Alamo reserves 2 of its 33 June 6th Austin ‘Wonder Woman’ screenings for women. Men, predictably, lose their minds.
A few days ago, the Alamo Drafthouse did what the Alamo Drafthouse does best: announce a special event themed to one of its upcoming releases. In celebration of Wonder Woman, the first female-driven superhero movie in the current wave of Marvel and DC productions, Alamo announced that they would be holding a special women-only screening on Tuesday, June 6 at their downtown location in Austin. If you identify as a woman, you could spend a night at Alamo’s very own Themyscira and enjoy the film with an all-female audience and staff.
Almost immediately, the company was inundated with both positive and negative responses. The Drafthouse’s initial Facebook post became ground zero for both the worst and best responses to the event; some fans celebrated the fact that Drafthouse was using Wonder Woman as an opportunity to celebrate intersectional feminism, while others decried the event as just another example of liberal snowflakes and their need for safe spaces.
The resulting controversy drew the attention of newspapers and television networks around the world, and before you knew it, Drafthouse’s fun little Wonder Woman screening was the subject of reports in TIME, Washington Post, Fox News, and even (maybe don’t read that last one). Needless to say, the show sold out in no time whatsoever, and the Drafthouse quickly announced its intentions to add screenings and roll the event out to its non-Austin locations.
On paper, it’s hard for anyone to defend why they’re upset with the two special screenings of Wonder Woman. There are an additional 31 screenings (three-one) of Wonder Woman in Austin that same Tuesday; that doesn’t even include non-Drafthouse locations, an extra level of math I have no interest in doing. Hell, there’s even one additional late screening of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz for those who really want to see the film in the heart of downtown Austin.
Put another way: on one of the thirty days in June, a whopping 6% of the possible Wonder Woman screenings will be only available to people who identify as women, and that’s enough to have folks on the internet threatening to involve the United States Office of the Attorney General or invoking references to Brown vs. Board of Education.
And this isn’t a situation where the media has chosen to shape a grand narrative out of a few bad apple; plenty of people are pissed off about these screenings for absolutely no good reason. Wade into the comments sections on your social media platform of your choice and you can still see people expressing outrage at the Drafthouse for ‘promoting inequality.’ If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can visit the Men’s Rights section of Reddit, which has currently had three separate posts on its front page dedicated to the Alamo Drafthouse screenings with no shortage of ugly replies. When not taking shots at women for having to pay for their own tickets, the denizens of r/MensRights have called this event misandrist, sexist, and bigoted, despite the fact that they’ve dedicated three posts to the ‘inequality’ of women being allowed 6% of the whole.
We saw plenty of Ghostbusters-themed articles written in 2016 that highlighted some of the fatal flaws in current fandom, and this response is another data point in that argument. The myriad of assumptions that go into the Wonder Woman backlash — that women attending superhero movies are an invasion of male space, that equality means that women should never have things that belong only to them — betrays the kind of backward thinking that frustrate the hell out of women on the internet every. single. goddamn. day. If this Alamo Drafthouse story is the first time you’ve brushed up against the mass of fans who believe that all comic book things should be primarily for men, then bless your heart for staying out of the fray this long. It’s not a very welcoming space.
There’s also the chance that this takes an ugly turn in the next week when some tech-bro with too much money and not enough sense decides to sue the Alamo Drafthouse for unfair discrimination. Or when a handful of guys show up to the screening and angrily demand that they ‘identify as a woman’ and should be allowed admittance, thereby adding a level of transphobia to their toxic masculinity. Even under the best of circumstances, I am both a worrier and a hypochondriac, so I cannot help but see the various ways in which this could become a headache for the company, albeit one that they gladly take on in exchange for equality.
But I personally hope that those who click for the controversy will stay for the affirmation. For every person who has expressed outrage at the screenings, another has expressed excitement at the opportunity for a bunch of women to gather together and watch a kick-ass movie that celebrates women. I’ve seen people discussing sponsoring tickets for non-profit organizations focused on women and women’s health, making plans to drive down to Austin with a close sibling or parent, or simply cheering on those who will attend the screening even if it’s not targeted to them. And on the macro-level, the screenings have become a welcome (albeit brief) respite from the horrible headlines we see every day around the world. We still live in a violent and stupid country? Well, at least there’s going to be this one fun thing happening the first week of June. Anything else is outrage for the sake of outrage.