Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cracking the Shield

I knew motherhood would change me.

I fully anticipated a complete upheaval of my status quo. As I've said before, I steeled myself against screaming and sleepless nights and general grumpiness. And wouldn't you know, those haven't been my issues. Instead, I'm faced with a shocking wave of emotion. Not just having emotionwhich is fairly new, but has been in the works for about five yearsbut having a specific, softening of emotions.

In other words, I'm now an utter marshmallow.

This softness blindsided me. I wasn't fully in the can for children yet, I didn't consider myself warm or inviting, and out of the two of us I was always a little more standoffish than Taylor. But as soon as they laid that squirming kid on my chest, it was over. I was hers.

And now I'm a crier. Pop culture that didn't penetrate my hard shell now annihilates me. Any children in peril, or separation from parents? Done. I'm done. After Alex was born, I tried watching Six Feet Under, but found it hard to continue after episode 11, where the mortuary prepares a baby who died of SIDS. I just finished Robin Roe's novel A List Of Cages. I started it in January, but had to put it down for a while after the descriptions of child abuse got too oppressive.

Essentially, I was a giant bleeding heart, which belied my carefully carved and crafted outer shell.

That brings us to Wonder Woman. The recent batch of DC movies holds little to no interest for me. This might be traced to my complete Zack Snyder disdain, or my recent weariness with superhero flicks as a whole. That being said, I did enjoy the teasing of Wonder Woman in BvS, she seemed to actually have a musical theme (saints be priased!), and oh yeah, women are important. Even if it sucked, I knew I would see this movie in theatres. It was my duty.

What I didn't expect was how watching it would fully crack my protective shield. It was a super hero movie! About I character I'd never connected with, even as a child, interpreting her as cheesy and a little bit exploitative! How could I have expected a film about her would rip out my heart and show to the world?

It began. I was fine. I saw a little girl running down the street. I was still fine. That little girl stopped to watch a bunch of muscled, fast, strong women training on a field. As they trained, she stood on the sidelines and copied them, little fists punching the air and feet kicking. And as for me? Oh yeah, I LOST IT.

The sobbing was involuntary. My body trembled, my seat becoming it's own little earthquake as I tried to suppress the weirdly uncontrollable tears. I kept thinking, why? Why am I crying? This is amazing! It's also just another action movie, right? Wrong. I mean, yeah, sure, it was. It was pretty conventionally shot, not even too skillfully.* But the ability to see women performing actions that I'd only seen in the realm of menactions that were pure and destructive and powerful, and without an overly-sexualized lens? That was incredible. It was overpowering.

And it happened over, and over, and over again.

Every time I watched Diana fight, I cried. I believed in the fact that representation matters, but I thought it mattered more for other people. I figured that I could watch my Batman and Indiana Jones and those men and just model myself after that. Easy. Except it wasn't, and I felt that in my soul while watching Wonder Woman. There was power in seeing women be strong, independent of a man. The Amazons were created to elevate humanity, to protect not just through emotion (which they had and valued), but through strength. Women had fought onscreen before, but it had been in tight leather with moves choreographed to accentuate every curve. It was, you guessed it, created for the male gaze. There is leather in the movie, and amazing curves, but it only serves to reinforce the idea that women are strong, women are capable, and women act for themselves.

Thinking about showing this to my daughter was exhilarating. That's actually one of the most exciting parts of parenthood right nowthe thought of sharing the culture I love. Her first month, I loved playing Alex the Beatles and Bowie and Nirvana, reveling in the fact that there is the perfect, beautiful being who hadn't heard these things before.

Someday, she'll awake to those bands. And now I have more to awake her to. I've got actual models to point at and say, look darling. That can be you. Pure, unfettered, and minus any mental gymnastics. She can see that, and believe.

*I'm still sorting through my feelings on the slow motion. I didn't love it while watching the movie, and found it a bit distracting, but the more I think about it the more I do appreciate the display of a woman's body in full strength mode, so there's that.

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