comfortable. Let’s face it (see what I did there?)—we all portray to the world the image that we want seen, the person that we want to be perceived as. Social media makes it so much easier than it used to be… I can create the mask of whatever reality I want to all of my “friends” through pictures, memes, and text, and I never have to step outside or run into another human being to do it. If I wear masks too much, I run the risk of forgetting who I am. Technology has created a myriad of ways for me to mask myself.  I can post things that make me look good, but leave off the things that pain or embarrass me. With online gaming, I can engage people around the world, creating a sense of camaraderie without the necessity of intimacy. With online shopping, I can order everything I need to survive and have it delivered without speaking to a single person. All of these things are amazing and awesome, and to an introvert like myself, really a dream come true!  I can live in almost complete anonymity if I want to. The art of social interaction is dying in many places. People’s feelings are neglected; the consequences of words and actions are  forgotten. People have a tendency to be less concerned about hurting other’s feelings when not communicating face to face. But even after stepping outside to deal with other human beings face-to-face—which I actually do for a living—I continue to wear masks. Sometimes it’s necessary; in dealing with other people’s feelings and grief, I often have to mask mine so I can focus on their pain. When I’m talking with a family who has lost a loved one, or a person suffering with addiction, homelessness, or abuse, I have to keep a strong face on so that I don’t turn into an empathetic puddle next to them. If my child is sick or hurt and I’m worried, I need to hide my fear so that theirs isn’t magnified. There are times when wearing a mask is for the good of others. But, there are also times that I wear one to protect myself. When I choose not to make myself vulnerable, when I don’t like who I am and wish I was someone different, when I don’t feel like I’m good enough, or if I’m afraid of not being accepted in a particular circumstance, I put on that comfortable thing, the face that I am willing to present. Sometimes that mask is self-deprecation—I’m going to make myself a joke before you do. It might look like apathy or laughing off a hurtful comment. I might wear the mask of self-righteousness or defense if...