It has been quite the summer for President Donald Trump. Along with failed attempt after attempt to repeal and replace – or just repeal – President Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump’s almost unbelievable incompetence and non-stop stream of scandals have sent his administration into a tailspin. He has no legislative wins to speak of, engages in regular staff shakeups that make his White House look frail at best, and has the worst approval rating of any president ever at this time in his presidency – and we are only six months in.
The insecure bully from the 2016 campaign, who was quick to weigh in on the alleged failures of the Obama administration, is unable – or rather unwilling – to shoulder any of the blame for his own set of catastrophes. The repeal of the ACA has become the proverbial bone that the Trump administration will not let go of. His administration’s failure to repeal ACA this summer may have finally ended the conversation. For now.
As Senate Republicans worked behind closed doors to decide the fate of millions of people this summer, American families flooded to movie theaters. Perhaps in an effort to rebel against, or just be distracted from, this administration, Americans have made strong female leads the stars of the summer.
This summer’s top three grossing films are: 1) “Wonder Woman” 2) “Beauty and the Beast,” and 3) “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.”
That’s right, the top grossing film during the first summer of the Trump presidency is Wonder Woman, featuring Diana, the daughter of the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta. Like all successful movies, all three movies strive to entertain their viewers. Unlike most successful movies, the first two prominently feature a strong female protagonist and grant viewers an escape in fantasy.
“Wonder Woman,” directed by “Monster’s” Patty Jenkins, is the highest grossing live-action film ever directed by a female director. The film brought in $103 million in its opening weekend alone. Americans appear desperate for some respite from the constant stream of eyebrow-arching news alerts emitting from Washington through cinematic relief. And this summer, that relief is given to us through “Wonder Woman.”
Psychologist William Moulton Marston, the inventor of the polygraph, created “Wonder Woman” in 1941. The character was inspired by feminist and women’s rights activist, Margaret Sanger. Diana’s most recognizable tool in fighting evil is her lasso of truth. Based on much experience administering the polygraph test, Marston firmly believed that women were more likely to tell the truth than their male counterparts.
Seventy-six years after her creation, “Wonder Woman” finally gets her first summer blockbuster feature film. Coincidentally, it happens a mere six months after one of the most controversial, sexist, and misogynistic Presidents in history is elected. “Wonder Woman,” hear our cry.
The current political and social landscape influences every form of art — whether literature, music, fashion or cinema. This influence is largely indicative of how a country processes and then ultimately rebuilds itself. “Wonder Woman” is a classic tale of good versus evil; where it differs is in the protagonist – a strong, intelligent, and capable woman, who prevails against fascism. A superhero that forces the audience to acknowledge that evils beyond our wildest imagination exist in the world, but also that humans are each capable of so much good.
This is not the first time that cinema has either reflected or confronted the issues of the time. In 1930, the Hays Code introduced cinematic censorship. The Code outlined eleven guidelines for producers, including that “no picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it.” Among the outlawed subjects and themes were: nudity, ridicule of religion, white slavery, superfluous use of liquor, interracial romance, childbirth, and homosexuality. The “wholesomeness” that is often attributed to films of this period is, in fact, rooted in censorship and deep racial, homophobic and sexist prejudices. Thankfully, in 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its 1915 decision and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protections.
Why is 2017 the magical year where a 76-year-old female comic book character blows box office numbers out of the water? What is it about a female superhero that has women, both young and old, entranced? And, why are we surprised by her popularity and impact on young girls?
After Watergate, Kent State, and the end of the Vietnam War, two of the most popular films were “Star Wars” and “Jaws.” As it turns out, films that remind moviegoers that the current state of affairs in their country is bleak, can be wildly unpopular. Cinema has always granted Americans a break from the chaos of the outside world. The summer of 2017 has unveiled unparalleled political unrest, so it’s no wonder the top three grossing films of the summer are all precisely the merciful distractions we need.
In 2017, museums are safe havens, women are marching for access to reproductive rights, and more than half of the country is still in disbelief that Donald Trump is the President. We are moving into a politically charged era, with many Americans intent on protecting the progress of the past and refusing to backslide.
To thoughtfully examine the present, we must investigate the past. While the Senate debated stripping most of the country of their healthcare, Americans rooted for the good in all of us. Diana is more than a superhero in the summer of 2017, she is a vision of hope and humanity, and an icon of wisdom and strength. A reminder that we all possess free will, and more importantly, the courage to use it for good.