Strong As Hell
So yesterday, a thing happened.
Not too long ago, my dojo closed, and I found out that I've osteoporosis on top of the arthritis, the migraines, and the autoimmune disease. [sigh] I knew I had to find some sort of exercise commitment and fast. If I waited too long, I'd have to start all over from scratch, and I knew that'd be worse than from where I'd started with Hakkoryu. (I couldn't sit in the lotus position on the floor--let alone do a summersault. I can now.) I can no longer take for granted that I'll be able to snap back into shape like I used to. I asked the endocrinologist what type of exercise was best for my condition. She said weight-lifting. I groaned. Nothing could be more dull. All the other activities I've enjoyed had a strategic quality to them. They engaged my mind and my body. (Various kinds of fencing and martial arts.) I want to keep doing those things, but I can't right now. So, I bit the bullet. I got a trainer while I could afford it.
Did I mention I failed University dance class until my prof spotted me dancing in a night club? Anyway, yesterday. I lifted and swung a kettle bell properly. We've been working up to it for almost two months. I executed two other movements I didn't think I'd ever be able to do too. I can do a push up and a pull up. My entire life I've never been able to do those. Some of it is, Kirby had me believing that I could. That's what a good trainer does.
And that got me thinking about the new Wonder Woman movie.
Before Patty Jenkins, whenever a film or tv show wanted to demonstrate a strong woman they cast a super model and used special effects to show her "doing the thing." A lot of women saw that and felt it was empowering. I didn't. I'll go into why in a bit. First, I'll show you what that looked like.
She's teetering around on spike heels. She's wearing a wraparound skirt that will, as anyone knows who has worn one of those, completely open up to your waist at the slightest breeze. Her opponent is obviously throwing himself around. There is no way that double-handed blow actually has the power to toss him across the room. The karate chops executed with long, manicured fingernails were so obviously fake as the be laughable. There was no power behind them. None. They were dance moves and nothing more. It's clear that everyone involved (including the actresses) didn't really believe women were capable of such things. (But we all wanted to pretend that they can.) And it comes through. Here's another example.
I like that her heels vanish when the stunt double jumps up onto the cargo container and then reappear when she's obviously Lynda Carter. She never really hits the guy. She mainly dodges. So much weak sauce. Next...
Now, I get that this is wirework. I get where it comes from, and yes, this scene is its own special kind of bad ass. (I loved it then, I love it now.) Progress was made. The Angels shed the evening wear before jumping into battle because everyone knows better than to pretend that is going to happen. They're still wearing ridiculous shoes. But the heels are clunky not spikes--so okay. However, the biggest problem is this: context. When men are featured in wirework combat choreography, it feels more real. We're trained to see men beat the shit out of one another, and it's no big. With women, it feels 100% fake--particularly with skinny model-types. OMG, that last dramatic flying kick that Cameron Diaz lands is downright comical. Thus in the year 2000, American society achieved "Well, maybe it could happen--with the rare example. Not really, but we can pretend better." At least the actresses can believe.
And then along came Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman.
The difference is huge. The actresses are more substantial for a start. They have muscles. Also, a majority of those amazons are professional athletes (one is a cop), not models. They can do the thing because they have done the thing. Not only that, they've been pushed to go even farther. They act as they do because they know they are 100% bad asses. They aren't pretending. Their shoes are flats and wedges. Their clothes are more substantial and have straps the keep the tops on. Everything is more real because everyone from the director to the actresses know that women can be effective warriors. That's what makes the battle scenes so much more powerful and moving for me and (I'm guessing) for so many other women.
For the first time, I believed.
 His name is Kirby Sams. I highly, highly recommend him. If he's got me doing this stuff, he's good.
 She could not figure out why I could dance like that on a dance floor and suck so hard in class. It had everything to do with confidence and dyslexia. Someone can tell me how to move all day long and I'm a complete klutz. Show me, and get me to feel my way through the movement, and I'll get it down. For the final we were supposed to choreograph movement to a song. I just plugged in one of my favorites, made up some shit on the fly, and got an A on the final. She passed me, thank the gods. But that was the death of any fantasy I'd had as a child of being a dancer. I'm so not an athlete.
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is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.