Call me skeptical. Hopeful, but skeptical.
With the critical and what looks to be commercial success of Wonder Woman, along come a swath of articles saying “this will change everything!” Meaning, of course, that Hollywood has finally learned that, hey, women can direct mega-hits and headline mega-hits.
I’m not so sure.
I’ve heard this before about numerous successful female properties, starting way back when with the original Wonder Woman television show 40 years ago. Surely, superheroines would be on the upswing. Except Wonder Woman and The Bionic Women were both canceled. In comics, Barbara (Batgirl), the first superheroine I saw on-screen in the Batman 1966 show, was crippled and sidelined in a story that was not even about her.
On the big screen, with Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton heading major action movies, there was sure to be a swath of heroic women behind them. Hah. That’s very funny. Ridley Scott and James Cameron have had mega-successful careers as directors. Neither woman became as big a star as Arnold Schwartznegger or headlined big action movies in the wake of those mega-hits.
Heck, Angela Bassett was in the vastly under-appreciated Strange Days, directed by Kathryn Bigelow. It didn’t make a lot of money partially because the studio seemed not to have any idea how to market it. Sorry, Ms. Bassett, Ms. Bigelow, no more chances for you!
I read these same headlines when Rey was the lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Jyn the lead in Star Wars: Rogue One. Mad Hollywood had learned its lesson. Yes, female leads could succeed. Except I think Hollywood decided that Star Wars is a force unto itself and the success of those films didn’t prove anything. Mad Max: Fury Road was described as feminist and a game-changer but much of that movie’s praise was sent to the male director, not the female lead. Viola Davis has what was one of the leads in Suicide Squad but had to put up with the antics of Jared Leto, who kept trying to steal the spotlight despite minimal screen time.
What will be a gamechanger? I wonder if the success of Wonder Woman will be chalked up to the success of the character. Hey, popular property, so it would have been a slam dunk, anyway, right? So will say the suits who control the money.
What would I consider a gamechanger?
When 95.6% of the directors are women. When nearly 100 percent of the decision makers in Hollywood are by women.
Too radical? Well, it’s completely flipped in the other direction right now and everyone is just fine with that. The point is until women and people of color are behind the scenes making the decisions in Hollywood-in the producer’s chair, in the director’s chair, in the chair as head of the studio—NOTHING WILL TRULY CHANGE.
“When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” –Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Things will truly change when Warner Bros. decides Patty Jenkins should be the shepherd of the DC Universe because she’s just that good, instead of seeing her as a director of female properties. Things will change when Jenkins doesn’t have to worry that if she makes one unsuccessful movie, then Hollywood won’t finance any movies with female writers or directors, a concern Jenkins voiced in a recent interview. Things will change when Ava DuVerney is bombarded with offers to direct after A Wrinkle in Time is a big hit.
Things will change when Supergirl doesn’t have to wait until after two B-list DC characters to have a show of her own. Things will change when Hollywood looks at the success of the Fast & the Furious movies and realizes a diverse cast is an asset. Things will change when female leads, especially black women, aren’t sidelined or killed off to create new story opportunities for the male lead. (I’m looking at you, Sleepy Hollow and Into the Badlands.)
Diana of Themysicra is an inspiration and perhaps, finally, our harbinger of change. But it’s change that should have come a long time ago and change that may not last.
Until then, the success of Wonder Woman inspires hope.