Rarely do I make a point of going to see a movie on the first weekend it is out, but I made an exception for Wonder Woman. There were a lot of reasons for this. It was my birthday weekend, so I had childcare that enabled me to go with my spouse. As a geek-of-all-trades and a ardent feminist, I really want to see well done movies with women in lead roles who are not objectified every five minutes do spectacularly well right out of the box. And as a child of the 70s and 80s, Wonder Woman was really my first hero – from the Lynda Carter live action series to the Justice League cartoons on Saturday mornings, my Wonder Woman Underoos got quite the work out. I remember wondering why Superman got his own movies and Wonder Woman didn’t. In many ways, I’ve been waiting for this movie my entire pop-culture conscious life.
What I didn’t do last weekend is take my kids. There’s a couple of reasons for that. First, it was date night and I wanted to be able to immerse myself in the story without snarky teenage commentary. Second, I wanted to pre-screen it for my 7 year old, who is just starting to show some interest in super hero stories and live action generally. I’ve seen a lot of parents struggling with whether this is a film for their families, so here’s my take.
I am completely comfortable taking my 13 year old to this movie, although we haven’t gone yet. There are a few reasons for this. He is comfortable with super hero films as a genre (although this is not as dispositive as it might be for reasons I’ll get to later) and understands the nature of onscreen violence. We have talked about issues of violent heroes and how that tracks with our personal feelings about violence and the differences between fiction and reality.
Even more salient for this movie in particular, he is a passionate history buff who is particularly interested in military history. He reads books and magazines and watches documentaries about WWI and WWII on the regular. The bleak and semi-realistic depiction of WWI trench warfare and the atrocities committed against civilians are reasons to take him to see it, not reasons not to in his case. And again, I am confident that he can parse fact from fiction.
I also think that for middle schoolers who are already engaged with these kinds of films, seeing the difference in how Wonder Woman is portrayed, vs say, Captain America, or how Steve Trevor compares to the female love interests in other franchise films, is a great opportunity to discuss the male gaze and media literacy as it applies to women and relationships.
I will not be taking my 7 year old to see this in the theater. There are some flat out practical reasons, in that I don’t actually think she would understand a lot of the plot and probably wouldn’t sit through it – she is still barely engaged by non-animated media overall. I also think that she would have dozens upon dozens of pressing and intelligent questions that we couldn’t answer in real time in a theater and that would frustrate and upset her and everyone around us.
We will almost certainly get this film on BluRay/DVD and will probably let her watch it with us at that point if she’s interested. The screen is smaller and less overwhelming, we can pause and discuss her questions, and we can flat out stop watching if it is upsetting her. The great thing about having a movie collection is that they are always around. This film is not going to be less relevant a year, or two years or 5 years from now.
I also want to note – forcefully – that kids and families are different. I would strongly advise folks with kids any younger than 10 to think twice about taking their kids to this cold, but you know your kid and what they can comprehend and process better than I do. I would also take into account the very realistic depictions of war and actual human history, as opposed to more fictionalized violence in a lot of other super hero films. This is not Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy (and not just because it’s DC not Marvel). It is a beautiful, moving, passionate, and ultimately positive film – but it is a very hard row to get there.