Of course I’m writing about Wonder Woman this week. How could I not? It’s the movie that everyone is talking about right now and for good reasons. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the theater yesterday afternoon to see this movie because there really isn’t another film like this. Sure, back in the early 2000s we had Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005), which were both female lead superhero movies, but they’re both terrible and came long before superhero movies began to dominate the box office every summer. So many people went to see Wonder Woman this weekend and left thinking they had just seen a great movie (the best DC movie since The Dark Knight in my opinion), but they may not realize the significance of this movie. It’s incredibly important for so many reasons, and I’m excited to see what this film’s success might lead to for women characters and women filmmakers.
Wonder Woman as a character has existed for 76 years. Let me say that again. She has existed as a superhero since 1941, and she is just now getting the big screen blockbuster treatment. For comparison Iron Man and Spider-Man have only been around since the 60s, and Deadpool’s only been on the scene since ’91, yet they all got their origin movies before her. Even if the movie were terrible, Wonder Woman would still be significant just because it exists. There is no other movie with a superhero female lead that isn’t an offshoot of an originally male superhero series. Like I said before, we’ve had Catwoman, Elektra, and even a Supergirl movie in the 80’s, but all of these characters only exist because Batman, Daredevil, and Superman existed first. They are side characters that got their own spin-off, but Wonder Woman is her own character upon which her own franchise can be built.
Plus, Wonder Woman is a true superhero in every sense of the word, but the most significant to me is her super-strength. Catwoman, Black Widow, and countless other female superheroes often don’t possess this defining characteristic of superheroism. Wonder Woman is literally stronger than every man she comes into contact with, and it was so powerful to see her up there on that big screen smashing buildings and throwing men around like they were paper people. When she rises up out of the trenches in her first big battle scene, literally entering “No Man’s Land,” I nearly cried real tears. I’ve never seen a female character do this is in a movie before. As she deflected every bullet that flew at her and brought down bad guys with her Lasso of Truth, she gained ground and took on an entire army by herself, while her male sidekicks followed behind her.
Wonder Woman is also unlike many recent superheroes in that she is optimistic, idealistic, and caring. She doesn’t possess the arrogance of Iron Man or the brooding cynicism of Batman. She’s a hopeful superhero, which is something desperately needed in the world right now. She fights for truth, justice, and love, not out of vengeance or some sort of obligatory duty. She fights for the world to be the utopia that she grew up in where people support and love one another. If this is what female characters can bring to rejuvenate the superhero genre, then I am here for that.
Aside from Wonder Woman’s place as one of the first films with a female superhero lead, it’s also making waves in other ways. If you’ve been on the Internet at all today, then I’m sure you’ve heard that Wonder Woman broke the US box office record for a female directed movie. Surpassing the previous record set by Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Wonder Woman made $100.5 million in the US this weekend, and $223 million worldwide. If you’re not obsessed with film and television like I am, you might be wondering why this is such a big deal. Luckily, I’m here to tell you why it matters.
Hollywood cares about one thing and one thing alone. Money. This is especially true of big studio productions like Wonder Woman. The amount of money that a picture makes is the only thing that really matters to studio executives, and those executives are the ones who decide which movies get made and who makes them. Most of these executives are men, and most directors of big budget movies are men. In fact, the Directors Guild of America’s Diversity Report found that in 2013 and 2014 women accounted for only 6.4% of film directors. That number drops to just 3.1% for films that earned more than $10 million at the box office. Worse still is the fact that minority female directors make up just 1.3% of directors in those years.
Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, was able to achieve something that few women rarely do because they are rarely given the chance. She directed a film with an estimated budget of $150 million and her movie made all of that back in its first weekend. Jenkins directed just one other feature film before Wonder Woman, Monster (2003) with Charlize Theron starring as notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and most of her directing work was in television. Hopefully, she is just the first of many women who will no longer be looked over as directors simply because they haven’t been given the opportunity to prove themselves.
The monetary and critical success of Wonder Woman this weekend may finally be the signal that Hollywood needs to begin trusting women directors with big budget movies. I saw this movie on a Sunday afternoon and the theater was packed. Women are making up 52% of the audience going to see Wonder Woman, which just proves what I already know, people want to see stories about women made by women. The proof is there in the numbers, so maybe I can finally stop shouting out my window, “HEY HOLLYWOOD! WE WANT MORE MOVIES ABOUT WOMEN. THEY WILL MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE!”
When I left the movie theater on Sunday, I felt so empowered by Wonder Woman’s strength and her heart. I’ve never seen a movie like this one before, and I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to see this movie when I was a young girl. I sincerely hope that the success of this film means that changes are coming in big budget blockbuster movies, both on-screen and behind the scenes. But progress is slow, and we often regress. Here’s hoping Wonder Woman is strong enough to finally break through that glass ceiling.