So it’s basically a Wonder Woman week here at Women and Words, as author Lee Winter joined us a couple days ago to chat about WW and why she’s worried about the film. Will it live up to the hype? Will it be yet another backbenching of women in their own films? Will it be an ode to heteronormativity and androcentrism?
The trailers don’t suggest this, but like Lee, I’ve spent years getting my hopes up only to have them smashed against the rocks of the deeply embedded sexism in our culture.
Full disclosure. I’m seeing the film today (I already have my ticket) and I’ll most likely fangirl it in the next week or two. Here are 5 reasons I’m looking forward to it:
Jeeziz GAWD, it’s Wonder Woman. I mean, REALLY. She’s freaking ICONIC. I could expound for hours about her history (cool short video at that link talking about that) in comics and in pop culture. We could deconstruct her various manifestations (womanifestations?) over the years and debate feminist undertones even in the most sexist of contexts (and vice versa) but ultimately, what it all comes down to is: WONDER WOMAN. And for fangirls like me growing up, she was crucial to our hopes and our worldviews about ourselves, women, and media of all forms.
From the trailers, the film looks visually stunning. Yes, I’m a fangirl over WW first and foremost, but I’m also a fangirl/movie geek in general and I appreciate cinematography and well-made films in that regard. So here. Have a look at one of the trailers:
Director Patty Jenkins. Jenkins is one of those quiet sorts of directors in the sense that you don’t hear much about her and she’s very picky about the projects she undertakes. You may know her without actually knowing you do; she directed the film Monster (2003), about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, starring Charlize Theron in the role. Aside from that, she’s mostly directed TV, as in AMC’s pilot for The Killing, which earned her an Emmy nomination.
And with Wonder Woman, she’s stepping into some fraught territory. First, DC/Warner doesn’t have the best track record with its comics-to-movies attempts. So that alone has her at a disadvantage. Second, any time a movie features a powerful woman, there’s a ton of baggage that comes with it. If this movie flops, it’s not like movies that star dudes. It becomes a referendum on women in media in general.
And yeah, that freaking SUCKS. But that’s the reality, and I know I don’t have to tell you that. A lot is riding on this movie, though Jenkins herself is not a fan of that view:
“I can’t take on the history of 50 percent of the population just because I’m a woman,” says Jenkins, bristling when asked about the heavy responsibility of directing Wonder Woman, the most expensive film ever shot by a person with two XX chromosomes (its $150 million budget surpasses Kathryn Bigelow’s $100 million K-19: The Widowmaker). “I’m just trying to make the greatest version of Wonder Woman that I can for the people who love the character as much as I do and hope that the movie lives up to all the pressure that’s on it.” — “The Complex Gender Politics of the ‘Wonder Woman’ Movie,” by Tatiana Siegel, Hollywood Reporter, May 31, 2017
She’s right, of course. She can’t take on that history but she damn sure is aware of the baggage that surrounds women in media and the double standards that apply. Big-budget movie starring male lead in a superhero role that flops? No biggie. Just film another big-budget movie with male lead as superhero movie. But if it’s a woman starring in a big-budget movie as a superhero and that movie flops, it’s because “nobody wants to see these kinds of movies so let’s go back to the dudes.”
Actress Gal Gadot, who plays the iconic heroine, says, “That’s the challenge — how to tell a story of a woman and make it universal” (Quoted in “The Complex Gender Politics of the ‘Wonder Woman’ Movie). Because unfortunately, women are not “the universal.” Rather, it’s the dude’s experience in a movie that is perceived as the “universal,” and the rest of us are supposed to find our own experiences represented through him.
Flip the script. Wonder Woman can be a universal and hell, if young boys were dressing up as Ghostbusters for Halloween after the 2016 remake starring all women, then damn right you can find a universal experience through a woman character.
So I’m looking forward to this movie because of Patty Jenkins’ directing cred. Here’s hoping she nails it.
Women kicking ass. You guys. I freaking LIVE to see this represented on screen. Complex women who, when necessary, throw down. And Gadot herself is a badass. She’s a former Israel Defense Forces soldier. And she played Wonder Woman in the 2016 Superman vs. Batman film (another DC project that fizzled), and was one of the bright spots in it. So I think she’ll do that aspect of this film justice.
Backstory. We’re getting Wonder Woman’s backstory in this film, which means we’re going to see her as a little girl (see trailer above) and we’re going to watch her train and become a freaking badass Amazon warrior. We are going to see AGENCY, people. We’re going to see what makes Wonder Woman who she is, and how that plays into the responsibilities she takes.
In other words, providing us Diana’s backstory thus hangs the film on her and her role in it. I love that we get this herstory, that we see Diana evolve into Wonder Woman before she goes into the world beyond the island of her birth. She’s already pretty clear on who she is and what she needs to do before she goes into the world beyond, and thus retains her agency. At least, that’s the sense I’m getting from the trailers.
Yesterday morning on NPR, Claudia Puig, president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, talked about this film and said, “it’s her movie. It’s completely her movie.”
And so far, people who were able to see early screenings of it seem across the board really stoked about it. I’m going to try not to think that DC had a low bar set because of its past comics-to-movies attempts and hope that Wonder Woman is a freaking home run.
We shall see.
Happy Friday, and may the odds be ever in our favor.