why i loved atomic blonde when i saw it, & why i love it now

Last night, I rewatched Atomic Blonde. It's been about a year since the film came out, and I still remember how much I loved it when I saw it last August. When I walked out of the theater then, I had a smile on my face. I was buzzing — feeling the similar rush that Wonder Woman also left me with, but on an even grander scale. 

I was curious if, upon rewatching it, I would feel the same. (Some people are staunchly against rewatching movies or rereading books; I actually enjoy it — but that's a blog post for another time). And once again, I loved the film.

The story is intriguing (albeit slightly confusing); the action is intense; the 80s soundtrack is so much fun (seriously. so good.); the outfits are fantastic; and, above all, Charlize Theron's character, Lorraine, is one of the strongest female leads I've seen in a long time.

Theron did the vast majority of her own stunts, including the insane fighting sequences. It's easy to see that she is talented — and also that she is strong. It was her strength that struck me above so much else. There’s a scene early on in the movie where the camera pans over Theron’s naked, bruised back in an ice bath. She didn’t have the narrow shoulders ubiquitous of so many slender actresses today; she had the strong shoulders and broad back of an athlete. Seeing those traits on someone else, someone portrayed as both feminine and strong and well, sexy, as opposed to seeing them on myself — I finally saw them as beautiful.

As someone that spent 17 years as a competitive swimmer, equally hating the broad back and strong arms I didn’t find feminine, and also loving them for what they let me do in the water, I never realized how empowering it would be to finally see a similar body to mine reflected on such a large stage. Seeing Theron as both feminine and strong was something I never knew I needed.

The paradoxical thing is, I always loved feeling strong; there was just a disconnect in my brain when I saw the actual physical manifestation of that strength in my back and shoulders. It feels cheesy to admit all of this. And slightly disappointing, that something external to myself helped me finally overcome the disjoint between pride of the strength I had worked for, and the wish that I could be skinny rather than athletic. (A wish I finally no longer feel).

It would be silly to say that a movie miraculously fixed something I've struggled with for some time. (Try fitting into a blazer as a female athlete and you’ll understand the frustration). But Atomic Blonde was, and is, the perfect reminder that just as I'm proud to feel strong, I should be proud to look it, too.