Reflecting Cultural Youth Heroes and Lifestyles Worldwide circa 2017

Mary Gregerson, PhD
Heartlandia Psychology, Leavenworth, KS
mary.gregerson@aol.com

Review of Wonder Woman; Review of Baby Driver
Director: Patty Jenkins; Director: Edgar Wright

What startling news the popular and critically acclaimed 2017 films Wonder Woman (WW) and Baby Driver (BD) cinematically convey for American boys and girls, and those worldwide as well!  Rotten Tomatoes, a respected online review site, rated BD a rare 100% while WW reached 92%. The global memes count for WW is 1350+ without a similar compendium for BD. Evidently WW contagiously has spread through mimicking round the world, but not so the critically perfect BD. Why? WW is the sole female action hero whereas male superheroes abound while BD is a real person who simply drives superlatively.

This review compares how these two matinee idols contour/mirror culture. Then, this foundation of American cinematic influence jettisons to youth worldwide.  This comparison and contrast analyzes that these two films show immense diversity, first and foremost.

In 2017 American behavioral science touts diversity. A singular exception is the value of gender equality.  So, why such cinematic diversity in the two top heroes of each gender? According to these two films, American ideal girls and boys differ in intent, intensity, and interests, so diversity bests gender equality, or does it?

Intentional and Interest Differences

“First America and, then, the world,” might be the battle cry at least of females watching and idolizing Wonder Woman. Boys mimicking Baby Driver might whistle a happy tune as they hesitatingly sidestep streets where gangs lurk. But, first, let us look at storylines.

In Wonder Woman Diana, warrior Amazonian princess on isolated Themyscira Island meets crash-landed fighter pilot Steve Trevor and, then, together they fight to end war in the outer world.  In Baby Driver music helps orchestrate young Miles “Baby” Driver meeting his girl Deborah as well as driving getaway for an outlaw gang when its criminal mastermind “Doc” coerces Baby; after he pays in prison time for his debt to society, Baby and Deborah escape in a convertible—what a sweet ride! Wonder Woman’s love dies in a kamikaze-like act that saves the world while Diana continues to fight even as she is deafened during the fight with evil Aries. Baby Driver deafens his own impaired hearing tinnitus with music and does shield his love only grazed by the violent criminal world. Loss of hearing symbolically represents the wounded, compromised nature of both Baby and Diana, as they continue to fight evil in their worlds.

Intensity

If models of ideal behavior are hoisted on pedestals in these two films, a lasso of truthfulness wraps girls’ pedestal while headphone wires encircle boys’ pedestal. According to these cinematic models, girls actively wield their ideal behavior of fighting for justice while boys passively retreat into their ideal behavior of numbing their nerves.  These cinematic idols directly contradict behavioral evidence that boys are more active and aggressive than girls.

For WW girls, activity moves toward desired goals. WW wannabes aspire to beauty, strength, courage, fortitude, naïveté, romance, and superpowers/super-accessories.  A super-accessory of a lasso compelling truth from the one lassoed saves the day on a number of occasions. WW morality verges on integrity, staunchly maintained against mounting external odds.

For BD boys, passivity endures adversity while music driven activity helps the gang escape.  The super-accessory of blaring music numbs boys not only from internal angst and but also external danger and crime.  Headphone blasted music not only orchestrates improbable driving that saves Baby’s gang from capture, but Baby creates snippet mashes to chronicle important situations/people in his life.  For BD boys, media indulgence, naïveté, paucity, quick reflexes, fearlessness, courage, romance, and field independence characterize this anti-hero of sorts.  Amorality as a type of integrity for Baby Driver—though forced by his bad choices to work in the criminal world, he stays aloof.

Both Diana and Baby face a violent world containing corrupt adults who would use them.

Attachment to Adults

Not much has changed in the cinematic mirror of generational ice between adults and youth since I first addressed this uneasy attachment of youths to adults almost a decade ago (Gregerson, 2010). As in 2010, in 2017 WW and BD reflect a corrupting, exploiting holding environment (Winnicott, 1975).  A holding environment is the surrounds consciously created by elders to raise children to fit cultural needs.  If these movies hold true, the 2017 holding environment differs for girls and boys.

Diana. A female single parent and her village of Amazon warrior women raise Wonder Woman in a holding environment to produce warriors. Wonder Women girls become protectors against an acknowledged hidden evil lurking in the near future that requires warrior preparation in the present. Diana’s instrument of justice is her honed warrior skills and fierce courage to go toward rather than run from evil.  She is the “means” to justly search out and effectively counter evil in the world.  Along the way, she finds romance and physical intimacy, but not marriage.

Baby. Orphan Baby Driver cares for his foster parent, whose age is his main recommendation as a guardian. Baby Driver boys exploit weakness in situations and in others, to get ahead even if through a life of crime.  Only a flimsy voice of conscience emanates from a foster parent too physically ill to do anything except weakly warble cautionary notes. Baby Driver boys escape—from inner tinnitus, from outer danger, from prison after honorably serving a sentence.  Even his name “Baby which he clearly, confidently spells for people indicates escape from his physical reality as a young man, not an infant.

Difference in Intensity

Both Wonder Woman and Baby Driver are headstrong, ramming pell-mell toward a future dalliance with love and confrontation with evil. In many ways, love and evil interlace for both.  Evil has a name “Aries” for Wonder Woman.  For Baby Driver, evil’s name is “Doc.”  On the other hand, for love, a lost fighter pilot is the first man Wonder Woman has seen.  For Baby Driver love appears as a fetching waitress, also an orphan, who takes a liking to him since they share immersion into a world encased in music and music metaphors.  For both Wonder Woman and Baby Driver, evil threatens their love interest, destroying Wonder Woman’s paramour while Baby Driver successfully shields his crush from the tainted world.

For both protagonists, elders are suspect, revealed as secretly evil, or needing care themselves. So both Wonder Woman and Baby Driver look to their peer love interests for help to save the world or themselves.  It is no wonder that both these idols are too busy saving the world or escaping from evil to embrace traditional American roles of marriage, setting up a household and a family.  As Diana asks, “Marriage, what is that?”

This is the ideal life for youths that America unintentionally—or intentionally—transmits worldwide: A working woman like Diana is alone with her memories; an ex-convict like Baby Driver re-gains his faithful girlfriend after paying the price for his crimes. This world is a 2010s topsy-turvy world diametrically different from 1950s America—it is now radical to espouse traditional marriage between man and woman for raising youth.  What cultural outcomes will this diversity-embracing holding environment produce?  Will tradition be respected equitably as one diverse option?  Media psychologists hold computers at the ready to document the outcomes.

References

Gregerson, M. B. (2010). “The dawning of desire skewed through a media lens, and the loss of American adolescence: M I 4 U?” In M. B. Gregerson (Ed.), The cinematic mirror for psychology and life coaching (pp. 51-76). New York, NY: Springer.

Winnicott, D. W. (1975). The concept of a healthy individual. In C. Winicott, R. Shepherd, & M. Davis, D.W. Winnicott (Eds.), Home is where we start from: Essays by a psychoanalyst (pp. 21-38). New York: Penguin.

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