We don’t need a Wonder Woman movie. Yeah, I said it.
I can scarcely imagine a worse waste of digital celluloid: flying spears thrown from thin, gangly limbs, a star-spangled miniskirt threatening wardrobe malfunctions for two and a quarter hours, unblemished ivory skin strained under gold and platinum body armor, practicality be damned. Wonder Woman the movie — fangirl nirvana, fanboy nightmare. Whenever people discuss the needless parade of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who populate superhero movies’ starring roles, part of me appreciates their boredom with the obnoxious identity politics at play; what was The Avengers but a classic fraternity bro-down with human growth hormone, outdated mythology and colorful titanium tossed in for kicks?
The problem is that my stunted imagination cannot anticipate a Wonder Woman movie that would rise above such over-budgeted B-movie camp. For many, it shouldn’t — some progressives argue that corporate movie studios owe their female fans a film that highlights feminine superheroics, a movie that proves that women can helm action films and generate revenue with amoral vengeance as violent as any man’s. I find this argument wanting. Corporate movie studios are not public charities, and the thought of spending one-hundred-fifty million dollars to offer American little girls a superheroine to idolize appears to my mind an obnoxious misuse of movie funding. (That’s like nine Fruitvale Stations). Superhero comics involve White male power fantasies — when creators and fans support properties that challenge this monochrome status quo, we can applaud and demand more.
In contrast, Princess Diana of Themyscira never challenges White male comic hegemony; she is their avatar of control as much as her Trinity pals Batman and Superman. Even Wonder Woman’s visual design only benefits the male gaze: no one’s ever been able to explain why a busty superheroine would fight crime in a shiny metal halter-top. Batman’s functionality-meets-fear-factor cowl and utility belt is an A-type personality’s triumph over personal dread; Spider-Man’s webbed mask offers total anonymity amid effective brand management, a constant reminder of the street-level capitalist greed that overcame Peter Parker before his brush with great responsibility. In contrast, Wonder Woman still resembles a World War II showgirl, a classic Hollywood pinup, an adorable brunette whose smoky eyes and chubby cheeks were plastered on some archaic B-52 before terror bombing runs over the Rhineland. Wonder Woman screams for generations at our daughters that their only Kryptonite is long pants.
I know, I know – feminists the world over owe a debt to this character, an avatar of female physical ability and thoughtful feminine cooperation since the 1940’s. Still, a live-action movie for this character appears at best superfluous. Sexism alone will prevent the obvious casting of a fitness model under the tiara, a woman who can rival not only Superman’s power set, but his physique as well. Instead, we’d receive more of the Joss Whedon conceit — another ninety-two pound five-foot-one-inch lily-white waif who practices tai chi and knocks out six-foot-two-inch men twice her size and age with slow roundhouse kicks. The goons’ brawny, broken masculinity will fly across movie screens, launched from determined but weak punches by tiny, dainty fists, and all the men in the theater will pretend that the bad comedy on-screen makes sense, so they don’t screw up their chances at date-night sex. (I watched Firefly, loved Serenity, but let’s be clear — Summer Glau can’t kick my ass.) Women today lift exceptional weight, run ultra-marathons, and go hard in the paint — to cast Wonder Woman, Warner Brothers would need to channel Nike and reflect the active woman’s sweat and sacrifice. This the male gaze will not allow.
Please note: I do not oppose the idea of a superheroine movie — I’m just not convinced that Wonder Woman deserves IMAX immortality. Wonder Woman isn’t really what people care about; the idea of her is. The actual written character is a jumble of feminist virtue, humanitarian military interventionism, and ancient Greek-themed fantasy. She justifies murder with military necessity, yet promotes diplomacy among nations. She’s governed by moral precepts developed when infanticide was common and literacy was rare, yet modern women raise her as a champion for their interests. Outside of this confusion, none of us care much for her villains; what exactly do the Wonder Woman movie proponents believe Diana will accomplish for two hours? She offers new viewers precious little: no childhood trauma, no technological advances, just boring invulnerability and gravity defying breasts.
In place of workable plot, some Wonder Woman movie boosters suggest that her Themysciran homeland can be depicted in detail, using Thor’s lengthy excursion into Asgard as template. They forget: no one confused Thor with a good movie. The updated Norse pantheon rendered cross-culturally with noticeably computer-generated visuals gave viewers the sense that Asgardian magic was no more than science advanced beyond human comprehension; this assertion allowed a certain modernism to permeate Thor. Wonder Woman’s ancient Greek creation myth is just too old world for a summer blockbuster, unless the studio is willing to infuse Zack Snyder big-budget grindhouse into the film. Even then, I don’t think it would work: the successful fantasy franchises of the last decade like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones borrow liberally from the Middle Ages for cultural roots. In so doing, they play on the modern Western conceit that Western Europe’s total disconnect from Roman civilization, African mathematics and Asian trade did not retard Western advancement. In contrast, the Amazons of Themyscira reek of age, not wistful nostalgia. Apologies to Shawn Taylor, but it strains credibility to watch Minotaurs stampede down Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s just silly: we haven’t seen a Wonder Woman movie in part because her civilization never progressed past the Bronze Age. Send Amazons to invade America with agile feet and swift spears. We’d carpet bomb the phalanxes and mow down any survivors with M-240’s. Shock and awe.
The point? We don’t need a Wonder Woman movie. A superhuman feminist avatar is not a person. A magically invulnerable persona for antiquated philosophy is not a person. Movies have to revolve around people to work, and no one molds people from clay. Given the licensing, Diana’s unusable on-screen, the comic industry answer to Hilary Clinton. The Golden Fleece of upper-income liberal circles is the idea of a female American President, and no other single figure commands the pressured fanaticism of that feminist dream like the former Secretary of State. Her domestic centrism, her Iraq War support, her emotive haranguing of rival Senator Barack Obama – all these lapses from leftist orthodoxy prove secondary concerns to those who want the highest glass ceiling in America to finally shatter after eighteen million cracks in 2008. Perhaps one day, these liberal feminists will realize the dream and elect Mrs. Clinton President. I don’t know. But I’m sure their gender tribalist drive for a woman President does not ask whether a third Clinton Administration would improve America.
The fabled Wonder Woman movie strikes a particular ambivalence. I doubt it would be any good, and I’m not sure making such a film accomplishes much outside of soothing the bruised egos of women who watched The Avengers and found Scarlett Johansson no more than leather-clad eye-candy who watched with awe while a Norse god rode lightning. Like Mrs. Clinton, Diana of Themyscira works best as a torchbearer, the figure who keeps the dream alive until a successive generation realizes its promise. We don’t get to a President Barack Obama without the storied campaigns of Rep. Shirley Chisholm and Rev. Jesse Jackson. We don’t get to the box office records of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man without the unforeseen profit margins of Wesley Snipes’ Blade. Maybe we need a solo live-action superheroine movie to focus on Kara Zor-El or Cassandra Cain or Carol Danvers or Amanda Waller or Jessica Drew or Martha Washington or Barbara Gordon or Ororo Munroe to meet today’s clamor for a female superhero movie. Because when that movie is made, chances are it will cost less and inspire more. And we’ll still have Princess Diana of Themyscira to thank for carrying the torch in the dark.
- What a Wonder Woman Movie Could and Should Look Like (comicvine.com)
- WB CEO Says We Need a ‘Wonder Woman’ Movie or TV Show (screenrant.com)
69 thoughts on “We Do Not Need a Wonder Woman Movie”
Wow. Just wow. I couldn’t agree more, but you said it more “smarty-art” than I could have. I’ve always said that Wonder Woman is nowhere near as popular as we’ve been led to believe. She doesn’t deserve to be part of The Trinity for any other reason than the fact that she’s an old character. Hell, Captain Marvel has more of a claim to that third spot. There are no iconic WW stories outside of George Perez, and that means she existed for about 40 years before she even became relevant. Prior to that, it was just bondage tales. She’s great from a licensing standpoint, because she sells panties and lip gloss, but there’s very little value to the character outside of the marketing potential. There’s a problem that we’re still going back to Lynda Carter for interviews that don’t have anywhere near the camp level of those with Adam WEst, even though they should. Everything else is horribly dated, and misguidedly assumed to be reclaimed “feminism” in much the same way that black people want to reclaim “nigger”. It just doesn’t work like that.
Hey, thanks for the support Will! Yeah, I agree – there’s not much one can say in favor of Wonder Woman as a character. Probably the best Wonder Woman story I ever read was Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia by Greg Rucka, and the base tension there involved the complete incoherence of her old-world philosophies when applied to present-day moral concerns. You’re right – she’s great for mass marketing but horrid for decent writing.
Yet I was completely unaware of the massive amount of people online who clamor for a Wonder Woman film. There’s this idea that just because DC and Warner Brothers have produced multiple Batman and Superman films that Wonder Woman is owed the full Industrial Light & Magic treatment. If people want to waste their time reclaiming stuff, fine, but spending $150 million on that departs sanity. Thanks for reading.
Yes. Because we need endless Batman and Superman movies. Give me a fucking break. I’m sick of Bats and Supes hogging the movie screen. Give me a Wonder Woman movie anyday. Give Batman and Superman a rest. Hell, I’d watch a Ms.Marvel or Black Widow movie. DC and WB is really sucking Batman and Superman dry.
Adam, thanks for commenting! Now tell me, can you think of a decent Wonder Woman story to tell? I agree that a Ms. Marvel or Black Widow movie may also work; but I’m certain that a Wonder Woman movie would not.
If I’m wrong, tell me why.
Gods and Mortals. Down to Earth. Eyes of the Gorgon. Land of the Dead. Rise of the Olympian. The Circle. Hiketeia. Blood. Just to name a few possibilities.
Indicting liberal America is a weird and polarizing thing to bring up when talking about comics characters and their films. This has nothing to do with politics or Hillary Clinton, this has to do with giving one of comics’ most storied and iconic characters the treatment she deserves after seventy years in an age of comic book cinema.
While WB is sitting on it’s hands thinking it’s too hard to bring her to screen, Marvel’s getting ready to release a movie with a talking space raccoon that carries a machine gun. I think that Wonder Woman can find a place on a release schedule.
Joey D – thanks for reading and commenting! And thanks for the list of comics to check out – of the list, my favorite is the Hiketeia, personally. Wonder Woman is best when she’s forced to deal directly with the rampant contradictions in her worldview. Though I’m hard pressed to find anything in that list that rises to the impact and literary skill of a Batman: Year One.
On liberal America: when researching the online support for the fabled big-budget Wonder Woman film, it was consistently the liberals and progressives who boost the idea. I think Hilary Clinton’s career offers a useful parallel to the idea of a Wonder Woman film in that the same arguments about what the figure ‘deserves’ are used to promote her next accomplishment. We were told repeatedly in 2008 that Hilary ‘deserved’ the Democratic nomination for President, and that her center-right politics were less important than the symbol of a woman President.
Joey, you’re telling me that Wonder Woman deserves a movie because she’s a ‘storied and iconic character’. Notice how that’s not an argument for a good film with a compelling story. The parallel holds. And yes, Marvel makes a lot of trash; but Chris Nolan spoiled me – I expect DC to rise to something better. Wonder Woman just isn’t it.
That comes from someone that, frankly, sounds as if he hasn’t read a great deal of Wonder Woman stories. The character’s roots in Greek mythology help to elevate the themes present in the stories that are written well (by the likes of George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Greg Rucka, Allan Heinberg, Gail Simone, and Brian Azzarello) are compelling unto themselves, and have been used to successful degrees (both from the business perspective and from a storytelling perspective) in a lot of genre fiction. Wonder Woman’s story is resonant to millions of her fans because of her presence as both a warrior and a peacemaker, and how she flies in the face of conventional superhero.
She is compelling because of the fact that she is contrary to 90% of the tropes of superhero fiction, making an old medium seem fresh, in addition to the fact that her stories provide a universal mythological edge rooted in human history that would practically disappear from the DC Universe if she were to disappear from it. Her storytelling isn’t dissimilar from Thor’s in a number of ways, except for the fact that she’s not an Aryan man (as if we don’t have enough of those leading big budget films), and she’s not a god(dess). She’s more like us, and that can lend itself to a wide connection with audiences very easily.
Christopher Nolan’s superhero films were good because they embraced the core of the character they’re representing, but that is far from a one-size fits all solution. I would recommend watching her animated film and reading more of her stories (particularly her New 52 relaunch) before you completely and wantonly write off a character’s entire creative worth and viability as a cinematic property just because she hasn’t connected with you in the same way that Batman has.
And again, you remove universality from anything you write by allowing your political ideology to shape your argument, when in reality, one argument you’re making about Wonder Woman’s viability on film has virtually nothing to do with whomever you perceive is championing the character. It’s irrelevant. Pointing out that you’ve seen progressives saying she needs to be in a movie adds nothing to your argument, except for perhaps informing me that you have a distaste for progressives in general.
Be that as it may, you are definitely eloquent. I just happen to have issues with your ideas.
Joey D, I appreciate the compliment and feedback. You make a very strong argument in favor of Wonder Woman. I’ve been enjoying this conversation!
I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m wholly unfamiliar with Wonder Woman comics; certainly outside of the ones you mentioned there are a number of JLA stories where Wonder Woman leads the crew to save lives. Those are the best WW stories, in my opinion, tales where her natural leadership and cooperation drives the narrative, and a difficult moral quandary leaves the heroes without many useful options.
But let’s be clear – sanitized ancient Greek themes do not make comics fresh. If in a story you mentioned Wonder Woman debated ancient Grecian nonchalance toward infanticide versus modern prohibitions against harming children, we might have a use for the Minotaurs and spears. I’m no expert, but I haven’t seen that story. Further, while the juxtaposition of warrior and diplomat has been examined well in some WW fiction, it’s not like it makes anymore sense now than it did fifty years ago. Like Superman and Thor, her power set does less to isolate her from compelling storytelling than her lack of a compelling reason to display her gifts through superheroics.
That lack alone – while devastating – should not disqualify her from a superhero movie, but when coupled with the Bronze Age mythos (a hard sell to audiences outside of 300) and her serious philosophical confusion, one has to question the wisdom of placing roughly $150 million toward telling her story. But I admit: for me, greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie is similar to crafting a big-budget Rosie the Riveter film. They are both empty, dated feminist icons created by the male gaze for particular mid-Twentieth Century cultural purposes, and history’s dustbin gently calls.
On politics and comics: I wrote a blog post. This writing is not intended to offer a universal perspective; it’s persuasive writing designed to argue against the cultural progressivism that tires of on-screen White male superhumanity, but wishes it replaced with a White female version. It would be different for me if I felt that Wonder Woman’s movie boosters were not influenced by nostalgia or did not desire general cultural acceptance of the activist feminism Diana represents today. But I’ve read the commentary on this subject – people think Diana’s ‘owed’ a movie because she’s important, not because her books have delivered new comic readers to the medium or because her stories are so compelling.
We never discuss who Diana is as a person. She doesn’t really exist outside of the title, like both Batman and Superman have to to remain moderately sane. I respect your opinion Joey D, and I’m eager to read some of the comics you’ve promoted. I just don’t agree that Wonder Woman has enough character substance to craft a compelling film.
And we really do not need Thor in Spanx.
I agree with your critique of the superhero genre and the systems of oppression at work in white Hollywood/comics. However, in my opinion if Diana Prince/Wonder Woman’s story does not seem compelling, it is because it is being written from a (white) male vantage point. Trying to update her with today’s superhero tropes of Manichean binaries of good vs evil, amoral warfare/violence sprinkled with pseudo-feminist sayings does not suffice. That’s just taking down the master’s house with the master’s tools to become the new master. Cf. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1186373/
Nor would folding her into the Hillary Clinton trope and creating a new mythology be compelling because that isn’t about female liberation but about women wielding gendered white male power to dominate and oppress.
As you point out, a perfect character without a story arc or character development or conflict does not make for an interesting story. Now, the woman-centered, woman-narrated story of an Amazon woman, raised in her strength (not just physical btw), in a matrilineal/matriarchal/sacred feminine society “unhampered by masculine destructiveness” finding herself navigating and challenging a patriarchal/patrilineal sexist & misogynist society based on domination & violence where the women have internalized and defend those values is a much more compelling story.
Wonder woman was co-created by Elizabeth Marston and inspired by “liberated women” of the WWII era. While this certainly is the decade of the pin-up girl, let’s not forget this is also the decade of Rosie the Riveter. Of course Wonder Woman has super abilities that are standard in the superhero trope, she also is “armed” with “Bronze Age” values of honesty, communication, compassion, intuition, and her greatest quality–Love; values which are lacking in the superhero genre (unless it’s a hero motivated to vengeance for a dead wife/girlfriend/kid/convenient object of love plot device but vengeant love is not unconditional Love which we’re talking about here) and certainly not valued by patriarchy. And it’s these values that she uses to defeat evil and all its shades of grey, not just with fancy gadgets/tools/physical strength. It’s worth noting, in the original storylines she never took life; she valued life and saw the inherent possibility for change within each person.
Here’s woman of color Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman appealing to compassion and sisterhood to convince a Nazi woman to reject masculine destructiveness. Dated production values and lack of martial arts training aside, WW uses Love for Humanity as her strongest weapon in undermining fascism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdtyS7L9ChE
ASIDE: After the Lasso of Truth, the next gendered tool of womanity is the Point of View Gun. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsgbcYnmR6Y
A question progressives ask ourselves, how tdo we create a vision of a better world that does not replicate the structures of inequality & violence? Then, how do we create compelling storytelling that can show possibilities that exist outside the confines of what is valued in white male narratives (individualism, domination/violence). Aside: I think The Fifth Sacred Thing is a compelling story that achieves just that and when it finally gets brought to film I hope will open up possibility for better storytelling for women and men.
In a world filled with violence, misogyny, and warfare metaphors, when what is valued as is amoral violence (cf Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead) or internalized sexist norms (Girls) over women-centered stories (Call the Midwife) how do we awaken our potential to tell better stories?
I’m not going to contest the skimpy attire issue, that is pandering to the male gaze straight up. Homegirl needs to be wearing a sports top, yoga pants and minimalist shoes (see, Nike product placement opportunity right there).
Back to what we agree on. We don’t need another Wonder Woman story told by White men. We don’t need any superheroine story told by White men.
L. Nguyen – thanks for reading and commenting! I especially enjoyed your discussion of the desire among progressives to craft alternative superhero narratives that defy the binary moral conventions of the genre. I’m not certain, though, that Wonder Woman presents a useful avatar for that project. We both can agree that the character’s dress code, while patriotic, reeks of male desire, and ignores the fabric demands of practical activewear.
My thought is that the character’s visual design reflects her worldview. It’s unclear to me how a character so totally beholden to male sexuality can or should be used to defy the superhero comics’ patriarchal conventions. Wonder Woman is as much a tool of the master’s house as a batarang or Captain America’s shield.
After reading, I agree with some of your well-developed points, but disagree with others and with the overall idea. I will start by agreeing with the Joss Whedon comparison, but the argument there seems to be not that we don’t need a Wonder Woman movie, but that if one were made, it was be implausible and sexist. In that, I see exactly what you mean. To accept Wonder Woman as she is written and portrayed would also require accepting that she is of a height and weight much larger than the ‘norm’ of woman, and especially bigger than the current beauty standards of thinness. That does indeed pose a problem from Hollywood standpoints. So, yes, if one were made, it wouldn’t be the Wonder Woman movie that should have been made.
So that leaves the other part of your argument…that Diana of Themyscira isn’t compelling enough to warrant a movie, and in that, I must disagree on many points. You spoke about how she is an outdated symbol for women, but many women like myself who grew up with her mythos and her story, that’s simply not true. You overlooked several smaller facets of her story, and one very large one to us women: Diana is the one character who isn’t ‘completed’ by a significant other.
See, with Superman, Lois Lane is just as iconic. Batman has Catwoman, the dicotomy of being in love with a criminal. Peter Parker has Mary Jane. These three are arguably the most popular of comic characters, and they confirm and symbolize the idea of hero-worship for their male audiences. But you would be hard-pressed to find those in the general population that can remember Steve Trevor, Diana’s longtime love (until roughly the nineties, when he finally exited out for good). This is important to us women because Steve slowly but surely become secondary to Diana’s role of superheroine, and slowly but surely showed us that one didn’t need a male to make decisions for us or make us complete in any way. Now, Lois Lane has much the same attitude, and had she been on par with the “big guns”, we would get behind her, too. (In fact, in several stories, Lois Lane dons the mantle of Wonder Woman, like she does in Whom Gods Destroy). But Diana has both. She has the security and calm acceptance that she doesn’t require a lover, all while accepting that if it happened, it happened. She just never took it too seriously, never, ever made it the focus of her life. So in that, she remains a ideal for many of us, that our own lives and pursuits are just as important, rather than being a support for someone else;s.
Interestingly, a counterargument for why the white males who write Diana don’t let her succeed in romance is the “lesbian porn” argument: that a male can picture himself with the female in question if there’s no competition. It might apply here more if they explored a lesbian romance for Diana, but for now, I don’t think it holds enough water.
Then you’ve mentioned her Greek background. I believe you are also overlooking one important thing: the Amazons elected to leave Greece because of the tyranny of men. More specifically, the common acceptance of infanticide that you mentioned. When you research the subject at that time period and location, you find that a new mother presents the child to the new father, and he decides to accept it or “expose” it, i.e. leaving it to die among the elements. There was also the theme of female children being exposed more than male children. If this wasn’t a very, very big factor to the Amazons, I’d be shocked. In fact, this is explored peripherally and is an undercurrent in most Wonder Woman origin stories. Queen Hippolyta so longs for a child that she forms one out of clay, acting out her dreams. She didn’t form a male child. And her longing is so great, that likely had she born a child in the patriarchal society she left, she ran a good chance it would die. It would be foolish to think none of this occurred to the Amazons. There’s also the often-cited dotage all the Amazons had for Diana. They treated her as their child, collectively. In fact, in several stories, the other Amazons describe Diana as being the daughter of every Amazon, not just Hippolyta.
But let’s go back to the movie idea. You are certainly right that an argument of Wonder Woman ‘deserving’ a movie are indiscrimate at best. Hollywood doesn’t owe any of us anything; they are there to make movies. And if we don’t pay for and patron the movies that we want to see, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Yet I take issue with the premise here that Diana’s story is not compelling enough for the big screen. From beginning to end, it has great potential to be larger than life. Let’s say we start at the beginning. Hippolyta forms her out of clay, the gods bring her to life…that could all happen before the title appears on screen, and leave plenty. This would be a superheroine movie, so the first fight is a no-brainer: the contest that chooses which Amazon will carry the title and journey to Man’s World! How does that not have potential as a great start, without having a contrived villian battle? It has the bonus of involving strategy and secrecy, as Diana has to hide her participation from her mother. Then let’s jump ahead to when Diana arrives in the modern world. I like to look back at George Perez’s run for inspiration here: would Diana be fluent in English? How would she handle technology? You’ve got a fish-out-of-water story for the middle than is indeed similar to Thor’s. Diana solves this by befriending a Greek professor, and in the process inspires her daughter Cassie (the future Wonder Girl, and a spin off that we could most definitely use). So now you have the middle part of the story, that runs through many of Diana’s plots: she inspires young girls, even as she struggles to adapt. This new world is both better and worse than her mother and aunts ever taught her. She meets men and women who are both brutish and kind, cruel and enlightened. She has to drastically revise what her mission is here. Maybe she has a crisis of faith (again, this happens in many WW stories). Then a threat comes that requires her to stand up to it. The number of conflicts are endless:
-Ares, God of War decides it’s been too long since a major war, since now technology has reduced casualties.
-Perhaps Ares dupes Wonder Woman into starting a conflict through her ignorance, that she must now defuse.
-Diana hires Myndi Mayer to publicize her, and that has the unintended consequence of bringing out a super villain (from the second Wondy run, and also same as it went down in Iron Man)
-Along the lines of J. Michael Strazinsky’s run, Diana is orphaned on the streets in Man’s World and must fight to remember who she is
-As in “Spirit of Truth”, Diana finds that women reject her as being too perfect and standoffish, and must learn how to fight alongside others rather than above them
-As in “Golden Perfect” (which would be my hands-down choice), Diana in confronted with a conflict in which both sides are ‘true’ which results in her lasso shattering and causing the world to go mad. This has the added bonus of being about not separating a mother and child, whom Diana is trying to defend.
-Rucka’s “Eyes of the Gorgon” where Medusa traps the world into watching a gladiatorial battle against Wonder Woman. This would make a great movie, in the epic realization of the modern world that monsters still existed.
-And one that many current readers adore, “the Circle” by Gail Simone, which deals with the jealousy that a few Amazons had when Hippolyta was given a child and their secret longings for one were not likewise fulfilled. It has great tie-ins to the modern world as the villains coming for Diana are among her own aunts/sisters.
There’s a rich mine of stories that a writer can draw from to make a archetypal Wonder Woman movie. So while I nodded my head along to many of your points, I feel that you’ve glossed over far too much with this character. You fixated on her Greek god-created background, without acknowledging that it was a very small part of her story (by comparison, the Nazis/WW II parts were huge and you didn’t mention them at all). I do still agree that we might not get a movie that really showcases her physical attributes, but any female fan (and some male, I hope too) who has read Wonder Woman or watched the old TV show can tell you that it’s her battle with the need to be both strong and kind, both ruthless and merciful, that make her a Wonder Woman. That’s what we hope to see on a movie screen, that dual-sided conflict that Superman, Batman, and Spiderman just don’t employ. So I’m afraid that we do need a Wonder Woman movie. We need a superhero movie that doesn’t hinge on the same plot twist: that the hero has to be driven to anger and rage, and then channels that to win. We need a hero that steps up long, long before they are driven by negative emotions. Diana doesn’t wield her sword in rage, she does it with deliberate intent to prevent more harm.
And I will say one thing, that perhaps will resonate with you more: maybe we don’t need a Diana of Themyscira movie. But we do need a superheroine movie that embodies these ideals. I unfortunately do not see it with Captain Marvel, Supergirl, or Rogue, or any of those. Batgirl/Oracle is much closer, and Ororo Munroe/Storm is close, too. They definitely watered down her inspiring leadership potential in X-Men. Diana of Themyscira is the best example. If someone wants to do this, and lose the bathing suit uniform and the spangles and rename it something else, that’s fine. I’ll be happy with that. As long as it’s Diana on the inside, where it counts.
Michelle – I have to say, I adored this comment! Wow! Thank you for reading and commenting here – especially your deconstruction of popular recent Wonder Woman stories for use in a possible Wonder Woman movie. I want to focus on one part of this argument (a fleshed out rebuttal will have to wait for my lunch break), namely the Diana-as-immigrant idea. In the Nerds of Color FB group, some of us discussed this (most everyone agreed with you, btw).
I’m frankly concerned that the Diana-as-immigrant story prompt would quickly devolve into The Joy Luck Club with magic bracelets on-screen. I agree that the tension in Diana’s character with martial force and Angelina Jolie-style compassion makes to character compelling to her fans, I just disagree that that internal conflict works for those being introduced to Diana for the first time, especially those who also have to slog through comedic Western culture neophyte scenes. With the Nolanverse, Batman’s base insanity was presented as a response to urban crime cast as domestic terrorism. That’s something people did not have to be a billionaire or orphan to understand. Part of the Bat-fantasy entails the desire on the part of the viewer to find the neighborhood robber or alleyway pimp and physically make him pay for his crimes.
It’s adolescent, it’s cruel, and it’s accessible. Diana’s point-of-view is none of those things; reading Wonder Woman stories always made me feel detached from her narrative. Here gender isn’t the fault line – I’ve always been confused by comics that try to place the reader in the mind of a world figure who never takes the tiara off. She’s always Princess Diana, always the nurturing, compassionate diplomat who somehow thrives on physical combat. Joey D said somewhere in this thread that I to often caricature Wonder Woman. Joey may be correct – it happens because Diana is a caricature, an idea of a strong woman rather than just a strong woman. Until Diana’s given a personal story/ philosophy/ narrative that can hook new readers and viewers by relating to their own lives (like Bats and terrorism), it would be a crime to put her out on the big screen.
Unless people want the Green Lantern treatment for their Wonder Woman movie.
In counterpoint to the comedic-neophyte troupe (which I wince at when it’s used, most often), there are other Diana-as-immigrant situations that work better. For example, in the Wonder Woman animated movie most recently done, she had no problems fitting in with the dress and the speaking with people, but she had an outright problem with women acting subservient (Etta Candy drops a pen under a table and tries to flirt Steve Trevor into retrieving it, while Diana gets irritated and just lifts the table and gets it herself). Diana is not stupid, nor would she walk through the streets of New York City wearing her bathing suit and gawking at Macy’s windows. She would adopt the clothing of the culture easily, and set about her mission, so an immigrant story would and should reflect a much more businesslike cultural clash. In most of the origin stories, she in fact approaches a military installation first and begins negotiations there, not just randomly plopping down in the middle of a metropolis.
There’s also the troupe that would work better; exposed as a superhero before being exposed to the culture. What I mean is that she can intercept a threat immediately upon arrival, therefore skipping all the nonsense of explaining to a disbelieving public who she is. For example, in one of the other stories (I do not have my books accessible this morning to reference directly), she first speaks with the U.N. and the immediately conflict is that while she is Greek, there is friction that she’s perceived as an American superhero and therefore represents a threat to the other nations. This is another source of great conflict.
But let’s go a bit simpler first. Your concern is that Diana is not relational to audiences, yet I’m not sure about the basis for that. First off, she’s a woman, so half the population relates to her pretty well, something that doesn’t happen with any of the other superhero movies. Tossing out the superheroics themselves (or else Superman and Batman wouldn’t be successful either), we are left with her royal status and her diplomat/warrior parts. Yet when you ask a random, non-comic-fan audience member to describe Wonder Woman, you’ll get that she’s a warrior for peace. That’s it. No one is concerned with her being a princess, since she employs none of the trappings of one, except the tiara. Even that does not represent a crown to the average public, as she’s most often depicted as throwing it as a weapon (see: every Wonder Woman calendar). No one is concerned with her being a diplomat either, to be more specific: she’s seen as a fighter.
What Wonder Woman really is: an archetype of the Woman Warrior. This is a theme that has persisted through many stories, from Tomb Raider to Buffy to Xena, and so on. I know that the Buffyverse reference doesn’t appeal to you, but it is still part of this narrative. She is bigger than your typical strong-woman story. In your blog, you portray this as gutting any substance and leaving us with a veneer, but to many if not most others, we get that she is the original, not the cast mold. These other heroines aren’t made from her caricature, they are sprung from her examples.
You also mention that her story does not “hook new readers.” Sadly, neither Batman nor Superman do this either. While Batman enjoys a jump in trade paperbacks sold during each movie that comes out, it drops back to normal levels shortly after. And it’s important to note that the sales today don’t even approach the number of sales a decade or two ago. For example, Action Comics sold roughly 50K issues last month (September 2013 numbers). Now, looking back at a random month in 1997 (I looked at March 1997 this time), Action Comics sold 96K copies. It was issue #733, nothing pivotal, (it guest-starred The Ray), and yet it shows the massive decline in comic book sales overall, despite the number of movies they made. In July 2006, when Superman Returns came out, Action Comics sold 58K. So, they’ve held steady, not brought in any new readers. If that is a criteria, comics should be thriving, and they are not. It’s not a factor of the movies or the characters, it’s a factor of perception. Comics are regarded as for kids, and too expensive to boot (average price her book now is $3.99). It might also be pertinent to know that Wonder Woman’s current book is selling about 35K issues per month on average. Right now, she is outselling Catwoman, Supergirl, Green Arrow, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and Ultimates Spider Man. Not the big guns, no, but she has actually increased sales.
Lastly, let’s talk the sexuality, which I did not touch on, but is discussed in your original post. Many if not most have agreed that the costume is far too impractical to be useful, and artists have worked around that as much as possible over time. In fact, her costume has been much more versatile than you might know. She has worn shorts and pants, and had tops that included jackets and also straps on the upper part. The Wonder Woman you most often see in pop culture is depicted that way because it’s most recognizable. That doesn’t mean it cannot be altered for a movie. And it also does not mean, most importantly of all: that just because she is sexy, she cannot be taken seriously. This is a dangerous message and I hope that you are not truly purporting it, because that puts the onus on women to downplay attractiveness to the opposite sex in order to be considered real people. I say with all seriousness, if Wonder Woman wears a short skirt or she wears the bathing suit costume, she still is who she is, a heroine for us to look up to.
I feel like you might be getting a lot of pushback and criticism of this article because you don’t realize how much Wonder Woman remains important to women today. We are in the midst of another ‘war on women” if you want to speak politics again, but we don’t pigeonhole it to that. In our very beauty-obsessed society, we have her as a representative who is both strong and specifically kind to women themselves. From a recent paper by Jewell Hankins: “Her image is so powerful that she has even been used during therapy sessions to help women overcome painful childhood experiences or recent crises they have faced as adults.” That comes from P.M. Thomas: “Dissociation and internal models of protection: Psychotherapy with child abuse survivors.” Don’t underestimate the impact that she has had on our collective consciousness. She remains the one constant that Rosie the Riveter has not, a superheroine that could be and is just as relatable now as she was in the 40s, the 50’s, the 70’s, and today.
Yet again, your opinion and stance is one continually based more on caricature than it is on actual substance. I hear a lot about Rosie the Riveter from you, but very little in regards to the actual conflict and character evolution that the character has had over the course of her lifespan. Like Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman is continually reinvented to suit the times of the moment, but because she’s never been as popular as the two leaders of the League, the era-to-era changes and/or progressions do not tend to register with people that don’t go out of their way to find them. This may be a failure on the part of DC in bringing this to peoples’ attention, but it’s true nonetheless.
Who Diana is as a person is paramount for her post-Crisis reinvigoration in George Perez’s “Gods and Mortals.” Everyone loves to talk about John Byrne’s and Frank Miller’s trendsetting methods of modernizing Superman and Batman, but Perez’s stroke with Wonder Woman is just as great a story as 1986;’s “Man of Steel,” with the same modern spin created by 87’s Batman: Year One.
So, again, it appears as though your lack of specific familiarity with critically acclaimed Wonder Woman stories and how they’ve shaped her character, as most fans of comic book films or specifically other characters seem to have, is the largest contributor to your inability to see the potential of a Wonder Woman feature. That and your insistence on pegging her as little more than a dated feminist symbol seriously reduces the truth of who she is as a character, and this is solved by reading Wonder Woman stories of merit. Trust me, they’re voluminous.
In that regard, the clash of the old world versus the modern is exactly the crux of Gail Simone’s first story arc as the ongoing writer of Wonder Woman, called “The Circle,” and the further modernizations brought about by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang in 2011’s “Blood,” specifically to her origin and the scope of her mission, was one of the most highly critically acclaimed relaunches of the New 52 alongside Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man and Scott Snyder’s Batman.
As far as the politics are concerned, I don’t have issue with the expression as much as I do the relevance. It’s been my experience that stating political beliefs in an article where the subject matter appeals to multiple ideologies may bring about unwanted scrutiny from readers and a segmentation of your potential audience, but if you’re willing and encouraging in your acceptance of that risk then again, my issue is with the relevance. Your perception of Wonder Woman’s status as either a dated feminist symbol or an icon of progressive feminism (which may or may not be true and/or valid) is irrelevant to her viability as a cinematic property.
When Warner Bros. execs sit down in Burbank and decide to greenlight Wonder Woman on film, either in Justice League or in her own solo adventure, they won’t be considering which sections of American society will be receptive to it: they’ll be making a worldwide business decision.
Joey D, thanks for another stellar comment! I can’t pretend expert-level recall of every Wonder Woman storyline of the past twenty years. In that ignorance, I feel I’m closer to the average comic movie patron – someone who’s read some of the source material, has familiarity with the character, but isn’t an expert. That’s why I’m so glad you’ve written here – you and others have given me lots of stories to track down.
That being said, a Wonder Woman movie needs to appeal to people like me as well, and I’m not sure the movie medium offers enough narrative space for a Wonder Woman origin story that updates Diana from musty, old feminist icon to exciting, three-dimensional superheroine. In this comment thread alone, readers have offered all manner of different tropes a Wonder Woman origin movie might use. It’s fair to suggest that in the absence of a strong foundation from the 1940s (or perhaps in response to it) various comic writers have filled in Diana’s gaps with re-imaginings almost too disparate from one another to work well on screen. Outside of the “Amazon daughter leaves Paradise Island for Man’s World” vertebrae, everything else about Diana is open to interpretation, from her blend of compassion and violence to her cultural familiarity with modern Western civilization.
I’m reading lots of ideas for a Wonder Woman movie, but few arguments that support why any self-respecting Warner Bros. executive would sink $150 million or so into developing CGI for Diana’s stories. You’re right Joey D – it’s a worldwide business decision. So if I think Americans may have difficulty with Wonder Woman: The Movie, how can I expect the Chinese or the Russians or the Indians or the Brazilians to flock to watch Diana?
For god’s sake, read Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman run at least.
I’ve also enjoyed this conversation, thank you for providing it’s base.
Oh yes, this has been a lot of fun! Thanks to everyone for participating!
I can think of any number of different stories that could be told, and that’s not including her origin story. The fact that others cannot seem to get a handle on it shows that the executives at WB and those making the decisions are stuck in the same infantile male fantasy that you write about. Which just goes to show that fans are more advanced, and willing to be entertained better than critics or bloggers or executives. I think that you are mistaking your not liking certain aspects for everyone not liking certain aspects. As a straight male reader, I tried the book out several different times over the decades. From JGL all the way up to Gail’s run. I have those GP issues in storage. And they were great because they brought the character back from the Bland Abyss that it had been forceed into, shoe-horned into due to the Comics Code. A movie would be easy to do. Casting would be the tough part. And that’s not really that tough at all.
As to there being no “significant” stories before GP, perhaps, if looked at simply as each and every single stand alone story. But the richness of the background of the character isn’t limited to “significant storylines”. Just look at the Legion. The character, for good or ill, is viewed in a certain light by certain segments of the readership and society. I confess that I’ve never really gotten the “gives little girls/gays/lesbians/progressives/etc… what have you… a character to look up to. Hero’s fall. Be strong. Look up to yourself and be your own hero. That said, the fantasy aspects of the character, the richness of background… all can be played. As to the ancient Grecian aspects being sanitized for consumption….Disney. They’ve made a literal mint off of doing that for what… 80 years now?
Sorry. I can’t agree with the premise of this article. It reads great, but it’s missing heart and soul because it’s attempting to be overly intellectual. My take, anyway.
Your article reeks of misogyny. Certainly not worth the effort of gracing your comment page with a rebuttal. You’re not worth it. Sorry life has put you in a position where you have to play the modern online version of Morton Downey Jr. of a different color for the comic book crowd. Hopefully things will improve for you down the road. You feel compelled to argue your point to me personally shouldn’t be that difficult to find me.
In case you didn’t catch the link in the piece, another Nerd of Color, Shawn Taylor, recently wrote about how to make a Wonder Woman movie work: http://thenerdsofcolor.org/2013/10/07/how-to-not-screw-up-a-wonder-woman-film/
@Queen of Sanctuary: you left an excellent comment above; thank you for reading and commenting! I wanted to comment briefly on one of your points, quoted below:
“But let’s go a bit simpler first. Your concern is that Diana is not relational to audiences, yet I’m not sure about the basis for that. First off, she’s a woman, so half the population relates to her pretty well, something that doesn’t happen with any of the other superhero movies.” – Queen of Sanctuary
On this point, I’d love more discussion. Why is Diana’s gender enough? As I said in the piece above, I do not oppose all superheroine films. While this comment thread has definitely impressed me with the WW fan’s die-hard love for this character, it’s not clear to me how much of that adoration emerges from interest in the specific element of the character narrative and activities, and how much derives from the fact that she’s pretty much the oldest prominent female superhero in comics. I can understand the animosity of those who feel I’m writing against the Abigail Adams of comics, I’m just not sure that WW’s historical prominence provides useful evidence in favor of a Wonder Woman movie.
We’re still talking about a character most often written by men who work outfit would make Bunny Ranch patrons blush. And while I’m as sex-positive as the next guy, Queen of Sanctuary, I am happy you wrote about the varied wardrobe modern writers give Diana. I reiterate: sexual, powerful women find representation in Wonder Woman, and that’s something I respect. But it’s hard for me to believe that in the fifty-odd years of Wonder Woman comics DC Entertainment has delivered a sexual, powerful woman that deserves progressive respect. I’m reading the New 52 Justice League now. I know that in her own title, Diana’s much more independent, but with Geoff Johns she’s not far from Superman’s gal Friday. She had more independence under Joe Kelly in Golden Perfect.
Why would women relate to Wonder Woman? She never has to hold down a job, never pays bills or cares for family or develops new pharmaceuticals or dances at the club. She’s most often above human concerns. Batman’s wealth isolates him, but he’s never far from the poverty of the Gotham condition, and Superman enjoys middle class domesticity with Lois in his various iterations. When does Wonder Woman pay her car insurance or purchase razors?
When is Diana ever plausibly female?
In fairness, we have to remove the human error from the equation and admit that different writers have both elevated Diana and reduced her. Geoff Jones is one such example, so why is his version more relevant than Brian Azzarello, who currently writes her singular title? As you said, Jones has made her into Superman’s gal Friday, but by comparison, Azzarello has made her much more compassionate and intelligent, and formed her into a truly independant woman.
So, when has Wonder Woman been, well, a woman? The most obvious run in the comics for this is a bit older, but still notable. Denny O’Neill and Mike Selowsky did the famous/infamous run in the late 1960s into the 1970s where Diana lost all her powers and was instead a regular human crime fighter. She spent a notable amount of time learning fighting techniques separate from her Greek training, like karate and other martial arts. She trained under a man named I Ching, and forswore not only her powers, but her royal title as well. This is often referred to as the Mod-era Wonder Woman. During this time, she represented the average woman speaking out against corruption and war. She also owned her own clothing shop to support herself.
I’m going to diverge for a moment and mention Diana’s other jobs, because she’s had quite a few:
-A nurse in the army. In her first origin story, Diana took the place of an army nurse who wished to leave the military and join her true love.
-Military attache to Steve Trevor. She was a glorified secretary, but she had to deal with sexism and entitlement, and she put up with it in order to keep an ear out for danger. In essence, she protected people in secret. She used the name Diana Prince at this time as well.
-The mod clothing shop. She cemented her name at this point, using Diana Prince as her real, average name. (it’s absolutely critical to note that the author of this was taken off the title because Gloria Steinim, that notable feminist, was upset that Diana had lost her original costume!)
-A translator for the UN after she regained her powers.
-An astronaut for NASA (this really happened).
-An officer in the department of Metahuman Affairs, again as Diana Prince. Wonder Woman essentially returns to her military roots here, working alongside other agents. Diana chose to do this because she felt that her superheroine status literally removed her too far from humanity, and she wanted a way to reconnect on a basic level.
-And my personal favorite….as a fast food worker at Taco Whiz. This was roughly 1992, when Brian Bolland was doing the covers. After “War of the Gods”, a huge crossover event to celebrate Wonder Woman’s 50th anniversary, Diana tries to find a new job and cannot, so she adopts a normal persona again and works at a fast food place. This is a great story arc, where she learns more about the average people who work there, and their needs and desires.
I do have to go soon, so I cannot reply to this more, but I will add that you might like the story of “Spirit of Truth” which is an oversized painted edition by Paul Dini and artist Alex Ross. It’s third in the series, which includes Superman: Peace on Earth and Batman: War on Crime. In the story, Superman himself tells Diana that she cannot relate because she is too perfect. She then sets out to explore how that distances her from humanity, and how she can change to be a better hero and friend to people.
So I hope that helps explain some of the reasons why we say she still has a lot of substance. And while she might not have bought razors (she’s gotta get waxed, I’m thinking), she does hold jobs, pays bills, and speaks to women as if they were her sisters, not her children (like Superman) or her charges (like Batman.).
Hi Queen (and others)
I thought I’d chime in, both as a woman, and as someone who generally agrees with James’ take in the post above.
I think this discussion honestly has less to do with the merits (or flaws) of the Wonder Woman character, and more to do with the unique constraints of live-action adaptations. I propose that live-action movies — unlike comics — require sympathetic characters that embody a relatable conflict to most moviegoers. I worry (like James does) that Wonder Woman’s history lacks a clear and consistent thematic focus that will translate on-screen — this explains, in part, why she has been a bit of a jack-of-all-trades character over the years, as different writers try to reinvent her. This is unlike characters like Batman: the traumatized revenge-seeking vigilante first reinterpreted by Frank Miller which is now standard for the character. This extremely human and personal character conflict I think underlies why it was successfully translated in the Nolanverse — moviergoers (whether fans or not) can identify with the hypothetical revenge fantasy born of deep personal trauma, and insodoing buy the further idea that this person would then put on bat ears and a Kevlar vest to beat up thugs on the street (a thing that looks far sillier in real life than it does in a comic book). I also argue that Man of Steel was less successful as a movie than the Nolan-verse’s Batman at least in part because (despite the influence of Nolan), the character has less innate “accessibility” to tap into: it’s harder to write a compelling and human narrative for a character who was born an alien, has a wide assortment of god-like powers, and who basically just wants to do good because he can.
Wonder Woman is a woman, to be true, but I don’t think that’s enough to guarantee accessibility. Superman, after all, is a man, and he still feels alien and difficult to relate to in many of his live-action treatments (including the latest MOS with Henry Cavill). Chris Reeve’s successful movies work at least in part because he so deeply humanizes his Clark Kent — rendering him so flawed and human that we can easily see ourselves in that character, if not in his Superman. Chris Reeve succeeds where Brandon Routh and others fail because he successfully made Superman into an underdog whom we could both root for and personalize; he did this by doing such a great job with the -human- Clark Kent persona.
I’ve read “Spirit of Truth”, Hiketia, the Perez run on Wonder Woman, some of the Simone run, her various iterations in old-school and new 52 JLA, and seen the DCU animated movie. I’m not a committed WW fangirl, but I think one could argue that I’ve got enough exposure to the character to get her fundamentally. I agree that some of these books are good comic books. The question is whether or not these well-written comic books would make good live-action movies. Despite the age of rampant live-action adaptations, not every good comic book will make a good movie. “The Killing Joke”, for example, is an exceptional comic book but probably wouldn’t make a particularly good movie. “From Hell” was an awesome book, but a lackluster live-action. Joe Kelly’s JLA run did some great things, including some great things with the Wonder Woman character — I’m hard-pressed to think of a single book that would translate well on-screen.
This isn’t about characters who do, or don’t, deserve live-action treatments. I don’t think anyone argues that Wonder Woman is of the same high-profile status as Batman and Superman. The question is whether or not the source material from the comics provides the kind of personal tension, emotional theme, and internal conflict to create a compelling and relatable character that can elevate a WW film to the realm of stand-alone GOOD film (as the Nolanverse Bats did, and which arguably the many Marvel-related movies have not). We’re not talking about whether or not Wonder Woman deserves a special effects, Thor treatment. We’re talking about whether or not the Wonder Woman character has the same nuance and sophistication as a character like Batman to make a film that my non-comic book fan friends and family would find interesting and relatable.
With my sort of average exposure to the character, I find very little in the Wonder Woman character that would appeal to a non-fan/everyday woman; heck, despite her status as a woman, I’ve always found it difficult to relate to Wonder Woman because she is almost everything I am not save for her double-X chromosomes. If one were to summarize Wonder Woman’s themes, one would define her by a series of conflicts. She is the diplomat who advocates violence. She is the feminist who frequently works on behalf of the American government. She advocates non-intervention into Themysciran affairs and yet doesn’t respect the sovereignity of the Khandaq (sp?) nation. She fights on behalf of Man’s world, yet by nature views our world with a certain measure of disdain that she aims to fix. She is the feminist “Rosie the Riveter” icon while also being the WWII propaganda symbol and a sexualized creature to satisfy the desires of the male gaze. It’s hard to get a clear fix on what themes she is supposed to evoke in me, when it’s not clear what themes she is even supposed to evoke in herself (and again, I think this comes from how she has been shoe-horned into things by various writers, leaving her something of a muddled mess). Either way, I can’t relate to the apparent and generally unchallenged hypocrisy in her character.
Beyond that, she is a woman — but a privileged princess and demigoddess who is literally too perfect to relate to humanity (as you note is suggested in “Spirit of Truth”, although this certainly isn’t the first time this idea is brought up). She is a woman who is defined as the pinnacle of womanhood, so beautiful that virtually every man she’s around is in love with her (again something proposed in many of her recent interpretations). If she — by definition — can’t relate to me based on how much she isn’t me, how will I be able to, in a darkened theatre, relate to her? And, unlike Superman, she has no Clark Kent persona that creators can fall back on to provide the humanity — whether she goes by Diana or Wonder Woman, she is thematically the top-of-the-class school president whose inter and intra-personal conflicts arise chiefly from the difficulties she faces in integrating that innate perfection with her presence in a world that is imperfect — basically “why can’t you all handle how awesome I am?”; or, otherwise, to find ways to be “less perfect” in order to understand me and my experiences (which is the general theme of many of the arcs you cite above re: Taco Whiz, her stint as a depowered crimefighter, and her stint as military attache). Is that a narrative that is accessible for the average moviegoer (male or female)? And, isn’t that also going to come across as somewhat condescending on the big screen, when we’re talking not about the fantasy world of DC comics, but *my* world that she’s struggling to lower herself to the level of?
Even a decent Wonder Woman movie would likely start from the premise that the protagonist is too perfect to be like everyone else, and even if done well would eventually start to break down that facade of perfection and expose the flaws underneath (if in keeping with the spirit of “good” WW books like “Hiketia”). But this still depends on a “too-perfect” starting point for the character. Can moviegoers immediately relate to a character who is introduced as superior to you in every conceivable way, and still want to root for her? This is how Thor was introduced as a character on-screen, and mostly he ended up just being stock eye candy and completely unrelatable.
In short, Wonder Woman is like most comic book characters (including Superman) and -unlike- the few rare superheroes who have been successfully translated to the big screen in that she’s more super than she is (wo)man, and in the absence of a clear theme that makes her “just like me”, the constraints of the film medium (which I think has more rigorous requirements in starting off with a recognizable character) has far less to work with to create a compelling movie worthy of an Oscar, and that would push the boundaries of both the comic book medium and the film medium.
(Incidentally, this has also made me wonder if it’s generally challenging to translate any innately super-powered non-human character to the big screen. Superman movies have critically flopped, as did Thor. The latter Matrix movies were generally seen as failures in part because Neo became too god-like. Is it possible to create a relatable god-level protagonist? More importantly, is it possible to do so while introducing the character as god-like starting off?)
I reiterate: this isn’t (in my mind) about whether or not the studios should make a Thor-style movie, more about glitz and glam, special effects, eye candy, and a chance to revisit your childhood nostalgia about a character with interspersed easter eggs, than it is about crazy-good story-telling. In the “Thor Formula” of Marvel Studios, the audience is “in on the joke”; we’re all on the same nostalgia ride and the bar is set pretty low when it comes to objective measures of depicting compelling character drama and nuanced story-telling. It’s basically San Diego Comic-Con mass distributed. We literally just want to see a person wear a suit and throw a hammer and things blowing up as a result. We want our in-jokes and power fantasies and Samuel Jackson being Samuel Jackson with one eye. The studios could easily make that same movie for Wonder Woman without much issue and from the current general themes of the Wonder Woman comic book character.
The problem is that I want more from my comic book movie. I want a movie that is both faithful to the comic book character and also a genuinely good movie that analyzes and humanizes the character in a way that makes me analyze (maybe even uncomfortably) my own humanity, not just pay homage. I want a movie that makes the character fully three-dimensional, not just rely on the three-dimensionality of the actor wearing the suit to bring the character off the pages of my book. I just don’t know that there’s enough to go on in the Wonder Woman mythos to do that, and to still do it faithfully. If I don’t see myself in the comic book Wonder Woman, in her many iterations, is it likely that I will see myself in the live-action Wonder Woman played by Megan Fox?
I’m sorry that you feel the need to be so dismissive. I don’t think that’s in the spirit of reasoned debate.
I’ve really appreciated how everyone on this thread has disagreed with each other while still respecting the alternative point of view. This is clearly a very polarizing topic, but it’s highly refreshing to see 99% of folks weighing in doing so in a way that has been respectful and positive towards one another. In a post that had high potential to incite the mindless nerd-rage, it is likely that this thread will end in “let’s agree to disagree” — and after all, no one can predict what a future hypothetical Wonder Woman will look like or the kinds of resources a studio will invest into it — but it has been an interesting thought exercise to see and consider the disparate viewpoints on this subject. I know that I walked into this whole thing with a very strong opinion, and have reconsidered several things about the Wonder Woman character based in part on the comments posted above me.
I honestly don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. Just a lot of people with a lot of really great opinions. I look forward to reading more.
” I don’t think anyone argues that Wonder Woman is of the same high-profile status as Batman and Superman.”
Sorry, that should read: “anyone argues that Wonder Woman *isn’*….”
It is noteworthy that while Wonder Woman does appeal to many female moviegoers, she doesn’t appeal to many others. I certainly don’t want to imply that supporting her is some sort of feminist mandate, because we are all free to like what we like. In this case, I do like and identify with the character.
But why would I? As you said, she’s often perceived as too perfect to make her relatable to a modern audience. For me, it’s not the perfection that turns me away but instead makes me want to watch, and read. See, I look at what Wonder Woman represents as something I want to strive towards. I don’t mean physically; I don’t want to look like Angelina Jolie or like Sarah Michelle Gellar, but I do want to be that cool and powerful and clever. I want to see a female character on the screen that IS larger than life and requires me to believe in something a bit more fantastic. It’s often said that Marvel is for the fans who wants their heroes to be people, and DC is for the fans who want their people to be heroes. I’ve read just as many X-Men comics but I’ve never been particular attracted to those women. Rogue, Storm, Jubilee, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde…..all fascinating and well-developed, but always a bit too angsty and, well, feet of clay for me. It’s always driven me crazy when their personal lives have taken over their missions. By contrast, Diana always has the greater good in mind. She’s given up a lot of things in life to try and remember others.
I want to go back to the movie issue, though. Yes, a lot of people, including myself, have thrown out dozens of ideas for the film, but that doesn’t address the main statement: do we or do we not need a Wonder Woman film? Why or why not?
One thing: we need, need, NEED a female-centric superhero movie. We need to prove that it can be done, because if not, we are always going to be relegated to the second-class. We are always going to be the romantic interest. That closes off so many ideals and opportunities for young girls that it almost makes me choke up. If it’s not Wonder Woman, fine, but I am adamant about this point.
So why do we need Wonder Woman as a film? Because she’s the best known one. This is important, and I’ll explain why: if we make every other film EXCEPT Wonder Woman, we are basically coming out and saying that this strong woman can’t hack it. That we cannot handle having a movie about a woman that is strong and near perfect, that can take on anyone. And we aren’t just saying it to comic fans. We are saying it to audiences everywhere. We are saying that we’re ashamed to give celluloid to the one character that paved the way, and that everyone knows paved the way.
Note that I am not saying WB ‘owes’ us a Wonder Woman movie, or that we deserve one. But she does deserve a film, and we should demand one. Maybe it won’t be perfect, and no doubt the geekiest of us will find many flaws, but it should be made.
And this needs to appeal to all moviegoers. We keep circling around the topic that Wonder Woman doesn’t have inherent story, or even a cohesive basis for any non-comic audience to connect with. But why are we stuck on that? NEITHER DID IRON MAN. Iron Man never even had exposure to the common movie-goer before his hit films. He didn’t have a TV show, he wasn’t animated many times over….he didn’t even have the notoriety of a bad film to predate him (they tried to make Fantastic Four into a good film THREE TIMES before they gave up). Yet there are three hugely-successful Iron Man films. He is a random guy who made a super suit. He doesn’t have any history to speak of, no creation myths, no defining trait except perhaps being a drunk….he’s literally a smart-ass with a super suit. Now, I do get why he appeals to movie audiences: he’s smart aleck and we like that. We like anti-establishment. But did anyone know that before they saw the film? Green Lantern was a smart-aleck with a super suit, and it flopped. This is because Iron Man is a fun movie and Green Lantern is not, and it has nothing at all to do with the background of either character.
What did anyone know about the Hulk before the films? He was exposed to gamma radiation and “you wouldn’t like him when he got mad.” That was it.
What about Thor? He had even less to go on, and yet it did well enough for a sequel to be planned after the first weekend box office.
Captain America? World War II super fighter. Most people couldn’t even tell you with assurance that he was WW I or II, nor how he became a modern hero.
So why aren’t we making these excuses for those characters? They got made despite their massive unknowability, and we went because it looked exciting and different. Movie audiences didn’t go because they were comic book fans, because we can show with numbers that the vast majority of movie-goers are not comic fans. It’s not numerically possible.
Why do we continue to make this excuse for Wonder Woman??
I wish I knew. I wish I could say it was something besides the fact that she’s a woman and she wears a revealing outfit and we are trying to prove that we are beyond that. Instead, we tear her down and say she cannot cut it. She cannot cut it because she’s from mythology (Thor). She cannot cut it because she’s too perfect and too foreign (Superman). She cannot cut it because her story is too thin (Hulk, iron Man, Captain America…) In fact, the ONLY character with a film that has a decent, stirring, gut-wrenching and fascinating story is Batman. He deserves the number one spot because that story is compelling and always has been. Spiderman is closer, because he at least has the morality thing going.
Wonder Woman as a TV show was very popular, and to borrow from Jenn’s example, it was made so because Lynda Carter. She made Diana funny, interesting, kind, and human to all of us who watched it, just like Chris Reeves did for Superman. She was still the same character, just related to us because she had that gift. When they added Wonder Girl later, played by Debra Winger, she wasn’t nearly as popular because she was regarded as too stiff and unapproachable. The right actress can make this film.
And the last, important point: are the moviegoers supposed to be educated about a character or film before they see it? No, it is the studio’s job to show the story and educate and entertain the audience. It doesn’t matter if some comic versions have a compelling story and some don’t, as long as the film gives us a compelling story. If that requires changing some of the background, then that’s what they do. All that is required is recognizability, which Wonder Woman already has. People already know her on sight. All a film must do is take that and make it into an interesting and enjoyable movie experience. We don’t require that it be perfect, just good. Good to watch, fun to watch, compelling to watch. Wonder Woman can be modern, accessible, flawed and human. The stories have already shown us how. Why do we still believe that a film cannot do it?
Why are we persisting in saying that this woman superhero cannot cut it?
Jenn & Queen: thanks for the continued commentary.
I do not believe Wonder Woman can cut it on screen, because her narrative(s) do not compute. Jenn’s elaborated on the list of Wonder Woman contradictions began in my post, and it’s mildly frightening that she has so many. But on some level that doesn’t matter; supporters of the Wonder Woman movie routinely fall back on the “Thor and Captain America got films, why not Wonder Woman” argument, as if a big-budget superhero action film was a measure of cultural legitimacy, not just for Wonder Woman, but for all the girls and women who relate to her.
The Thor and Captain America films were horrible. Really, really bad. But what’s more telling is that Norse mythology aficionados and WWII veterans did not enjoy increased cultural status after those films were made. You’d think that, if much of the pro-Wonder Woman commentary here is to be believed, Wonder Woman was famous and beloved enough to maintain her popularity without a $150 million special effects bonanza with her name and likeness. I too do not want more films where the explosion heavy, content light Marvel method, takes center stage.
But given the outsize (and probably unwarranted) impact on modern feminism Wonder Woman enjoys, a Marvel-style Wonder Woman film offers the worst of all possible worlds. Diana’s not a relatable woman for many of us who read her comics, but those attributes that contribute to her demigoddess status are more likely to be highlighted by any Marvel-style film than the moral quandaries and immigrant narratives that offer slightly more substance. The very idea that a Wonder Woman movie could be made that doesn’t involve a super-powered woman who flies about the globe ‘fixing’ problems she alone identifies, state sovereignty and national self-determination be damned, does not compute. We’d get the same woman from the comics: a feminist caricature who commands attention because no man alive can force her to submit.
I think that for many supporters of a Wonder Woman movie, that’s the side of Diana they want our society to acknowledge and respect: the adamant, “no man can force my silence” side. Maybe that’s laudable; I don’t know. What I do know is that other Woman Warrior media has tried this already, notably Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched every episode of Buffy, and most of Angel: I understand the feminist appeal. But I’m not certain that the people who find Buffy relatable and strong and fun notice how incredibly meek the male characters on those shows were. The acceptable men in Buffy’s life were the reserved, professorial Giles and the comically weak Xander. Watching those shows did not offend, but it was clear very quickly that no one goes to Joss Whedon for strong male characters.
But superhero comics and movies are about strong male characters. It’s a sexist industry – that’s why Captain America and Thor were greenlit, movies about steroids and nepotism, respectively. I too want to see a superhero film that shatters this convention, but one where the source material does not require that all the men in the female protagonist’s life relinquish their testicles before the director shouts ‘Action!’ That’s not Wonder Woman – the mostly male writers who pen her stories routinely fail to write strong male characters, as if to say that Wonder Woman can only signify strength in Man’s World when all the men around her acquiesce to her will. (See Golden Perfect.) That’s what Joss Whedon made Xander and Giles do for seven seasons on Buffy, so if you’re a Warner Brothers executive who considers the next superhero film to appeal to the 18 – 35 male population, it is reasonable (and a little sexist, I admit) that a Wonder Woman movie would give you pause.
I’m not even saying that most men won’t watch a movie where a female lead beats up men. I know better: guys my age have been watching stuff like Ghost in the Shell and playing fighting games like Tekken for years. It’s not gender, it’s plausibility — in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Motoko Kusanagi leads a section of highly trained male police – without those men finding reasons to downplay or eliminate their masculinity to follow her lead. I think we could achieve a similar dynamic in a Western superheroine film, but not one where the protagonist arrives to ‘fix Man’s World’, like we’re all Chris Brown broken. I’d rather see a Hawkgirl or Huntress movie before that.
I hate to say this, but I feel your argument has come down to holding women to a different standard, and that makes me sad. I pointed out the Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man examples because you said that Wonder Woman’s narrative was too convoluted and nonsense to work in a film, but theirs somehow is fine. Yes, you qualified that these were not ‘good films’ but they are films that made billions of dollars, so (1) someone liked them, and (2) that was one of your own criteria for why a film should be made: “I’m reading lots of ideas for a Wonder Woman movie, but few arguments that support why any self-respecting Warner Bros. executive would sink $150 million or so into developing CGI for Diana’s stories….it’s a worldwide business decision.” So, a worldwide business decision that puts a man’s convoluted and nonsense comic story on the screen works well for them, but not a woman?
It’s also frustrating that you said earlier “Now tell me, can you think of a decent Wonder Woman story to tell? I agree that a Ms. Marvel or Black Widow movie may also work; but I’m certain that a Wonder Woman movie would not.” Many commentators told you great stories that could be told, but you keep falling back on the statement that her history is just too difficult to overcome. The issue here is no longer if there is a story to be told, it’s that you simply don’t like Wonder Woman in a film, no matter how modern, updated, or well-developed the plot is.
That’s fine, though, because this is a blog and that is your opinion. I respect that you don’t like the stories and think that they would have to be gutted to make something decent, so I will leave that as is.
I have to address this: “[S]upporters of the Wonder Woman movie routinely fall back on the ‘Thor and Captain America got films, why not Wonder Woman’ argument, as if a big-budget superhero action film was a measure of cultural legitimacy, not just for Wonder Woman, but for all the girls and women who relate to her.”
Yes! For women (most, not all), this is legitimacy. Cultural legitimacy that tells women that we can also do something previously unallowed. Take this quote from Linda Holmes, in her article “At the Movies, the Women Are Gone”:
“They put up Bridesmaids, we went. They put up Pitch Perfect, we went. They put up The Devil Wears Prada, which was in two-thousand-meryl-streeping-oh-six, and we went (and by “we,” I do not just mean women; I mean we, the humans), and all of it has led right here, right to this place. Right to the land of zippedy-doo-dah. You can apparently make an endless collection of high-priced action flops and everybody says “win some, lose some” and nobody decides that They Are Poison, but it feels like every “surprise success” about women is an anomaly and every failure is an abject lesson about how we really ought to just leave it all to The Rock.”
And then Susana Polo writes, in her review, “After the commercial success of The Hunger Games, Brave, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Prometheus (to pull merely from 2012 alone), and after the increasingly vital and action oriented roles of women in superhero movies like The Avengers and Iron Man 3, not to mention Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises in which the female leads have been praised as some of the best aspects of the film… After that, how long are we expected to pretend that a movie with a female Marvel or DC superhero in the lead is such farfetched idea?”
Because that’s what we have to do, and what you are telling us to do: pretend that this is a farfetched idea. And for no other reason than you don’t think Wonder Woman is really a woman. You asked me if she had ever been normal, ever had a job and paid bills, and I said, yes, yes, here are the examples, and yet….nothing.
You said, “But superhero comics and movies are about strong male characters. It’s a sexist industry – that’s why Captain America and Thor were greenlit, movies about steroids and nepotism, respectively.”
Why is it wrong that we want to change this, and that we want a Wonder Woman movie to do it?
“I too want to see a superhero film that shatters this convention, but one where the source material does not require that all the men in the female protagonist’s life relinquish their testicles before the director shouts ‘Action!’ That’s not Wonder Woman – the mostly male writers who pen her stories routinely fail to write strong male characters, as if to say that Wonder Woman can only signify strength in Man’s World when all the men around her acquiesce to her will. (See Golden Perfect.) That’s what Joss Whedon made Xander and Giles do for seven seasons on Buffy, so if you’re a Warner Brothers executive who considers the next superhero film to appeal to the 18 – 35 male population, it is reasonable (and a little sexist, I admit) that a Wonder Woman movie would give you pause.”
Except that you are ignoring the obvious again: Buffy was insanely, crazy popular, and not just with women alone. That means money. And in the same statement, you say “that’s not Wonder Woman” so why is it implausible to say a movie can never tell anything but that story? I’m sure someone said “You can’t reboot the Star Trek universe and use the same characters over again, no one will accept it,” and yet, that movie made crazy money. A movie can be done with Wonder Woman where all the men aren’t emasculated (and hello, strong male characters? Ares, Orion, Steve Trevor, I Ching, Trevor Barnes, Nemesis, and most recently Lennox).
What it comes down to in this discussion has seemed to be this: you don’t like Wonder Woman and don’t understand why she still appeals to women, and you don’t think she could make money as a film so the studios shouldn’t bother. Maybe you don’t get the appeal because you aren’t a woman, and so you inherently haven’t dealt with the scrutiny and standards we live with everyday, and the lack of heroes for us to look up to. I ask that you consider that point of view, that maybe she represents something to us that is indeed relevant and important. And as to the studios not making money….the track records of other properties (the Marvel movies, Buffy, Firefly, Alien, Million Dollar Baby, Kill Bill, Resident Evil, Hunger Games, and so on) show that there is an audience for female action heroes. Every one of these movies makes it a closer deal for a superheroine movie.
As Jill Pantozzi states in the Hunger Games recap, “The Hunger Games managed to beat not just Batman but several other huge comic blockbusters as well like Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2, which are the next two highest grossing comic films after The Dark Knight. It also lies ahead of Twilight: New Moon which sits at number five on the biggest opening weekend films list. The film is also the biggest success for Lionsgate which is an independent studio currently merging with Twilight studio, Summit Entertainment. And the film remained strictly in 2D. And guess what else? The film’s viewers were approximately 61% female and 56% were ages 25 and up according to Lionsgate. Those numbers themselves are an interesting indicator. It wasn’t just women going to see this film and it wasn’t just young girls who were the intended market for the original book.”
No matter what argument it is dressed up in, a denial of a Wonder Woman property for any other reason than you simply don’t like Wonder Woman’s story (which is legitimate), becomes a comment on why we cannot expect a female superhero movie to succeed. If you don’t like her, you think she is outdated and uneven, that’s perfectly fine. But if a convoluted background and weak premise can be turned around into a great story for a male superhero film, it can be done for a female one.
Wonderwoman with reboot, not wearing tights like Cap America but a revised version of that dress to make things less sexist. Working more over mythology and sheer power of her might than plain hand to hand boxing of Black Widow.
Working more on story rather than purring of Halle Berry’s Catwoman. However there are many ifs.
I do agree it should not be made to scar our memories for life. However if picked up as a challenge, staying true to mythos, but develop the character out of the shadows of 1960s where i still feel WW is stuck in, i do see huge potential.
sorry for my sexist remark but if treated well it can serve both Fanboy’s love and average movie goer who has not seen a true Lady Hero.
But if they can screw a well laid plot of GL mythology, developing WW and delivering it right is me being too optimistic .
Hi everyone. Just wanted to chime in here. First of all, thank you to everyone for such an engaging conversation and for all the traffic! This has definitely been the most popular topic in the (brief) history of the site. So thank you.
Anyway, as someone who falls into the camp of “YES, Wonder Woman deserves a solo film” I just wanted to clarify that I think there are actually two different arguments going on in the thread. The first is whether or not Wonder Woman is even an interesting character to begin with. YMMV, but the merits of the character — both as a symbol and as a compelling superhero character — are fairly well established in popular culture. I don’t think her status as a symbol should be downplayed at all actually. Superman and Batman are similarly symbolic. For many non-fans, the S-Shield or the Bat signal are ingrained in the zeitgeist, even if they aren’t familiar with the intricacies of their comic stories, they know who these characters are and what they stand for (Truth, Justice and all that stuff…) That is the appeal of superheroes, but especially DC Superheroes. Someone said earlier that Marvel is for readers who want to see heroes as people while DC is for those of us who want to see people as heroes. That’s always been the line of demarcation between DC and Marvel (and why I am unabashedly a DC fanboy — as much as I dislike the direction the company has taken since 2011).
Even as a superhero character, she has more than proven the ability to be at the center of strong, compelling story. One point that has been bandied about frequently in the conversation is that Diana was an irrelevant character until George Perez’s post-Crisis reboot. At the same time, Frank Miller’s Batman is being used as the starting point for why Bats is interesting. However, Miller Batman and Perez’s Diana (as well as Byrne’s Superman) are all contemporaries. If the problem with Diana is that she was uninteresting until 1986, well, that’s the case with the other 2/3 of the Trinity — if we’re using Miller’s DKR/Y1 as a starting point.
The other argument in the conversation is whether or not Wonder Woman could be translated effectively to the silver screen. This kind of goes hand in hand with the point I just made about Diana’s place in comic book history and the worthiness of her stories. Again, let’s ignore the first 50 years of the character. Just as Nolan and co. mined the works of Modern Age Batman stories (Year One, Knightfall, No Man’s Land) so too could whoever makes a WW movie use plenty of Modern Age material for a great series of films. Anything by Perez, Jimenez, Rucka and Simone are more than enough to form the basis of a WW film. (As our other WW post proves here: http://thenerdsofcolor.org/2013/10/07/how-to-not-screw-up-a-wonder-woman-film/) In fact, all Warner has to do is make a live action version of the Wonder Woman DCAU movie (the best animated DC movie to date).
Also, I don’t believe anyone who advocates for a WW movie wants a Marvel Studios approach to it. That keeps coming up in yours and Jenn’s counterarguments, and I think it’s a straw (wo)man. True, people oft use “Thor” as a template, but more because of the way that film incorporated Asgard. The problem with many of the aborted WW live action attempts have been ignoring Themyscira completely. (Take David Kelly’s admittedly awful WW pilot where they turned Diana into a CEO of “Themyscira Industries” or whatever.) We reference Thor because that film found a plausible way to incorporate the fantastical world of Asgard in a film that’s set in the 21st century. But I think that’s the only similarity we Wonder Woman fans want to borrow from Marvel Studios. DC movies (Green Lantern, aside) have always taken a more serious approach while Marvel is, by default, a lighter tone (And despite the hate both “Thor” and “Captain America” are getting in this thread, I actually dug both movies!) The more serious tone is what Wonder Woman requires. And I agree, she shouldn’t be concerned with being a simple “crime fighter” but instead, whatever movie is made should focus more on the Greek mythos and how Diana is the bridge between humanity and the gods. THAT would be a great film that would set it apart from standard superhero fare!
Like Shawn said, get Colleen Doran to write the script, Phil Jimenez to do the art direction and Katheryn Bigelow to direct. Simple as that!
Keith, thanks for reading and commenting! It’s really cool to have such interest in my writing! I wanted to reply to a couple of your points, because I think they are worth further discussion. On Wonder Woman’s past and present relevance: I think the comparison to Batman: Year One matters, but not because of chronology. It’s not really important that Byrne’s Superman and Miller’s Batman and Perez’s Wonder Woman were all written at roughly the same time. The question is whether those books had much impact on other comics of that era and in subsequent ones. Given that metric, Miller’s Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns stand head and shoulders above the rest. We would never have enjoyed an entire era of psychologically analyzed, morally suspect antiheroes in comics without Miller’s work.
I’m not saying Perez’s run isn’t important; Joey D’s discussion of his writing makes me want to go track all of that stuff down. But it’s hard to discuss mainstream American superhero comics today without some general knowledge of Batman: Year One. You can spend a lifetime in comics, never open a Wonder Woman book, and still understand the genre. Hate it or love it, it’s true. Hell, if everything you knew about women in comics came from X-Men, Bat-books, and Gen-13, chances are you’d have a pretty strong handle on how the industry deals with women. I know speaking against Wonder Woman is like trashing Mom’s apple pie, but some perspective is warranted.
On the utility of Wonder Woman stories for movie scripts: With respect to fellow NOC Shawn Taylor, his Wonder Woman post proves nothing. Just because someone can cobble together a comic property’s recent major storylines into a working script does not mean the resultant story is worth filming. X-Men 3 used elements of the Dark Phoenix Saga, Astonishing X-Men’s “Gifted”, and visual effects inspired by House of M: all to produce an uneven, meandering, ill-conceived film. Again, having the technical outline to create a thing answers a different question than what I’ve posed: whether we need the thing to exist at all. And the answer there is still no. With half the budget of a Wonder Woman movie and none of the pressure to please feminists and comic nerds alike, stories could be told about any number of other characters, created in the last thirty years with modern sensibilities, who would appeal to the same constituencies and the general public and still prove that comic book action-adventure movies with female superheroes can be profitable.
Keith, I can imagine paying $22 for myself and my lady to see the Jubilee movie. Or the Misty Knight movie. Or even the Monet St. Croix movie. But Wonder Woman? That’s asking too much no matter who’s writing it.
Queen of Sanctuary, I certainly hope I’m not holding women to a different standard. I am sure though that I hold all comic book movies to something higher than the Marvel Studios method. When I say that Thor was a terrible film, that does not mean that “Thor was terrible, but they made it so it’s okay”. It means no one should ever have financed Thor. I wouldn’t have: Thor’s reliance on Norse mythology always leaves his brother his only real enemy, and the humans who interact with Thor always remind us of Smallville without the wheat. It’s derivative.
Jenn wrote about the real fault line in this conversation as the difference between the desire for a comic book movie with colorful graphics and digitized abdominals that tells a simple story from a childish perspective (Green Lantern) and a comic book movie about mature themes and real-world social phenomena that tells a psychologically and morally difficult story from an adult perspective (The Dark Knight). What I may have undervalued was the extent successive Wonder Woman scribes of the last twenty years have attempted to inject real-world rationality into their versions of this character. It hasn’t stuck: I’ve heard wonderful stuff about the Brian Azzarello run on Wonder Woman, but DC’s ability to allow Geoff Johns to completely ignore that in Justice League (and then to spawn the Superman/ Wonder Woman title from Johns writing) makes its own statement about DC Editorial’s respect for Azzarello’s work.
But I certainly did not pretend that a Green Lantern or Captain America or Thor movie is useful, so long as they star male leads. Quite the contrary – I’ve been clear from the beginning of my post that WASP male hegemony in comic books and comic book movies is not to be championed. The point remains: none of that justifies a Wonder Woman movie, especially when the development process has such a low probability of producing a Dark Knight-style film with Diana Prince. Yes, there might be some intriguing source material to work with, but with respect to those notable exceptions, mostly when we encounter Diana in DC she’s haughty and unlikeable because she holds herself above humanity while lecturing it on its sexism. Pre- and post-Flashpoint, that’s Diana in the Justice League. Again, that’s rich material for those who enjoy it. I do not.
But to be clear: Warner Bros. could produce a Buffy or Hunger Games style action-adventure for Wonder Woman. It may even prove profitable for the studio, given the overwhelming female interest in such a character. The problem, Queen, is that you could be completely right about this and the resultant movie would still be Thor in Spanx. It will still use an outlandish hodgepodge of male gaze-approved female beauty, the Joss Whedon strong-woman-surrounded-by-man-children conceit, and grrl power. I don’t want to see that movie, and I don’t think it’s worth $150 million.
Maybe you’re right and I don’t like the character. But there are female characters I would love to see on film. I think Frank Miller’s Give Me Liberty would be a perfect summer blockbuster, with enough dystopic modern American Civil War material to dovetail with today’s left v. right political instability and consumer culture. People would relate to Martha Washington, who grows up in the projects and saves America from itself. It would be brilliant, with an African American actress in the lead role for girls and women to idolize and all manner of space age violence for all the emotionally stunted adolescent boys. But I fear we can’t consider that kind of movie because all the cultural advocacy for a female superhero is locked up by Wonder Woman.
And then that advocacy is defended by a desire for cultural legitimacy. I know I upset some of the other Nerds or Color with this point two days ago on FB, so I sincerely hope you are not offended. But female cultural legitimacy is not worth $150 million to me. First, the very idea that half the planet’s population could be considered ‘culturally illegitimate’ is just bizarre. Second, big-budget action films are not pride parades. Third, we’ve known that huge profit margins awaited those would could successfully tap into female entertainment dollars for some time; Tyler Perry’s entire career has focused on crafting films for Black female audiences. A commercially successful superheroine movie is not a question of if, it’s a question of when. Given that, this post is about making clear that that film should not star Wonder Woman.
Queen, I think the quotes from Linda Holmes and Susana Polo make a fair amount of sense, but no one’s making the argument that a female superhero movie should not exist. I’ve argued that a Wonder Woman movie is not necessary, because the character and her stories too easily lend themselves to Marvel Studios simplicity and Joss Whedon camp. There are other female superheroes who don’t, whose movies would cost less to make.
I do see your points, and I think we’ve come to the end of our respective discussions here. We don’t entirely agree, but we do agree on some things, and that’s pretty good. I will reply to a few points here though, and one that struck me most notably: “But female cultural legitimacy is not worth $150 million to me. First, the very idea that half the planet’s population could be considered ‘culturally illegitimate’ is just bizarre.”
It is bizarre! It’s ridiculous and stupid. it’s also TRUE. The fact that it’s still discussed with a strong sense of skepticism that any woman can lead a superhero film. Even Marvel isn’t as interested anymore. President Mark Feige of Marvel Studios just denied YESTERDAY that there were any plans to bring a female-centric superhero film to fruition, instead pointing out that Pepper Potts and Jane Foster were good enough characters for women to pay attention to! Black Widow wasn’t even going to be in Avengers until Joss Whedon insisted. From the article at the Daily Dot, “But when Feige replies to the female superhero question by pointing out the importance of characters like Jane Foster and Pepper Potts, he’s accidentally highlighting the MCU’s failures. He’s essentially boasting about managing the absolute bare minimum to depict female characters like functional human beings. Yes, Pepper Potts and Black Widow are well-written characters with important roles… but so are at least four or five male characters in each of their respective movies. This isn’t an achievement. It’s a basic expectation for any film that isn’t completely terrible.”
Women aren’t considered important enough. We just aren’t. None of these stories are about women. The Avengers wasn’t Black Widow’s story. Iron Man wasn’t Pepper Potts story. Thor was not Jane Foster’s story, no more than Superman was Lois Lane’s story. I won’t even go into Batman’s changing roster of women. We don’t have our stories told on the big screen unless it is about our relationships to a male. Sadly, even Kill Bill was this way.
Now I loved Give Me Liberty. If that was made into a film, I would see it a dozen times in the theatre and then buy the special edition. I agree that Martha’s story would literally kick ass. But as you said, “I fear we can’t consider that kind of movie because all the cultural advocacy for a female superhero is locked up by Wonder Woman.”
If the Wonder Woman movie was made, it would be made to open doors for films like Give Me Liberty, or Batwoman, or Captain Marvel, or for goodness sake, any female comic book. Wonder Woman is this huge stopper, and it needs to be taken out. People are afraid. Why?
Over at Forbes, Melissa Silverstein wrote (this was last week, btw), “And Diane Nelson head of DC Entertainment said earlier this year about Wonder Woman: “We have to get her right, we have to.” With all due respect, that response is exactly part of the problem. First, no one says when making a male superhero film – we have to get him right – because they know that they can release the movie and it will make a lot of money even if there are things wrong with it. Come on, no movie is perfect. And the studios know that there is such an appetite for these films that if they don’t get it right they can just reboot it like was recently done with Superman. Why is there is this ominous sense that you can’t mess up Wonder Woman? Maybe it has to do with the studios lack of trust in movies that star women and their bizarre fixation that men won’t go see them.”
So what if we get Thor in Spanx, and it’s a big tentpole summer movie with crazy special effects? It will tell a woman’s story, and it will clear the path, and it will show that we WILL go see an action movie with a woman superhero.
The reason I say that you are holding women and men to a different standard is because you are saying a male superhero movie doesn’t have to be perfect (Batman and Superman), but that we shouldn’t have Wonder Woman because it will not be a perfect representation of a normal woman. Of course it won’t be, she’s a superhero! There’s no normal man who is like Superman either, or Spiderman, or Wolverine, and so on. We want funny stories about women, and romantic stories about women, and crazy ridiculous ass-kicking stories about women, and yes, superhero movies where a woman is flying all over the place and stopping armies and going into space and so on and so on. We want women’s stories because we don’t have them, and because we are culturally irrelevant. We aren’t taken seriously. Sadly, more and more people are talking about why there isn’t a Wonder Woman film, and it just reinforces it, since the general consensus is “Because she’s a woman.” That hurts. It sucks to be a woman in this society and be told you aren’t good enough to have a story told about you. Frankly, if women were not culturally illegitimate, this wouldn’t even be a question, would it? No one would resist a Wonder Woman movie in favor of yet another Superman/Batman film. It would just be part of the roster of films they put out. The very fact that not only does it not exist yet but that it’s actively put down just shows that fact.
Hi all–I know this conversation doesn’t really need more fuel, and many perspectives have already been well-represented here, but I couldn’t help myself. First, I am not a serious comic reader. I read and blog fantasy and sci-fi, and get most of my comic information totally third-hand from my brothers. But this Wonder Woman conversation has leaked into subjects that I DO care about (gender, women’s representation in popular media, etc). So:
I don’t think Wonder Woman will be good. It will be bad, like Thor was bad, and Captain America, and even the Avengers was kind of bad. Cheesy nonsense adventures with lots of violence and shiny metal things flying around. Although probably there would be more shots of boobs contained in weird metal bras in Wonder Woman. And more historically hilarious shots of Ancient Greece.
It would be bad. Okay? Okay. But it also might be necessary. Because the alternative is a vast, echoing absence of female super heroes on the big screen. That’s not an artistic or aesthetic concern–it’s a social, how-are-we-imaginatively-constructing-our-worlds concern. Right now, any young female nerd in training who loved The Avengers and wanted to watch some women kick ass in a similar fashion would have nowhere to turn except Catwoman (which was so incredibly trivializing and horrible. Let’s recall, the villain in the movie was making evil cosmetics. Gee, thanks, Catwoman, for saving the world). That matters. It really does (statistically, it actually does matter: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18033198).
I’d be in favor of any movie that would make a little more elbow-room in the nerd world for women. Even if it was awful.
alixheintzman – Thank you very much for reading and commenting! You’ve no idea how happy I am to have new readers check out my work! I wanted to comment on the ” vast, echoing absence of female super heroes on the big screen” you mentioned. I completely respect the desire to watch a female superhero movie. What I question is the point where that desire for representation overpowers the desire for quality film-making. You and others have identified a real problem: there are practically zero superhero films with female leads, and those that exist are terrible.
But how does that dynamic improve with the addition of another terrible movie? We agree that a Wonder Woman film would most likely be awful, so after that film is made, a young female nerd who loved the Avengers for Black Widow and Iron Man 3 for Pepper Potts would still have nowhere to turn for more female kick ass but more horrid films, except she’ll add Wonder Woman to the Catwoman pile. With respect, how does that improve anything?
Well, I admit: When I said terrible, I was thinking terrible in a cheesy bad comic book way, not in the eighty-gazillion-steps-backwards-for-women kind of way that Catwoman was terrible. If they put even three seconds of thought into it (not a guarantee), then they could come up with a more admirable heroine than Halle Berry in a dominatrix outfit. It’s kind of how I feel about the potential for a Black Panther movie (http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/MarvelFreshman/news/?a=88931). Like, that could be bad, too, but isn’t it more important to see a person of color as the main event? Although Fury is pretty awesome…
I kinda agree with that point on Black Panther, Alix. I’m completely afraid that Reggie Hudlin will pervert that script into blaxploitation hell. Maybe that should be my next post: “We Don’t Need a Black Panther Movie, Either”. LOL.
I am not by any means a comic book expert as is probably apparent. It seems to me that your post and all your responses come down to The Woman Question. While we might be discussing some pop culture first world fluffery, the crux of the issue can be manifested to the larger question of whether one believes that women should wait for full social revolution to achieve full liberation or be given/allowed/conceded partial, compromised advances. For whatever reason the only example coming to mind is the recent reformist advance: gay marriage which is a partial, compromised advance, not full social liberation for all people, nor for all queers of all races, classes, legal status, BUT it is still movement forward; some might argue it is an entitlement and reification of normativity, but there’s no denying the privileges, benefits of full Citizenship, full vote, full rights. http://thefeministwire.com/2013/06/equity-at-the-peril-of-normativity-a-feminist-anthropological-take-on-race-marriage-justice/
Of course, a superheroine movie is not a legal right or social reform–I’m not trying to over-simply the nuances nor over-analyze the Question of WW–but the point QoS & Alix are making has its parallels. So what’s it to be–reform or total revolution? WW movie at any cost to advance gender parity or wait until the superhero phallogocentric genre has better storytelling/politics/economics and then we can consider less dicks? As QoS/Alix pointed out, WW movie can be a watershed for other stories waiting to be cinemized and as L. James pointed out, it can also be the dam.
We can debate the possibility and merit of such developments, but it comes back to the producers, those in power. It comes down to what Power is willing to concede and what it gains for the concession (profit $$); and then perhaps, it comes down–to coarsely paraphrase Malala–what movie producers (white men) fear most: a Wonder Woman with a movie.
So then, perhaps there is the third way (why do we always get locked into these Manichean binaries?) and can we discuss that please instead of this and that problem. Fund independent superheroine films that promote strong female leads that tell stories we want to hear/watch can open up the wave for more films/narratives as El Mariachi did. If you haven’t taken a look at the campaign to fund The Fifth Sacred Thing, it’s worth a look (I’m not affiliated, I just loved the novel and am excited about it). Two POC leads, a woman and a man with complex personalities, progressive vision, not Manichean binaries, not hetero-normative/racist/sexist/classist.
“Fund independent superheroine films that promote strong female leads that tell stories we want to hear/watch can open up the wave for more films/narratives as El Mariachi did.” – L. Nguyen
I cannot support this sentiment more. Thank you for this. This supports the line in my original post, where I discuss Fruitvale Station — the financing a Warner Bros. Wonder Woman film would require could be better spent, in my opinion, on independent superheroine films with POC leads, gender parity, and progressive vision. The further point is that we’re more likely to achieve this without a Wonder Woman movie, since it sucks up all the interest in a superheroine blockbuster. I agree L. Nguyen, superheroine movies aren’t social or legal uplift, but an independent movie to illustrate the profitability of a POC superheroine — that’s a film project I’d like to support.
Wonder Woman is still a tool of the master’s house. No one here wants women or any political minority to wait on full equality, including me. Because of that, I wrote about ditching the desire for a Wonder Woman film, because the character and her history reeks of vintage DC Comics traditionalism. Diana Prince is the original #DCfail.
Oh I finally came up with a woman-centric example. The Pill. Okay liberates American womanity from the economic/social burden/pressure of reproduction etc, but also firmly places women in the position of having their hormones controlled by pharmaceutical corporations (won’t even go in to the coerced human experiments/sterilizations in Puerto Rico to develop the pill) and the ultimate price women pay for that in their long-term gynecological health–infertility, as well as gyno-cancers, endocrine/auto-immune disease, on the rise. Ooh run-on sentence. But you get my drift…
I do get it — it’s a great parallel. Thank you for your comments, L. Nguyen.
I’m gonna be real. I still like Wonder Woman. I bought my daughter the $5 straight to animation movie bc she likes seeing a strong female character (and then hid it bc it is too damn violent). I’d watch WW if it ever got made into a movie. I might watch a bootleg version, but I’d still watch. And considering that I don’t watch TV or movies regularly, that’s saying alot.
The concept is truly difficult to take seriously. It can’t be compared to Thor because Wonder Woman derives from Greek myths, she has no actual Greek mythology of her own. You can’t just hand it down to her and think she’s as good as Perseus or Hercules. There has to be a way to translate her character to film without swamping it with her comic lore, like in the case of Green Lantern. It might not even be a modern superhero film. However, as an Asian I do not want to see Cassandra Cain get made if she’s introduced like in the comic books. It further degrades Asian girls who are abused and not treated equally today. I also don’t think a solo Storm movie would work it if involves her origin. It casts her as another version of Ayesha from “She”, with all the mysticism swtiched with mutant genes. Modern African women need an updated character to represent them. I see many in the news already.
Hey Bernie! Thanks for reading and commenting! I think the difficulty with comic book movies in general is that filmmakers must weigh the utility of comic book stories against the expectations of movie audiences. While I’ve argued here that Wonder Woman’s origin narrative would not hold up on screen, many others have argued here that the Perez, Simone, and Azzerallo runs with the character would make good movies.
On Cassandra Cain and Ororo Munroe- my point with raising the idea of those movie possibilities is that the assumption that Wonder Woman “deserves” a big-budget action film is to my mind flawed, precisely because it does not allow for stories about superhero women of color to be told. Even if Black Bat or Storm isn’t what’s wanted by the public, there are many other superheroines and superheroines of color from which to choose. Why the crazy focus on one type of strong female? I see nothing to celebrate when progressives advocate for a Wonder Woman movie, when Diana Prince is basically a privileged woman with a convoluted backstory. I had enough of that with Thor.
Storm movie on its way http://legendarium.mymiddleearth.com/2013/10/26/new-short-film-about-x-mens-storm-coming-soon/
Hope it’s good. But I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in Days of Future Past.
While I agree with some arguments I am a bit taken back about casting a athletic women for the part. Female athletes do still have very feminine bodies, a glance at female Olympic good medalist or the women of cross fit will reveal bodies that do not visibly or functionally “match”those of their male counter-parts anyways so what purpose do we get from casting a woman who actually knows how to punch as opposed to one who never has. Unless we’re talking about “additives”to a women’s diet to achieve a male like physique….it isn’t like casting a perfect “hip to ratio”actress will be any more or any less serviceable then a legitimate female athlete. To this end is argue that it doesn’t really matter what kind of women they do cast so long as she is attractive and looks the part because if we are honest with ourselves…the idea of a woman beating down rows of men is but only a fantasy to the extreme so why not indulge this fantasy to its fullest extent.
Hey Rik! Thanks for reading and commenting! I think the idea that a woman could beat down men is not a problem, especially if she’s an athletic, trained fighter. My problem is the male fantasy that casting a woman for her looks alone in the role of a athletic, trained fighter imposes on the viewer. We all know women who can beat up men easily – the problem is the expectations of the male gaze, where a woman on-screen must exhibit a physical attractiveness that has nothing to do with her character’s motivations, personality, or even occupation.
I think a Wonder Woman movie should cast someone who is physically imposing, with defined musculature. I think the character of Wonder Woman, confusing though she may be, always works better when Diana is a big, strong lady. Frankly, she should terrify the male gaze – a no-nonsense woman who can hold her own in a fight because she’s trained for years for that purpose. I want her to know how to throw a punch. That way, my mind is not insulted when the movie magic kicks in and she fights some MMA reject playing Ares.
Fitness models, Crossfit women, female bodybuilders would all fit my dream Wonder Woman casting perfectly. But your comment reflects the reason no studio would finance a Wonder Woman movie with that casting. Some people would be so turned off by the concept that they’d stay home, and without a profit model to convince Warner Bros. that fitness model casting would improve viewership, it’s unlikely that Wonder Woman would be cast properly. To me, that says the movie should not be made. But that’s me.
Hey man thanks for responding, before I go into my response I just wanna say that I like you’re work and I appreciate how well thought out you’re arguments are. I strongly agree that Wonder Woman should not get a movie by virtue that it would help give little girls get a role model because as you stated movie studios are not public charities that exist to feed the ideological needs of progressives and feminist who feel all society should bankroll their agendas.
I do however respectfully disagree that a well trained woman could beat down a man. At every level of athletic competition woman are significantly unable to compete against men regardless if its in feats of strength, speed, agililty and endurance. Its the reason we dont have mixed competition in combat sports and why even the best female fighters dont fight male fighters even of the same weight and height. To this day, women can’t even complete the marine’s basic infantry officer training …and note the only women who apply for this training are amongst the top % of female performers whom we would consider the closest thing to a modern day amazon.
I therefore think that even when taking the most physically impressive woman into account, the idea that she could beat a man whom is equally or even just casually trained is a considerable stretch at least according to all the data we have on the subject. For me at least, when a woman is fighting a man in a movie or tv show my suspension of disbelief is already being pulled….so regardless if she looks Christina Hendricks or like Rhonda rousey….the fantasy aspect is already in overdrive.
I do also disagree with the maze gaze aspect, I think it just has more to do with the philosophy behind superheroes. Superheroes represent ideal perfection and beauty and this is expressed differently between men and women…and it isn’t just men who feel this way but women too. Look at the romance novel genre for example which is exclusively written by women for women. In those novels and even in the book art itself, the men are all tall,muscular with extremely well toned and developed bodies…the women are by contrast busty,curvy and identical to depictions of women in comics and in porn…yet it’s a genre manufactured and driven completely by a female consumer base. To further compound this idea, gloria steinien…mrs feminism herself was actually the one responsible for Wonder Woman retaining her classic 1 piece bikini look. Wonder woman’s outfit was actually modified around the silver age but it was upon Gloria’s insistence that it go back to its original design….odd I know. Anyways in my view I think the reason why a character like Wonder Woman wouldn’t work as well if she did look like a roided up female body builder is the same reason superman wouldn’t work if he looked like Michael cera.
Interestingly enough in the fighting game injustice, Wonder Woman’s in-game model does actually look quite athletic and very mannish…so much so that people have called her a tranny in that game. Yet in spite of her appearance matching her character profile, her look was universally despised by both male and female fans alike who complained she essentially looked like a male character in drag.
Rik – Thanks for the compliments about my writing! It’s good to find a reader who appreciates well-considered arguments, even if they oppose prevailing wisdom. I wrote this post in part because I tire of the popular idea that corporate movie studios have a social obligation to provide progressive entertainment for particular political communities. Given this, the Wonder Woman movie concept grates. But more than that, I’m annoyed by the ways we are asked to suspend belief in recent popular quasi-feminist entertainment during fight scenes. I watched a lot of Joss Whedon’s Buffy and hated it. But never more so than the fight scenes, because it never made sense to me visually that Sarah Michelle Gellar could beat up adult men with slow roundhouse kicks.
My point Rik, is that biological physical differences commonly understood should not be the only factor when corporate popular entertainment considers a female lead in an action movie, but it’s foolish to completely ignore them the way Joss Whedon has in his career. If global movie audiences were presented with a 225-pound female bodybuilder on-screen, my hope is that they would respond to her martial skill with the same respect given toward Sly Stallone or Jason Statham. Though to be clear, I think trained dedicated humans can acquit themselves in martial arts effectively. I don’t think that because we’ve never seen a female Floyd Mayweather, Jr. that women can’t box. I think that elite women boxers exist, but are as good as the competition they face, like anyone else.
Put another way, I’m sure you are right that many women cannot complete basic infantry officer training. But I’d add that many people, without respect for gender, cannot complete the physical demands of that training. So while Joss Whedon peddled his fantasy about ninety-five pound blondes with super-strength, most American cop procedurals peddle the fantasy that middle-aged, overweight men can physically manhandle twenty-something male criminals without serious injury. In the later seasons of Law & Order: SVU, Chris Meloni and Ice-T were a little too old and a little too large to make me believe that they could run down a perp sprinting away; while I do not quarrel with the notion that elite male fighters face higher competition and achieve amazing levels of martial skill as a result, I’m less convinced that even the most well trained woman finds herself at a meaningful disadvantage when in physical conflict with most men. There are too many potbellies who shuffle through my gym to convince me.
On the male gaze – look, Rik, I like pretty women. I’m a brother from Virginia – thick is in. I admit – Christina Hendricks as Wonder Woman does hold some appeal visually. But the character was always billed as a strong, fierce warrior, someone who thrives on combat, almost inappropriately. You are absolutely right that superhero comics have always presented idealized humanity, and that men and women have enjoyed comics historically and currently. I suppose I’d challenge Warner Bros. to cast a female whose body achieves a muscular Spartan ideal, rather than an ideal sexual goddess. The fitness model who can deadlift 275 may not have Christina Hendricks’ voluptuousness, but she’d present a Wonder Woman that reflects the character’s comic background much closer than someone like Hendricks, who’d look amazing under the tiara but couldn’t punch her way out of a wet paper bag. If that makes Wonder Woman mannish, I’m less inclined to protest, though how anyone could be considered mannish in a gold halter-top and miniskirt confuses me. My point Rik, is that I see no reason that an on-screen female superhero has to sacrifice beauty for strength, so long as a person who’s developed physicality is obvious to all is cast in the role.
But as long as Wonder Woman is pushed as the great test case for women in superhero films, we won’t get that. Her character’s illogical, and frankly, too many feminists need it too badly, like some great semiotic signpost that leaning in is the new normal, that Women Have Arrived. (See Clinton, Hillary.) So while I’d disagree on how we’d interpret sex differences and the utility of a Crossfit chick wearing the bracelets, I really appreciate your comments Rik. Thanks again!
movies are more than story, cinematography is also very important. In fact cinematography is almost more important than story because it is all part of the illusion. A good director can take a meh story say Jurassic Park and make It into a great movie with really brilliant cinematography. But a great story can loose public interest if the cinematography is horrible.
Anyways as for your arguments, I think what wonder woman stands for in comics is a moot point since the movie can change those virtues to whatever the hell they feel like as long as it pleases audiences and oh speaking of pleased audiences. This Youtube video received 4.5 million views in about 45 days with no trailer, no real marketing or promotion. 4.5 million people found that video because they wanted to. That is 4.5 million people who would most likely go to see a wonder woman movie good or bad the audience is there and there is a demand for wonder women.
Wonder woman is a silly concept, but Thor is sillier and despite the fact the majority of both those movies were boring, the parts in Asgard I genuinely liked (and not just because I’m a huge Norse mythology nerd) I liked them because the sets were minimalist it felt like I was watching an opera and I was really impressed by the beauty of it. It’s a prime example of cinematography being a huge part in making a movie good. apparently audiences liked it enough for it to make 80 million on the opening weekend.
Romrot – thanks for reading and commenting! My only substantive point to this is that the 4.5 million people who viewed the clip above did not have to pay $9.50 USD a ticket to check out this trailer. Just because Thor is an arguably sillier concept does not mean that millions of dollars should be invested in a Wonder Woman movie. Besides, who wants to watch another bad comic book movie?
I own many Batman and Superman books. But only one Wonder Woman Book by George Perez. And The only reason i think his run was decent. Is he focus more on the Human Characters than really on Wonder Woman World. But Really She dosn’t measure up to Batman, Superman, or even the Green Lantern. Frankly i find Barbara Gordon as Batgirl more intresting. I think the only reason Wonder Woman has been in print so long. Is that if DC Ever stopped printing Wonder Woman. The Rights would go back to William Moulton Marston Estate. Frankly the only time Wonder Woman was ever successful in Live Action. Was in the 70’s Linda Carter TV Show. That Pretty much made her out to be a joke. Also they made only one Animated Wonder Woman Movie. And Frankly it was pretty horrible.
Well, a former Israeli soldier is playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming Superman vs Batman movie… So a model who can throw down krav maga. http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Culture-Cafe/2013/1205/Gal-Gadot-A-look-at-the-actress-who-will-play-Wonder-Woman-video
L. Nguyen, check out this recent post on the Gal Gadot pick: The Conversation We Should Not Have About Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I think you’ll be pleasantly suprised.
I just want a movie in which a female superhero is in the lead role. Actually, no, I want a big-budget movie with a well-written screenplay, realistic costumes, awesome fight scenes, interesting storyline and a well-cast woman taking the lead. Captain Carol Danvers, Black Widow, Wonder Woman, Batwoman… I don’t care who. I just want the women to step up and stop being used as sidekicks and minor characters. I especially want Wonder Woman to get a movie that receives the same loving treatment that her male counterparts in the DC trinity received.
Urgh, now I’m just sad because it’s never gonna happen.
Katherine, thanks for reading and commenting. Don’t fret – you’ll probably still get a Wonder Woman movie, especially if the Man of Steel sequel is profitable. But I hope that we see a superheroine who isn’t Wonder Woman headline a blockbuster before that day. Cassandra Cain or Storm would make for better movies, in my opinion.
Cassandra would be awesome! Seriously – training from hell background, stunted social skills, amazing instinctual fighting style, the best outfit ever (scarier than Batman’s, in my opinion), probably no love story clogging up the plot… Barbara Gordon as Oracle… Tim Drake or Stephanie Brown as Robin (I have no idea where in the timeline this hypothetical movie would take place, but I’d like these three to be involved too somehow)
The only problem is that Cassie seems to have been permanently benched in the comics 🙁
I saw this thing about a fake movie trailer for Black Widow: http://yunuen.tumblr.com/tagged/movies-that-should-happen
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Wonder Woman’s interesting as hell – but I agree with a commenter above: always written from a white male perspective. Not from the perspective of someone who has been marginalized or written off. I definitely agree that Wonder Woman should be a real weight-lifter/MMA fighter/someone who can kick ass and not in the art of waif-fu, and the casting of Gal Gadot certainly cements your prediction that the male gaze will not allow that. I do think in the right hands, though, a Wonder Woman movie can be completely epic. She’s conflicted, just as you stated her contradictions: militant despite insisting on diplomacy; old world philosophy living in a modern age. It could be great, just as many of her comics are. Alas – perhaps the answer only is, “not yet.”
This makes me really sad. We ARE getting a wonder woman movie, in fact, and I will be very sad if they screw it up. Reason why it will be such a high stakes movie? If they fail, the movie will be criticized solely for having a female protagonist, and it will be another blow against us all in the battle for equality.
Good write-up. I see your point, with a small caveat: don’t forget that as originally conceived and depicted, Wonder Woman’s homeland “Paradise Island” was originally a highly advanced foreign culture, both socially and technologically, precisely BECAUSE of its isolation from Patriarchy. Also, WW’s “powers”, like all Amazons, were derived from years of conditioning rather than magic gifts from rapey Gods. As originally conceived, Wonder Woman is actually pretty radical.
It wasn’t until The George Perez post-Crisis reboot in the early 80s that the Amazons we re-imagined as an anachronistic culture heavily based on the historical Spartans; sadly the character has only been briefly interesting or relevant since. Predictably, this is the direction it appears WB/DC will go for the movie, as well.
I’d love to see a WW movie that lives up to the original concept of the Amazons as a nation of super-strong, super-smart women living under a thriving socialist monarchy. But we probably won’t get it.
Just a brief comment, years later, but I only was pointed to this article just now:
It is a bit funny how when Wonder Woman’s connection to Greek mythology was brought up as a problem, everybody’s point of reference seems to be Thor’s connection to Norse mythology. And then you talked about fantasy franchises based on the middle ages (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings). Franchises based on Greek mythology, like Percy Jackson, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and perhaps most significantly, Xena: Warrior Princess did not seem to be worth the same kind of consideration. Superhero-related tunnel vision or just a short attention span making people forget about e. g. a globally successful tv series about an athletic heroine and her sidekick that ended in 2001?
I know this reply is also long after the fact, and I admit I don’t have time to read every reply here from a few years ago so I am not sure if this point is already made aside from mention of the socialist monarchy just above. 😉 I am a relative newcomer to Wonder Women as a whole, but I thought it best to start from the beginning with the original William M. Marston run up to January of 1947 as of now, and I have also recently read the first 40 or so of the New 52 reboot, though the new Sensation Comics title run adds much more depth and facets to the newer Princess Diana, than the “Wonder Woman” title.
I was actually surprised by how much more progressive, deviant, and radical she was versus her male counterparts. I believe what could be extremely relevant about the Wonder Woman character coming to the big screen, which is a soon to be reality as of now, are the ideas first promoted in the 40’s including how the world could change when love Vs war is embraced. Paradise Island aka Themyscira was not a culture stuck in the Bronze age but a Matriarchy where science and technology advanced far beyond the rest of the world. They promoted reform for the villains, including Nazis She encountered, on “Reform Island” aka Transformation Island instead of simple incarceration, death or beating them to a pulp. Most often she did not charge in guns, fist, or swords blazing, her main ‘weapons’ ,if there were any, were always her bracelets and her lasso.
These are defensive and subduing tools, they aren’t offensive at all, they aren’t meant to harm. Her original focus was not on overpowering everyone by force but by causing as little destruction as possible, and actually through being taken prisoner, and playing helpless, quite a lot which led to her infiltration of many a villains base/hideout. One of her mains strengths was in not immediately being perceived as a threat because she was a Woman, and then allowing the villain to feel they had the upper hand. The amazons had long forsaken their warring, in being isolated from others there was no conflict. This allowed not only their minds to take the forefront and lead to those scientific advances mentioned, athletics completely replaced training for war, and fighting and were only a game to stay skilled, strong, and empowered upon every level. As someone mentioned they were socially advanced as well, their isolation was what kept them pure in essence from the evils of the world which came with Patriarchy.
As much as I understand this emphasis upon her needing to be ripped to compete visually, and ‘realistically’ in our minds with a male hero, how depicting her as a diminutive waif works against ideas of strength and ass kicking. Wonder Woman being depicted as super muscular is a more modern construct, whether its feminist or not what guys want to see. The original had very little muscle definition, even in Perez’s time she was not ripped just fit, she was still Womanly in appearance and I don’t think that needs to be negative. The point is that she does look like and appeal more to every Woman rather than strictly the Olympians and body builders, AND that she is strong along with that being more curvy and soft in appearance. I believe this idea of strength as a physical projection is also a relic of idealized masculinity. So why should she as a character conform to what is traditionally, and more visually a masculine feature, more so a masculine superhero feature?
My final thoughts, on the issue of her being a white symbol for white feminists, or beyond white girls in general is that she’s technically Mediterranean right? Hence she isn’t blonde like Supergirl or many other iconic traditional U.S. aryan-esque ideals. But no she isn’t of African heritage like Storm, a marvel character. So then why is it an issue if Gal Gadot(pretty sure the “t” is pronounced) a Woman of Israeli ancestry is chosen to play her? With her middle eastern heritage including dark brown eyes, she is even more of a compromise between the blue eyed pale ‘Mediterranean’ U.S. pinup Wonder Woman of the 40’s, and choosing a Storm movie over Wonder Woman isn’t she? I don’t get how her perceived whiteness takes more precedence over her actual heritage, or how her needing to not be that standard white ideal has to diminish the many positive things she as a character could bring to the screen as simply a Woman of any color promoting peace, compassion, reformation over war and bronze age or older ideals such as hyper-masculine strength? I don’t think the movie will completely live up to its potential, but it has the possibility to explore many great social, gender, and world issues as aspects of Princess Diana. Beyond her being ripped or not as a symbol of strength, beyond her ethnicity she is VERY relevant and does have something important to offer all Women as well as men especially in the modern oppressive, and still war ridden world.
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