One year ago, history was made when Batman v Superman: Dawn of
Wonder Woman Justice opened in theaters.
Why is this a cinematic milestone?
For the first time in history, the Man of Steel, the Caped Crusader, and the Amazon appeared together in a live action story. This is of monumental importance because not only are these iconic heroes the flagship franchises of DC Comics, they are also the cornerstones of western media and western culture.
BvS, and for that matter the DC Extended Universe in general, continue to be one of the most polarizing franchises for comic book fans and movie goers for reasons that range from legit critiques to absurd double standards.
One year later, what’s the final verdict on the film?
“Be their hero, Clark. Be their monument, be their angel, be anything they need you to be… or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”
To everyone who said the movie was horrible, I just have this to say: You a lie. You a lie. And you a lie. So is you, you, and you. Your mama is a lie, your daddy is a lie, your kids, your play cousin, your supervisor, and everyone else who protested too much about how “bad” this cinematic masterpiece is. In case I wasn’t clear, you a damn lie. I mean I guess you’re entitled to your opinion, even if it is factually and morally wrong.
Relax. I kid, I kid, I kid. Sorta.
For me personally, watching this triumvirate team up and best Lex Luthor and Doomsday was the payoff that fanboy dreams are made of.
While I absolutely loved the film, specifically the extended version, I will say this. DC/WB is taking some artistic risks which are hella ballsy and admittedly are an acquired taste. However, at the same time they illustrate that director Zack Snyder and company are taking this universe seriously. DC means business and they came to play.
BvS isn’t formulaic and simplistic as most of the Marvel films. That’s because the DCEU is tackling some powerful philosophical and surprisingly cerebral issues and themes. They’re going for the Greek epic. It’s also clear that DC is purposely going left where Marvel goes right, and I think it will establish their brand.
Most importantly, the DCEU superheroes aren’t whitewashed nor are they calling black and brown people monkeys.
I'd blow a raspberry at white boy too. pic.twitter.com/YlgkFFE2nU
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) March 17, 2017
So there is that.
Let’s talk about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She was hands down the MVP of BvS. With only a few lines, she stole every scene like a mother effin boss.
I knew she was going to own it because she rocked the Fast & The Furious films as Giselle (which, by the by, I still need a Giselle and Han spinoff or prequel) and between her acting and military backgroud, I knew she had this role on lock.
Nevertheless, prior to the film people body-shamed her and critiqued her in ways they never would have done a male actor. And look who the people are cheering for now. Look who got the last laugh in the end.
Battle on Amazon!!!!!
The DCEU is also improving the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s true. It’s true. Competition is finally forcing the Mouse and the House of Ideas to diversify its films and television shows.
Despite numerous campaigns and public outcry from fans, Marvel seemingly had no intentions to provide a Black Panther film. Despite the animated Black Panther series’ success — it outperformed all comparable Marvel animated films even without a live action film to promote it — Marvel still had no interest in bringing the Wakandan superhero to life.
In fact, Marvel execs hemmed and hawwed about how difficult it would be to create Wakanda.
It wasn’t until DC announced its slate of films (several of which feature non-white protagonists like Aquaman, Suicide Squad, Cyborg, and Black Adam) that Marvel/Disney seemingly woke up. Black Panther is scheduled to be released in 2018 making it a decade since the MCU debuted before we receive a non-white superhero on the big screen.
DCEU’s arrival has fast tracked more than a few diverse Marvel projects: Black Panther, Runaways, Cloak and Dagger, Luke Cage, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
What’s interesting is that in terms of the comics, Marvel had dominated in sales and has been killing it in terms of diversity. Meanwhile the MCU leaves much to be desired and the only reason it’s moving away from the straight white guy narrative is because of competition from the DCEU.
However DC Comics has been a walking fustercluck on the printed page, but they’ve slayed in terms of diversity and quality in their films.
Say what you will for the DCEU, whether you agree with all of their decisions or not, if they are guilty of anything it is going hard to appeal to their fanbase. Case in point: The #AAIronFist campaign was straight up ignored by Marvel/Disney. The #KeepIrisWestBlack campaign was embraced with open arms by DC/Warner.
And people wonder why I’m here for the DCEU.
While I agree with the critique that a Superman film should be lighter and family friendly, director Zack Snyder is not at fault here. I’m usually the first one to take Hollywood to task for their ineptitude, but this is one of those rare times where I’m actually defending them. I think part of the reason this movie was made with the tone it had is because for years the general public, and fandom alike, have bitched and moaned for years about Superman being too boring and too much of a boy scout. And shocker, some of the same people are now whining that Man of Steel and BvS are too grim.
That’s the problem with Supermen and messiahs. The world expects them to be all things to all people and when they’re not, they get crucified. They got the boy scout in Superman Returns and people whined nonstop.
So now you got what you asked for. So for those who wanted a grim and badass Superman, you got him. Don’t blame Hollywood. This one is on you.
BvS continued the theme of Superman representing “the Other” just as he did in Man of Steel. The illegal alien who must hide who he is to survive in a bigoted and savage world. Because the reality is the closet is often a necessity. Because Kryptonian or human, when you’re the other and you’re out, the Tuskegee Experiment happens, as does Stonewall, Ferguson, McKinney, Baltimore, Charleston or the world embraces you with the same love as they did Alan Turing, Emille Griffith, CeCe McDonald, Lawrence King, Duanna Johnson, Vincent Chin, Tamir Rice, or Matthew Shepard.
Hearing white fans complain about Superman causing property damage is not unlike whites complaining about CVS during #BlackLivesMatter peaceful protests. Notice in both cases the onus isn’t upon the oppressors to actually stop the oppressing but shaming the Other for fighting to counteract it.
MoS was my first clue how white folks were gonna trip when it came to Ferguson and Baltimore and whatnot. Now here is Superman fighting to stop an invasion and the Earth being destroyed and white fandom is tripping about an IHOP being demolished. Now Superman is white culture’s champion and ideal. If they’re going to crucify him… we as PoCs shouldn’t be shocked over how they react to us fighting for our very survival.
Even though Superman represents the Other, even as a fictional character he carries more privilege than the real first black U.S. president he inspired.
What’s interesting is that Batman v Superman makes a critique on our current society and the Last Son of Krypton has a few more parallels with Obama’s presidency.
The arrival of both Superman and Obama changed the power landscape of America, of the entire planet. White humans were irate because in both cases, Obama/Superman threatened the existing power structures and now whites were getting a taste of the fear PoCs have had to endure daily for centuries. And even though both men fought tirelessly for truth, justice, and the American way, they were met with outright bigotry. The ones leading the hate-mongering were Lex Luthor and Donald Trump.
So what happens? Obama and Superman sacrifice everything for a world they’re too good for. It is revealed that Luthor was responsible for masterminding Superman’s murder and endangering the planet. Trump, the very one who accused Obama of having a fake birth certificate, steals the Oval Office and continues to this day to be exposed as a criminal.
Now that Obama is out of office and Superman is dead (and in both cases no longer deemed a threat) the world wants to make martyrs out of the very people they dehumanized.
That is the twisted beauty and irony of bigotry and oppression. It is as irrational as it is evil. It ALWAYS comes back haunt the privileged, the bigots and the oppressors.
My buddy Kirk made the best point. In order to have a proper Superman story, the citizens of Metropolis (and the rest of the world) have to essentially be good people. Both MoS and BvS answer the question of whether or not Superman can exist in the reality.
In fact it was Superman himself who answered that question. “No one stays good in this world.”
Because the world doesn’t allow us to be Supermen.
In spite of all of this, BvS is about hope and about one man’s example inspiring the world to allow light to return.
After all, it is always darkest before dawn. And as Bruce of all people eloquently noted:
Man is still good.
We betray one another.
But we can rebuild.
We can do better.
We have to.
One year later, that message is more important than ever.