Watching Wonder Woman on my Mother’s Birthday

June 6th is my mother’s birthday. I live 9,000 miles away from my mother; I have for five years, and in three weeks, I’ll be home with her and my dog in my seaside hometown. But on her birthday, June 6th, I’m more than an ocean away, and I’m calling her on the phone and I’m going to see Wonder Woman.

As I walk to the movie theatre, in the pouring rain, with my mother on speaker and my boyfriend leading by half a block, I talk to my mother about her plans for today, how her house renovations are coming along, and how she’s feeling after her last surgery.

My mother is basically Wonder Woman. They both have raven coloured hair, and a penchant for tiaras, and bone structures that could have only been sculpted by higher powers. They also both hold world-saving strength in their hearts. Wonder Woman is a goddess who protects the human race through a belief in the inherent goodness of people and some kick-ass amazonian warrior training. My mother is a two-time cancer survivor who raised a teenager while going through chemo, travelled across the atlantic, in remission, to watch that now-adult graduate from college, and who, no matter where she is, makes it home by 9pm every week to watch her favourite Real Housewives of insert-city-here.

I’m standing under the cinema marquee listening to my mom talk about her new kitchen cabinets, and my boyfriend is inside and he already has popcorn and I know the previews have already started. I can’t rush off the phone because it’s my mother’s birthday, and I love her, and it doesn’t cost me international fees to talk t-mobile to t-mobile, so I keep listening to her talk about the new cabinets. I wave my boyfriend into the cinema and hope the previews keep playing. I say goodbye to my mom, and then remember to tell her about something we’d both forgotten, and then say goodbye again, and then sneak into the quiet, small cinema room.

I sit in a red chair and turn off my phone and I feel guilty that I’m not with my mom today. Then Wonder Woman starts.

As the quiet mumbles in the theatre fall to silence, I try to shake the feelings of missing and guilt. I remember that this movie came out almost a week ago, so I am a little late to the party and already aware of the applause for Gal Godot’s fierce and empathetic performance, Patty Jenkins’s dynamic visual storytelling and atmospheric charm, and Robin Wright’s ability to prove that her beauty knows no age and her talents, no bounds. Revisiting those thoughts, I catch myself up on the movie in front of me, and let myself fall into the wonder of Themyscira.

My mom travelled the world in her young adulthood, mostly following car races, yacht parties, and the warmth of the meridian. She told me about how one summer, she wore a hot pink jumpsuit around Europe and got invited to parties in romantic cities like Monaco and St Tropez. But after I was born, she always preferred the beaches, sands, and warmth of Hawaii. Themyscira reminded me of those vividly coloured waters and peaceful breezes. I couldn’t help but see my mother as a lost Amazon: a beautiful warrior waiting to see glimpses of that paradise again.

Diana leaves home to end the war to end all wars, to pursue her destiny, to give her love in order to save the world. The movie takes a tone that is masterfully and simultaneously both modern and vintage. Diana Prince is a new kind of superhero, allowed to be stubborn and strong and flawed and warm. But amidst the big-budget stunts and effects, it is the humility of Diana, not the glamour of Wonder Woman that resonates the most.

After saving a village just to prove that she can, Diana and her crew of merry misfits get ready to forage ahead. Diana and Chris Pine (who might have a character, or might be another actor playing Chris Pine) can’t pay them to go on, and when a war-traumatised sniper wobbles around the idea of staying, Diana asks, “But Charlie, if you left, who would sing for us?”

It’s small; it’s human; and it’s wonder(woman)ful.

My mother always says she knows I’m happy when I sing. She says singing makes her happy because it brings her peace. She’ll write me with new songs to look up, lyrics that make her happy, and radio songs that she wonders if I’ve heard too. It’s a small moment in the movie, but a big reminder of the different ways we show love. The simple ways in which we hope others find peace.

I shift in my red seat and take a deep breathe because I don’t want to cry, even if they’re not sad tears.

As I watch the rest of Wonder Woman, the action of the story settles my lapping emotions and I am taken in by the beautifully executed superhero movie formula. Before the credits roll, I find myself jumping ahead, already excited for a Wonder Woman sequel, a new Justice League movie, the Wikipedia hole I will inevitably dig tonight learning more about the original comics and the history of the character.

I walk home with a half empty tub of popcorn, chatting to my boyfriend about the movie. The rain has lightened up and we debate if it was as groundbreaking as we had hoped, If it’s fair to criticise it for following tropes of the genre, and how much the world needs Wonder Woman right now.

And I turn on my phone to text my mom, just to say, “Happy Birthday” one more time.