BY LYDIA A. CYRUS
When I was a little girl, my favorite women were women with dark hair. I liked strong female characters with dark hair: Sporty Spice and Xena the Warrior Princess, but mostly I loved Wonder Woman. Her hair was dark like mine and I admired her ability to fight for truth, justice, and compassion. There were never any Wonder Woman movies, only cartoons that came and went. Over time, I became a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan too. I gravitate to women who move mountains for the betterment of humankind. Aside from shows like Buffy, the representation of such strong women was sparse. Most women are portrayed as detrimentally broken and that’s how they came to be strong. And that’s okay, but I often wondered then, as I do now, why couldn’t women just be strong because they are?
On June 4th 2017, I put on a pair of denim shorts and a red tank top. I put on a necklace given to me by my soul sister, Aja: A golden necklace with the Wonder Woman logo on it. It was a birthday gift many years ago that came with a special note that read: for our own Wonder Woman who always fights the good fight. I grabbed my metal Wonder Woman tiara and slipped it into my purse. I wasn’t sure if I felt confident enough to wear it out yet but I wanted to take it too. It was another birthday gift from another friend. I always seemed to remind people of Wonder Woman.
I met my friend Rebecca at the movie theater and we talked about our teaching jobs for the summer and the books we were reading. She asked if I really did bring my tiara. The gold and red crown glinted in the darkness at my feet. Yes I really did. In truth, I didn’t prepare Rebecca with just how much it meant to me that she had agreed to come with me. She was the only person I knew who would actually want to see a superhero movie with me. I pressed her to make sure that we went during opening weekend and told her how important it is to support female directed and driven films during opening weekend. There weren’t many other people in the theater, I expected more. As the movie started, my eyes filled up with tears to the point that I became embarrassed at the idea of Rebecca catching me crying.
It was just so beautiful: Themiscyra was the place of dreams. A female society where the women were all warriors. A young Diana with her hair braided down her back. The sheer physical strength of the Amazons made me cry even harder. Women don’t get to be strong in movies without some character flaw, some pain and here was an island full of women who flew in the face of everything I knew of women in film. The battle scenes made me cry but I didn’t understand why. Maybe it was because fighting is supposed to be a masculine thing. Maybe I was living vicariously through them. Later I would read online that there were many other women who cried throughout the film. Diana is for us and we were there for her.
All of my life I have said I didn’t have a specific goal in mind for myself. I just wanted to make the world a better place when I leave it. I wanted to care of the people I loved. I’ve been an AmeriCorps member, I’ve taught underprivileged children how to read and provided them with comfort they got nowhere else. I’ve crossed lines at protests to talk to the angry veterans on the other side who thought people like me didn’t care about people like them. It’s empathy: What makes the world go round. My professor says that sympathy is easy. Empathy is hard and not everyone can do it. We can’t experience complete empathy. But I don’t believe that. I feel everything. I have been hungry, poor, tired, and beat on. I have been so many women in my lifetime that I feel the pain of others so deeply. It is hard and it does take the breath right out of your lungs.
As I sat there in this theater, I was thinking about the past several months of my life. How many times had I felt like it had done me no good to be kind? To go the extra mile? I felt so jaded and I wondered if doing the right thing was, after all, the right thing to do. But it didn’t matter; I don’t know how to be "mean." I can’t do it no matter how hard I try to.
Then I heard something in the film that softened me up again. In the final fight scene, Diana and Ares engaged in a disastrous battle. Ares proclaims that the human race is ugly, unkind, and not deserving of Diana. She agrees that the world is a dark place but that’s not all she says: It’s not about what you deserve, it’s about what you believe, and I believe in love. I sobbed uncontrollably. Diana was right. It’s not about how others treat you, it’s not about the pain they give you. Nothing about my compassion is, or ever should be, contingent on the hatred someone else gave to me. I believe in feeding hungry children. I believe in sharing my life with others because it’s all I’ve ever wanted. It’s not about them, whoever "they" are. I could carry every grudge in my pockets until I weigh myself down. I could be hateful. I think it must be easy to be that way. When you are gentle and kind it requires so much: Patience, understanding, and forgiveness. It requires the knowledge that right and wrong will not always be black and white. But the right thing isn’t always the kind thing and sometimes people don’t take too kindly to the truth.
In a time when so much is uncertain about our world I think it’s important to have Wonder Woman. I think it’s important that women everywhere cried through an action film. I waited twenty-one years to get to see this movie. I’m elated to know that there are boys and girls in this world that will grow up in a post Wonder Woman era. WW teaches us how to carry our burdens so that they become weapons in the fight for good. It teaches the best things. In the end, it’s not about what I deserve. You’ll be left empty and angry if you wait around for the things you think you deserve to come to you. It’s about a bigger idea: Empathy. I need to be reminded of that every day. It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes because I won’t lie: I think I deserve better. I think sometimes that I deserve so much and that mindset of thinking has brought me nothing. Only bitterness and a feeling of not having enough. So I try to fill myself up with compassion instead.
Lydia A. Cyrus (STAFF WRITER) is a creative nonfiction writer and poet from Huntington, West Virginia. Her work as been featured in Thoreau's Rooster, Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Albion Review, and Luna Luna. Her essay "We Love You Anyway," was featured in the 2017 anthology Family Don't End with Blood which chronicles the lives of fans and actors from the television show Supernatural.
She lives and works in Huntington where she spends her time being politically active and volunteering. She is a proud Mountain Woman who strives to make positive change in Southern Appalachia. She enjoys the color red and all things Wonder Woman related! You can usually find her walking around the woods and surrounding areas as she strives to find solitude in the natural world. Twitter: @lydiaacyrus