Queen Bee: Wonder Woman

While Beyonce will always reign supreme, Queen Bee is a column where I crown a weekly pop culture powerhouse. 

My wife and I are in the throes of a cross-country move, so we had to postpone our viewing of Wonder Woman until now. First off, I want to say that the movie, directed by Patty Jenkins, definitely lives up to the hype. Gal Gadot imbues Diana with strength, tenacity, compassion, and charm. Wonder Woman’s most heroic aspect is not that she is a god among men, but rather her unwavering belief in the good of mankind even when they might not deserve it.

Okay, let’s break it down.

Action: 8/10 Badass, visually stunning action sequences. The highlights were the battlefield scene (you’ll know the one) and the final showdown. The slow-mo effect was powerfully rendered, but a bit overused. More variety in the fight scenes would have gone a long way.

Acting: 9/10 I’m convinced Gal Gadot is actually Wonder Woman. She’s that good. Also, the actresses playing young Diana were dead ringers. Lilly Aspell, 8 year old Diana, is my hero. Some may call the look below one of stubbornness, but I call it persistence. Young Diana is the embodiment of Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl” statue staring down any and everything in her way.

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Chris Pine convincingly played everyman Steve Trevor. If you don’t know who Chris Pine is, don’t worry, I didn’t either until I watched his SNL episode (great host, btw). As per his monologue, he’s one of the Hollywood Chris’. Pine brings a chiseled jawline, likability, and solid comedic timing to Wonder Woman.

Characters: 7/10 While the acting was good, some of the characters could use work. Diana, great. General Antiope, super.

Despite Pine’s charm, Steve Trevor was a bit bland. He alternated between being awestruck by Diana and annoyed by her. Trevor took up a lot of screen time, yet I knew little about his background. There was potential to make him more than a hunky love interest, but it was never fully actualized on screen.

The villains were thinly sketched. I get that it’s a comic book story, but the cartoony depictions didn’t transition well to live action. Ludendorff is your typical power hungry German general, and the mysterious Doctor Poison is even more puzzling. What’s her story? That’s what I want to see!

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Trevor’s trio of Merry Men were stand-ins for comic relief more than fully formed characters. Charlie (PTSD-riddled sharpshooter), Sameer (con artist/aspiring actor who is the “wrong color”), and Chief (Native American smuggler) had compelling perspectives, but introducing newbies at the film’s halfway point left little time to flesh them out.

Trevor’s secretary Etta was delightful, but underused. I would have preferred her to the trio of misfits as they added little to the narrative.

Plot: 8/10 The scenes on Themyscira effectively conveyed Diana’s childhood and the Amazonian culture/history/mythology in a concise amount of screen time. Exposition was clunky at times which is to be expected. The surprising twist, overall pacing, complete story arc, high stakes, and balance of action with emotion overshadowed the minimal flaws.

Setting: 8/10 The backdrop of World War I gave the narrative built-in tension and urgency. Accurate period costumes (showcased in that hilarious fashion montage) and set pieces (classic cars, 20th century London, the trenches) brought the setting to life.

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Themyscira’s clear blue water and sunny skies made for a believable “paradise.” The scene where both worlds collide created a magical contrast: dark and stormy seas transitioning to a beautiful island day.

What I would have liked to see:

More diversity of all kinds. You’re telling me that there are no queer characters on an island full of women? One day this kind of representation will be second nature, at least I hope so.

Less dudes. I get it, putting Diana in the pre-women’s suffrage era made it all the more empowering when men questioned and underestimated her at every turn, but come on, could she have a bff or something? I vote Etta.

More Themyscira. Let’s just have the whole movie there next time. Now, that would be groundbreaking.

Final rating: 8/10 Do yourself a favor and go see Wonder Woman. Bring your significant other and your parents and your children and maybe even your dog. It was so heartwarming to go to a Father’s Day showing and see dads and daughters (and entire families) sharing this moment together.

The Weekly Buzz

The Weekly Buzz column is a timeline of my favorite pop culture events of the week. 

It has been a helluva week on my pop culture radar! When the spring TV schedule ended, B & I were starving for something to fill the void/distract us from moving. Well, we definitely got what we wished for as the majority of our summer shows dropped within the last week. We went from 0 to 60 real quick, and now, dare I say, we have too much to keep up with! Here are the highlights.

6/9: Taylor Swift’s entire catalog back on Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon Music

-When T-Swift first removed her music from streaming services, it ruined the symbiosis of my TS playlist (only Tegan & Sara + Taylor Swift songs). I had all of her CDs at one time, but that medium is largely obsolete and terribly inconvenient. I want to mix country crooner baby Tay with subversive pop-powerhouse Swift. It’s all about balance like the combination of salty and sweet snacks. So Swift’s return to Spotify was a delightful surprise, almost better than Christmas.

6/9: Wynonna Earp Season 2 premiere (Syfy)

-Wynonna Earp’s first season was, above all, fun. Despite low ratings and lukewarm reviews from critics, the show developed a cult-following that is entirely to thank for its second season. Wynonna Earp is a genre show fronted by whiskey-drinking, glowing gun-slinging badass Wynonna (Wyatt Earp’s great great granddaughter). There are curses and demons and lesbians (wearing bullet-proof vests) and Doc Holliday’s mustache. Quippy one-liners, female protagonists, and supernatural elements place the show somewhere between Carmilla and Buffy. Written and developed by Emily Andras of Canadian faves Lost Girl and Instant Star, the show is full of self-awareness and heart. The first season was not high art, but it was entertaining and binge-worthy (catch up on Netflix). Strong acting and writing largely compensated for the rushed/convoluted plot and obligatory first season table setting.

-The sophomore season premiere, however, felt a lot more settled. The episode entitled “Steel Bars and Stone Walls” had high stakes and a tighter story arc, taking everything fans loved about season 1, shading it in, and polishing it up. Wynonna Earp is not even a guilty pleasure, it is THE show I look forward to every week. Not only is the show so damn enjoyable, but the showrunner and the actors engage with fans on social media and are committed to diversity and subverting tropes (bury your gays, anyone?).

6/9: Orange is the New Black Season 5 premiere (Netflix)

-After last season’s shaky storytelling and questionable decisions (did I mention bury your gays already?), I was a bit apprehensive to dive back into OITNB. While the first three seasons combined comedy and drama to tell nuanced stories of women in prison, season four felt like misery porn (dead baby mice, fight club, rape).

-I didn’t love the season 5 premiere. The running joke about mass shootings fell flat and some of the characters are becoming caricatures (notably the white supremacists and meth heads). I think OITNB’s is buckling under the pressure of its popularity, giffable content, and social media success. A lot of the jokes were unfunny simply because I could see the gears turning in the writer’s room. It felt constructed as if they were writing to the audience and not simply trying to tell a story. While the comedy has always been heightened to the point of absurdity, there was a depth and subversiveness in early seasons. The first season’s chicken obsession and lemon detox cleanse were hilarious and heartbreaking moments because they felt emotionally honest. There were still funny and powerful moments in the Season 5 premiere, don’t get me wrong, and I am not completely giving up on the show, but some of the jokes landed like they were waiting for a laugh track, and that took me out of it.

6/10: Orphan Black Season 5 premiere (BBC America)

-Have not watched yet! Will do and review soon. For a show whose main lesbian has been dying since season 1 and seemingly killed off its other lesbian character until last season’s reveal, Orphan Black has skirted the BYG trope (for now).

6/12: American Ninja Warrior Season 9 premiere (NBC)

-The summer prime time staple full of feel-good moments, tear-jerking life stories, and overcoming (literal and figurative) obstacles is back, this time with more badass female competitors. Jessie Graff for the win!

6/14: Selena Gomez releases “Bad Liar” music video

-Probably one of the best things I have ever seen. The song itself is a departure from Gomez’s typical top 40 pop (I’d even call it Spektor-lite), but it’s just as catchy. The music video has a compelling narrative and a sleek 70’s aesthetic. Selena Gomez plays a teenage girl, her father, her mother, and her crush. Sounds confusing, right? It’s a trip you don’t want to miss.

6/14: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 finale (Hulu)

-Wow, glad that’s over. Honestly, one of the most emotionally taxing shows I have ever watched, especially in this political climate. The phenomenal acting, artistic direction (those striking red hoods), and character complexity put The Handmaid’s Tale on course to win all the awards. This was a good show, like really good. Was it fun? Definitely not. It was dark, tense, and heavy which made it immensely powerful. I recommend pacing yourself on this one, a binge would be ill advised.

6/15: L Word reunion photo shoot (EW, People)

-For your entertainment. Fingers crossed for a revival that rectifies that awful final season and also brings Carmen back.

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6/16: Melodrama-Lorde

-I am listening to Lorde’s long-awaited sophomore album as I write. I’ve listened to it about three times already so that should tell you something. Standouts so far: The Louvre, Liability, Hard Feelings/Loveless, Sober II (Melodrama), Writer in the Dark, Liability (Reprise), and Perfect Places. The album has a clear story arc similar to Lorde’s debut Pure Heroine. While her fist album captured the teenage experience, Melodrama is about growing up and the loss of innocence/mourning/heartbreak that comes with it. The album has Lorde’s signature electropop sound, but adds a sorrowful piano to the mix. The lyrics are lonely, but not sad; longing, yet still hopeful. Glad you’re back, Lorde!

 

There you have it: everything from this week that I consider the B’s Knees. Thanks for reading.

-B.