Pop Stuff: The Wonder Women
Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth has so clearly busted Hollywood gender myths that she should blaze a clear trail for women in film
Thanks to my mum, my eighth birthday will always be one to remember. A bunch of girls donned crowns and lassos in hand, spent a glorious day in Wonder Woman themed make believe. The paraphernalia was a hard get I’m told. So, this summer as actor Gal Gadot stormed across the screen as Wonder Woman, I cheered my comic book avatar, hoping the days of the female super hero taking a back seat to her male counterparts were numbered. In one of the film’s most memorable and prescient scenes, Diana charges into ‘No Man’s Land’ braving an onslaught of bullets to save helpless civilians, the men eating her dust. Diana is victorious in battle much like the film which at $750 million and counting shattered records becoming one of the top 10 super hero films and the only one with a female lead.
In an industry that favours men in front of and behind the camera, it’s a hard won success. It took Wonder Woman 76 years from comic book debut to big screen, via 17 years in development, while lesser loved characters like the Green Lantern vaulted off the page and flopped. For director Patty Jenkins who picked projects carefully in a system where few women are given the opportunity to direct, it was only her second big screen feature 15 years after her critically acclaimed Monster landed Charlize Theron an Oscar. Jenkins nailed her follow up act. Wonder Woman is the highest grossing film ever for a female director, boasts a massive female audience in a typically male genre and has a strong box office even in China and Russia where the powerful female narrative is a tougher sell.
Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth has so clearly busted Hollywood gender myths that she should blaze a clear trail for women in film. In the early Nineties, Thelma & Louise became a massive critical and commercial success smacking down rules that would never have pegged a dark female buddy movie a winner. A good story will charm an audience regardless of gender and yet movies helmed by women are scrutinized as female led whereas movies helmed by men are just movies. Of the top 250 U.S. movies last year, only seven percent were directed by women, less than 25 percent were written or produced by women. So why be surprised that only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won an Oscar for Best Director. Expecting change because it’s fair is like expecting Cookie Monster to distribute the cookies.
The triumphs of films from The Hunger Games to Mad Max: Fury Road to Wonder Woman are beacons but the rising tide to lift all boats will be the change makers. Directors Jenkins, Sofia Coppola and Ava DuVernay, are championing women’s stories. Actors Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone and Emma Watson are publicly demanding pay parity. Elizabeth Moss, Nicole Kidman and Theron are shining in stories with a female perspective from Emmy-nominated The Handmaid’s Tale to Cannes-winner The Beguiled to the hotly anticipated Atomic Blonde and Mindhunter. Reese Witherspoon’s company has been a fertile ground for female talent, producing Gone Girl and Big Little Lies. As women in the industry change the game, my list of things to watch is no longer a hero’s paradise. Diana is a lightning rod that was sorely needed but a band of Wonder Women are finally transforming the landscape.
The author is a film producer and journalist and a former hedge fund COO. Twitter: @soleilnathwani