Welcome to the last installment of my first mini-series!
Here, I’ll be discussing Artemis, played by real-life boxing legend Ann Wolfe.
Artemis is a fierce warrior, second only to Antiope, the leader of Themyscira’s army.
Physical strength isn’t usually celebrated in women – athletes, and regular gym rats are mocked for their appearances, and for ‘looking like men’. Heaven forbid we open a door for ourselves!
Artemis is muscular and athletic, but not unwomanly – her face is framed by her tiara, her armour is more practical than Diana’s little off-the-shoulder number, but is still feminine.
But I digress.
Again, Artemis’s power isn’t something to fear – it’s something to aspire to.
She’s set up early in the film as the strongest of all the training Amazons, and Diana proves herself by fighting Artemis, mini-boss style, before moving on to Antiope.
I’m not mad about her being hardcore. I’m concerned about the emotional stoicism she shows in her first appearances. Artemis doesn’t even flinch after getting wapped by some cowardly sneak attack – she just turns right around and gets on with her business. While admirable on the surface, this is a major aspect of the ‘strong black woman’ trope. Mel Perez, writing for Blackgirlnerds.com, dissects this trope and why it’s harmful:
“A strong, black woman is almost superhuman. She bears crippling burdens without a complaint. She nurtures everyone around her and fights for them. She weathers both physical and mental pain and comes through, intact on the other side…Perhaps, instead of superhuman, a better way to describe her is that she is barely human. This is the problem with this descriptor — it strips away our humanity. It makes it so that we’re not allowed to break down. We swallow our pain and try to ignore how we’re choking on it.”
Praising black women for their ability to quietly withstand pain is “a trap that keeps us from being able to express how these negative situations truly affect us.”
Fortunately, while Artemis totters precariously around becoming the “strong black woman,” she breaks through these barriers the next few times we see her. (I guess by the time she appeared on screen, the filmmakers were already preoccupied with pigeonholing Diana’s sitter).
Yes, she’s used to further Diana’s character development (and only as a mini boss)…Yes, she only has one line…
At least for a moment, we see her existing outside of the white protagonists’. When she fights alongside the other Amazons to protect their home, we see her being as frightened and upset as the others as they decide what to do with Steve Trevor. The mask we see her using in the first fight slips, and she’s allowed what the strong black woman isn’t – vulnerability.
So, hardly a homerun, but not absolutely shit.
Again, I really wish they’d done more with this character. What if Ann Wolfe and Robin Wright had switched places? The island’s most powerful warrior would make much more sense as a real-life athlete instead of somebody that, while lovely, is the Ancient Greek equivalent of a dried up old stick with a bad accent.
And speaking of unmuscular, slender women warriors – my next post (Wo)Men in Tights: Femininity in Wonder Woman will cover even more of this wonderful hot mess of a film. See you soon!
I’m a white woman. I wrote this mini-series in the hopes that I could help other white women, and non-black women understand the problematic ways black women are represented in this film. If you’re a black woman and you disagree, or you just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to contact me either in the comment section or via my blog’s contact page. Comments are all moderated by me, and I endeavour to make this blog a place where people of all marginalized groups feel they can safely express their views.
Featured image from Comicbook.com. Others are from Comicbookmovie.com, and Thegloss.com respectively.
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