The CBC’s Haydn Watters writes “After a 76-year wait, a lot is riding on whether a Wonder Woman movie soars“. The article is subtitled ‘The fact that we have this real dearth of female representation in superhero films is a real shame’. The lack of women is not surprising, considering that these films are mining source material that has a similar lack.
The subtitle was taken from a quote of Sam Maggs, who followed it with “Everyone deserves to see themselves represented as a superhero.” What does this mean? Clearly everyone doesn’t deserve to be literally depicted as a superhero. Heroes are archetypes. Does she mean everyone should have a superhero they relate to? Well, those who bought comic books got a vote on that. Those who didn’t didn’t.
“[If a] female superhero film fails, they use that as a justification why all female superhero films won’t work, which is very unfair,” Maggs said. Who is “they”? The studio bosses? They are motivated by profit, not identity politics. In fact, if they had a female superhero property they thought was good, they’d probably prioritize it, because it was different from the crowd. The market is the ultimate in fair: people pay for what they like.
She continues “An astounding number of poor male-led superhero films have been made too — and continue to get made.” That’s because there are a few (Logan and Deadpool, recently) that have been really good. Any time there is something really good that makes a lot of money, the studios try to copy it. Most of the copies are poor, but they continue to be made because they are chasing the recipe that earned the successes big bucks.
“Both 2004’s Catwoman (starring Halle Berry) and 2005’s Elektra (with Jennifer Garner) bombed at the box office and were panned by critics.” That is because both of those films sucked, not because they were led by women. But how does Maggs rationalize this:
“I think the reason we’ve had a lot of trouble with female superhero films in the past is we haven’t been able to tell our own stories. You don’t get a lot of female writers or directors in Hollywood helming these female lead films so they end up coming from this male gaze-y perspective that doesn’t really do the characters or or their stories justice.”
Hollywood is not creating these characters or stories. They are merely mining the best out of the huge corpus of comic books that have been produced over the last century. Wonder Woman was created and written by a man. Women succeed as writers and directors in Hollywood the same way men do: by producing winning results. Hollywood is one of the least ideologically biased places on earth. Claiming that sexism is the only reason women aren’t successful in Hollywood is a feeble argument.
“I’m really hoping with the critical success of Wonder Woman, which will lead into the box office success, it will convince studios to diversify their portfolio to make movies that do star women, that do have women behind the camera,” Maggs said. While a success may lead to star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins getting more work in future, I doubt that will translate to other women. Hollywood cares about talent (money making ability), not gender.
Meredith Woerner, the editor of the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex, admits that Wonder Woman’s success and impact on future female-led superhero films largely ride on how it does at the box office. “It’s so unfair and ridiculous,” she said. How is this unfair or ridiculous? If the movie does poorly, it will be because it isn’t good. We don’t force people to go to bad movies. That would be ridiculous.