Three months prior to my priestly ordination I received a surprise gift from my life-long friend, Dave.. He and his wife Sarah asked me if I would be the Godfather of their soon-to-be first-born child, Felicity. I was shocked, and overjoyed to be given the responsibility of a Goddaughter. It was perfect timing as well. Becoming a Godfather in the same time period as becoming a priest truly heightened my paternal instincts. While I will never claim to know what it is like to be a dad to my own children, I did find myself having so much more in common with such men after this appointment. Suddenly, everything was different. Everything in the culture was different because I now had the responsibility of helping parents raise a little girl in the faith.
So, I have become ever more vigilant about what the culture is producing and selling to the young. Being a Godfather to Felicity often means I think of her first when I see the errors of the culture, and Secular Third Wave Feminism (S3WF) is one of the most destructive errors today. Its errors have crippled the ability of nearly an entire generation to enter into wholesome male/female relationships: marriage and otherwise. I experience it in campus ministry where so much of what I do is healing the pain it has inflicted on so many. Her and parents and I want Felicity to avoid that pain. So we do what we can in our respective roles to protect her from these dangerous errors, and to give her the tools to fight them on her own someday.
This past weekend, I came across a helpful, supplemental tool in that undertaking: Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman. Below I explain how this film undermines S3WF in three ways. I then write some advice to my Goddaughter, Felicity.
Wonder Woman is feminine
Our protagonist does not lose her femininity as she gains fierceness. She does not become “one of the boys” to prove herself. Her feminine charm remains throughout the film, as does her heart. I found one of the most charming moments to be when she and Captain Trevor are walking through London trying to agree on a schedule of events to get her to the front lines. Suddenly she exclaims, “A baby!” and jogs her way over to a mother with her newborn. In fact, she’ll encounter two more babies as the story unfolds, but in war zones. She’ll also encounter wounded men, and learn of an occupied village where atrocities are being inflicted on the innocent. It compels her to go into battle when the men are intent to stay on mission. While it is clear her teammates want what is good, it demonstrates how women are more attune to the community. She sees the suffering of the innocent, and does what she can bring forth justice for those innocents. Good women will remind good men why they get up for work in the morning, or why they go to war, or even why they take a promise of celibacy: the human person’s dignity.
Another great moment is when Wonder Woman convinces one of her teammates to continue on in the mission through her genuine admiration for him. She asks him “if he leaves, who will sing for us?” The man cannot help but smile, begin a tune, and soldier on. She doesn’t try to shame him, she just reminds him of how he is valuable to her, and he finds courage to keep fighting the just fight. It reminds me of the time a woman in my group of friends at a baseball game asked me to shout at the candy hawker for her. Since she is a highly capable woman, I told her she was perfectly able to do so herself, especially since she was four seats closer to him than I was. She then told me that I’d be better because of my great speaking voice. The cotton candy was in her hands in less than a minute. I knew exactly what she was doing, and was happy to have it done. I can only imagine what her boyfriend has been inspired to do.
Felicity, many of the world’s women will tell you to suppress what makes you female to “get ahead.” You have a good mother, good aunts, and good grandmothers to tell you otherwise. Listen to them. Your father is crazy for your mother, and has been since the moment he first met her. He loves to make her happy, and that’s because of how she appreciates his efforts. Earthly power will not bring you happiness. Emulating the men who hold that power won’t either (they are rarely happy people). What will make you happy, what will make you influential in what really matters in the life of a Christian, is what makes a woman a Godly woman. Pursuing that is what will also give you ongoing joy.
Wonder Woman does not gripe, mope, or gloat
Several times throughout the film Princess Diana finds her presence being questioned by the men who are planning, and fighting the Great War. The questions stem from her being both a stranger and a woman. Every time her place is questioned, she demonstrates how she is valuable to the war effort as a translator, a moralist, and a fighter. Certainly she has incredible, gifted abilities, but she has also put in hours and hours of difficult training to develop those abilities: to become valuable to this effort. When she demonstrates the fruits of her labors, she proves her doubters wrong, but never takes a second to gloat about it, never emasculates them.
Now juxtapose that to rallies full of grotesque hats, and signs. Compare that to safe spaces, and the sense of entitlement. And does anybody really want to be around a sore winner, let alone trust her? One of the quickest ways I will lose respect for a woman is if she emasculates her husband, especially in public. I tell the college men to avoid women whom they see publicly embarrassing others for their flaws and mistakes. I also tell them to find a woman who will hold them accountable for their actions.
Felicity, you will be tempted to blame anything that doesn’t go your way on men. You will be told that it doesn’t matter how well you develop your talents, you will always be held back by rooms of powerful men. You will be told you deserve to have everything done by a man exactly how you want it done, and if it isn’t done that way, you should publicly berate him. Don’t listen to those voices; they have already given up on a good life. Recognize that your talents come from God, and are to be used for the good. Understand God will bring you to the battles where you can use them. Then develop those talents through discipline and sacrifice. Some will ignore you no matter what, but the ones who are wise enough to recognize your value will, and they are the only ones worth being concerned about. And those will have their own flaws. They will make mistakes in their relationships with you. Be patient, and be forgiving. Berating them will only cause them to withdraw from you. But kindness, patience, and forgiveness will foster greater trust and joy.
Men are not the enemy, nor are they stupid, nor are they privileged.
What a refreshing change from the “useless dad” motif in sitcoms and advertisements today! The men we come to know in the story have their flaws, but also possess true virtue. Steve Trevor’s motivation as an American spy is pretty simple: find a way to stop the war. It’s not even about a victory for the allies, but about stopping bloodshed. He’s certainly brave throughout the film, but he also has the virtue of patience. He has to explain to the naive, curious, and idealistic Diana how this world operates. He has to wait as she learns the basics of moving around London. He needs to implore that same kind of patience from her as going into battle is not as simple as she thinks it to be. Most notably, he exercises the most patient exercise any man in this world can; he waits as she tries on new outfits, and doesn’t complain about it.
World War I is a most fitting backdrop to tell of the sufferings, and virtues of men as well. The war was a complete mess. Military commanders were largely clueless on how use, and obstruct the new weapons and vehicles. Millions of lives were lost in the trenches, and few of these men had any say in how the war would be conducted. Far from privileged they were. It’s easy to forget that most of the blood shed in building and preserving a civilization is that of men’s. S3WF certainly does not want to acknowledge this, but Jenkin’s movie does. It gives a nod to, and sheds a tear for, men knowing they have been deemed expendable by the powerful. I must say, it was welcomed by me.
As the story unfolds, Wonder Woman and Captain Trevor embark on an off the books mission into occupied Belgium. Their team employs three mercenaries: a Native American smuggler, a Scottish sharp shooter, and an Arabic con-man, or as the princess puts it: a thief, a liar, and a murderer. Now, students of history know they are from demographics who were far from privileged during the Great War. Wonder Woman is then seen coming to understand this as she learns about the personal pain of each man, and how they ended up in roles they’ve taken. She sees them be more than just mercenaries, and put their lives on the line for strangers, and push forward after their pay is earned to end a war which from they profit. She sees the bond of brotherhood between them when it looks like all is lost. She sees that despite their flaws, they possess virtue.
The greatest act of virtue in the film, of course, is Captain Trevor sacrificing his own life to prevent a devastating toxic gas attack. He knows he will never see his homeland again. He knows he will never see the woman he loves again, but he also knows that if he doesn’t make this sacrifice hundreds to thousands will die. He does so, and he does so at peace. Diana witnesses this selflessness, and it remains with her. She sees the good in men and is strengthened by it. She experiences the greatest love of a man and seeks to imitate that love.
I found that because our hero is a heroine, and because she is witnessing the action of men for the first time, this film portrayed masculine virtue in a more pronounced manner than most other stories. Diana was told to be careful around men, that they are easily corruptible by her mother, but was not told to hate them. Today S3WF teaches girls and women to distrust men completely. Nevertheless, she does not prejudge them. She is genuinely curious about what makes them tick, and we see a woman come to understand the masculine and respect it. I don’t want to overreach, but part of me thinks this was the director trying to tell girls and young women to be patient with men, to come to understand them, and to respect them.
Felicity, my God-daughter, be vigilant about the kind of men you let get near your heart. Your father and I will help you do this, but we won’t be there at every moment. At the same time, however, learn what makes the good men good by getting to know them. Learn what drives them, and what pains them. Respect them, and the sacrifices men of the past have made for you. When you do this with your eyes open you will be flattered by how men will treat you. I pray your father and I can provide this example so pray for us.
Don’t make this film out to be more than it is, but do appreciate it for what it gets right. Wonder Woman is not an allegory for the Blessed Mother, nor a parallel to her. Nevertheless, this rendition of Wonder Woman reminded me of all the wonderful women in my life. I pray Felicity becomes one of those women in time, and I hope I can watch this movie with her and her parents when she is of an appropriate age.