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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines is a documentary about female superheroes and female heroism that would make excellent whole-family viewing, particularly for families with daughters. There are some bleeped curses, often in excerpts from films like Thelma and Louise, and some violent images, such as in Aliens when Sigourney Weaver straps on a machine gun and fires it at a clutch of alien eggs. Many women and female superheroes are shown in brief, revealing costumes; the documentary makes a point of discussing why. Those who watch this documentary will learn much about recent American history and the role of women in it.
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What's the story?
In filmmaker Kristy Guevara-Flanagan's knockout punch of an independent documentary WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES, the female superhero reigns supreme, whether she's a comic book character, a TV heroine, or just a regular working mom or young girl who needs someone to look up to. The documentary places the origins of the most popular female superhero, Wonder Woman, in a historical context and explains how she's changed over the decades, yet how the need for girls and women to see powerful images of themselves really hasn't. Feminist icons like Lynda Carter, Gloria Steinem and Bikini Kill frontwoman/Riot Grrrl activist Kathleen Hanna share stories of female heroism in real life and explain what female heroes have meant to them.
Is it any good?
Viewers of this documentary come to understand why Wonder Woman was created and how her image and iconography has changed over time to suit the changing ideas of what womanhood should be. In the spangled, abbreviated costume that somehow offers incredible frontal support, Wonder Woman has become something of a camp icon in pop culture. However, she's anything but to the legions of women and girls who look to Wonder Woman and heroes like her to provide a strong role model that influences lives.
In perhaps the most powerful moments of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, a fourth-grader explains why she idolizes Wonder Woman: "She shows girls can be daring and brave," she says, swishing the cape of her Wonder Woman costume. "Sometimes I get picked on at school but I tell myself, keep going, you're going to be more someday." In another stirring sequence, we see a young working mother get a Wonder Woman tattoo on her shoulder: "I have a daughter. I have two jobs. I study and take care of the house. I have to be a wonder woman to do it," she laughs. Then we see her 4-year-old daughter, already "a little Wonder Woman," who will be "strong" and will "never give up." That, plus the sequence when Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner explains that she gets fan mail from grown-up female viewers who went on to careers in science in math instead of just going to beauty school like their parents wanted, should have sensitive viewers almost in tears/ready to go out and take on the world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about superheroes and how they're portrayed in Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. How do you think the viewer is supposed to feel about Wonder Woman and other female superheroes? What kinds of music play when female heroines are shown on screen? Are the images of them meant to be inspiring or dispiriting?
Does the filmmaker think that female superheroes matter? After watching the film, did your views on female heroism change? Can an average person be a hero? Do you think the filmmaker agrees?
Watch a few of the 1970s shows spotlighted in Wonder Women: Charlie's Angels, The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman. How are these female heroes different from the heroes of today? Do they dress differently? Act differently? What is a modern-day counterpart to Wonder Woman or the Bionic Woman? Are there any?
- On DVD or streaming: April 11, 2016
- Cast: Lynda Carter, Lindsay Wagner
- Director: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan
- Studio: Phase 4 Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Superheroes, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 56 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 1, 2020
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