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‘Wonder Woman’ soared to No. 1 at the perfect time for millions of teenage girls

Wonder Woman is No. 1 at the U.S. box office and millions of
teenage girls are getting the message of empowerment. The
movie, experts say, could not have come a moment too soon.

The Warner Bros.

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movie made $100.5 million in its first weekend in
the U.S. and $122.5 million worldwide on a $149 million budget. It’s
the biggest opening weekend for a female director (Patty
Jenkins) and, after years of movies with male superheroes,
marks a cultural and commercial shift. Starring Israeli actress
Gal Godot, it’s the fourth in the DC Comics universe, and
the first three performed poorly compared
with Walt Disney’s

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 Marvel franchise.

Jenkins said she was moved “beyond belief” by the photos on
social media over the weekend of young girls dressed as Wonder
Woman. One parent tweeted: “THANK YOU
@PattyJenks & @GalGadot for bringing #WonderWoman to life
in such a beautiful way! My daughter stood up & cheered.
Speechless.” Another wrote, “Asked if I’m taking my
daughter to Wonder Woman — replied that I’m also taking my son
because boys need to see that women can save the world too.”

Don’t miss: Teenage girls rule the (media) world

Teenage girls have had scant female role models in superhero
movies, unless they were part of a male-led ensemble, but this
female superhero is different. Actress Gal Godot told Glamour:
“She is not relying on a man, and she’s not there because of a
love story. She’s not there to serve someone else.” She added,
“I think women are amazing for being able to show what they
feel. I admire women who do. I think it’s a mistake when women
cover their emotions to look tough.”

Some 36% of girls either are depressed or experienced depression
between the ages of 12 and 17, compared to just 13.6% of boys,
according to study of more than 100,000 children.

This is a positive message for girls. More than one-third of
teenage girls experience depression, more than twice the rate
of boys at that age, a new study that analyzed interviews with
100,000 children and published in the journal
Translational Psychiatry concluded
. Some 36% of girls
either are depressed or experienced depression between the ages
of 12 and 17, compared to just 13.6% of boys during the same
period, the study found. These differences originate in
childhood.

“Wonder Woman” is the latest corporate push to reach young
women, from “The Hunger Games” series — which spurred an interest in archery
by young girls in real life
— to the female heroines Rey
and Jyn from the “Star Wars” franchise, says Sharalyn Hartwell,
owner of Hartwell Communications, a marketing firm in San
Francisco. “It is critical for women of all ages to see
narratives that are aspirational and relatable, which is what
‘Wonder Woman’ represents,” she says.

“Not only does she save the world and kick the ass of her
enemies,” Hartwell says, “she’s beautiful, she is kind and
loving and she is confident in who she is. That’s what girls
really need to hear and will have a lasting resonance. They can
embrace all the aspects of themselves: A teen who likes science
and makeup and sports and boys, and that’s ok and wonderful.”
The whole “third wave feminism” movement is
really about women being able to embrace all sides of them, she
adds.

Some experts say movies and the massive media storm around
certain blockbuster hits can have an impact in raising
awareness about issues related to minorities, women, the LGBT
population, racism, sexual violence and even how we talk about
mental health. Jordan Peele, director and writer of the horror
movie “Get Out” (2017) told The Verge there was an Obama-era
post-racial lie” being
perpetuated that his movie addressed by examining the kind of
racism that lurks just below the radar.

Approximately 31% of black, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander,
Native American, and LGBTQ girls aged between 14 and 18 have
survived some kind of sexual assault or sexual violence.

The World Economic Forum last year released a list of movies
and television dramas “that changed the world,”
including “A Girl in the River” (2015) directed by Sharmeen
Obaid-Chinoy about honor killings of girls, “Cathy Come Home”
(1966) directed by Ken Loach, a TV series that led to a public
debate in the U.K. about homelessness, “Philadelphia” (1993)
directed by Jonathan Demme, which dealt with a lawyer’s (Tom
Hanks) struggle for justice after he contracted HIV/AIDS and
was fired.

Also see: This is what American teenagers want to be
when they grow up

The World Economic Forum list also had some blockbusters,
including “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), a dystopian
environmental disaster movie where the planet is plunged into a
new Ice Age. As far-fetched as that Roland Emmerich movie was,
this paper by Anthony
Leiserowitz
, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, found “The Day After
Tomorrow” had a “significant impact” on the climate change risk
perceptions and activism and even the “voting intentions” of
movie goers.

What’s more, television shows and movies with strong and more
diverse female lead characters help educate young boys and
teenagers, Hartwell says. Nearly one-third (31%) of black,
Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and LGBTQ
girls aged between 14 and 18 have survived some kind of sexual
assault or sexual violence of some kind, according to a survey of more than
1,000 girls
released in April by the National Women’s Law
Center, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

A strong female superhero who doesn’t exist to support a male
lead hitting No. 1 at the box office sends a message to young
men too, Hartwell says. More diverse representation of women in
movies impacts a generation of boys who are more open to taking
on traditional “female” roles within households,
families, and relationships, she adds. “Millennial
dads are more active parents and you see millennial dads very
passionate about shaping this perspective for their daughters.”

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