Kid and I sat down to watch Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior on the Disney Channel tonight (OK, not ALL the programming is horrendous) b/c she as been wanting to see it (apparently it’s been out a while *shrugs*). I am usually willing to watch something once if she asks.
It had a fairly Buffy-esque story line to it. While it was not completely unproblematic through the feminist lens, this isn’t a critique of the movie itself. I could make a statement on the way Asian actors seem to be interchangeable in casting (the grandmother in this movie also plays Christina Yang’s Korean mother, even though she is Chinese, and Korean actor Justin Chon plays the lead character’s Chinese brother), or how the adorable Brenda Song, and several of the cast members do in fact show that there are Asian actors available to play Asian roles in American movies (see, the clusterfucktastrophe that is the upcoming Last Airbender movie, based on the Nickelodeon cartoon, Avatar). That isn’t this post.
The premise of the movie, like Buffy, is your standard popular teenager meets ancient destiny through re-incarnation. Young woman wakes up to discover that some dude has shown up to tell her that she has been chosen as one of a long line of young women supernaturally imbued w/ gifts and powers that come part and parcel w/ a duty to defend the world against evil. One young woman chosen among all to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. Theses stories give us female characters that we want to see more of, women who are powerful and strong, not only not laying down and playing the damsel, but doing the ass kicking herself, saving as many people along the way as possible.
But these stories also carry w/ them an interesting point to ponder. When presented w/ their destiny, it isn’t enough to simply be this century’s Chosen One. Teenage girls finding out for the first time that their paths have been laid out for them also face the guilt that their failure could result in the lives of others. They carry w/ them a burden to prepare for and embrace their destiny, or watch as Hell on Earth is unleashed, or their loved ones die in droves. The choice to embrace their gifts and responsibility isn’t a choice at all. It’s a great big Cosmic Guilt Trip.
So, why the guilt?
Are we to believe that the only way a woman will rise to the task of saving the world is out of fear that she will lose loved ones? The responsibility is too daunting, and interferes w/ their social calendar, they being too shallow to see the world past their own powdered noses. One view of these dangers and suddenly they noble up — but only after. Unlike heroes such as Spiderman, who realize the responsibility of their power and fully embracing their higher calling w/o the Guilt Trip, women must be coaxed out of the Mall in order to commence w/ the Ass Kicking. They come to carry out their duties w/ the weight of the world, an enormous burden, placed firmly on their weary shoulders.
The only exception I can think of is Aang, in Avatar, but seeing as he is an twelve year old boy, I think he is more the exception that proves the rule, rather than an exception to the rule, especially since women and children are often as the same.
Is it really so far fetched to believe that a young woman faced w/ the same choices would really have to be riddled w/ guilt, as if she is the motherly protector of all of creation?
Just some food for my pop culture thought.