Why Wonder Woman Matters

Why Wonder Woman Matters

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Ever since DC Entertainment announced its new slate of films, comic book and superhero-action film fans alike have looked forward to see if the company would be able to rival Marvel Studios with the new DC Extended Universe. Fourth in the new DC line-up is Wonder Woman, the first solo feature film starring the world’s most famous female superhero. This piece is not a review and will contain no spoilers, particularly as I have yet to see the film, but is more a look at the cultural relevance and importance the film represents.


Over the past few years, a lot of talk about racial and gender representation has plagued Hollywood. Wonder Woman is one of only three films over $100 million to be directed by a woman and is the first film of the genre to centre entirely on a female character. What also makes the concept of Wonder Woman so appealing is her heritage and the fact that she comes from a completely matriarchal society, deprived entirely of men which means that there is absolutely no concept of heteronormativity. For Wonder Woman and her fellow Amazons, sexism and misogyny do not exist! It is this that intrigues me most about the Wonder Woman character, especially when she comes to live amongst us mortals and assumes the identity of Diana Prince: how does she react to a society that views her as lesser? The strong female character is what is most important about Wonder Woman as a whole, the fact that, unlike when I was growing up, young girls can see a poster or a film in cinemas about a woman who kicks ass just as well as the male superheroes that have been rebranded countless times. Actress Gal Gadot who plays Wonder Woman has said that the character and the exposure around the film is not only important to young women but also to young boys who will now be able to see a strong, prominent female character on screen.


Besides showcasing a badass female hero, Wonder Woman is a stepping stone for potentially representing a bisexual hero as well. William Marston, one of the character’s creators, spread Sapphic-undertones throughout the earliest Wonder Woman stories. Since these first publications, DC Comics has attempted to downplay her sexuality. However, in 2016, after the US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, Diana is seen officiating a same-sex marriage and telling Superman that ‘[her] country is all women. To [them], it’s not ‘gay’ marriage, it’s just marriage.’ In September of 2016 comic book writer Greg Rucka announced that the character is canonically bisexual, cementing her as not only an LGBTQIA+ rights activist but as a member of the queer society. Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot reacted positively to the character’s rebooted sexual orientation, agreeing with many fans and writers that Wonder Woman’s home, an island made up of only women, would obviously play a part in the societal distance from heternormativity.   


Besides being one of only three blockbuster budget movies handed to women, Wonder Woman also had the biggest opening weekend box office for a female director in cinematic history! In only domestic box office, the film accumulated $103.1 million in its opening weekend. Not only does the film smash box office records, but it has also tapped into a demographic previously unexplored within the genre. Around 52% of the film’s audience for the opening weekend was female, a very significant number when keeping in mind that the key demographic for superhero-action films are men aged 14-35. Although DC and Marvel films starring male superheroes have done better than Wonder Woman at the box office, the film’s opening weekend success is not only an achievement for female filmmakers but also for the industry as a whole as the film proves that female-helmed projects and films that star women can be as critically and financially successful as their male counterparts.


Besides monetary success, Wonder Woman has also accumulated a great deal of critical acclaim. The film has a 93% ‘freshness’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, which puts it up there with Iron Man and The Dark Knight (one of few films in the genre to be nominated at the Academy Awards) as one of the most critically successful superhero films to grace screens. Besides the critical praise Wonder Woman has garnered, the film also proves to be a huge success for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment whose previous DCU films Man of SteelBatman v Superman and Suicide Squad performed averagely at box office and received mainly negative reviews both from critics and audiences.


Despite making headway both for women in front and behind the camera, Wonder Woman is definitely only a step towards breaking Hollywood’s glass ceiling. Despite getting mainly positive reviews, Wonder Woman still can’t shake negativity from certain critics. Some critics’ bled misogyny into every sentence of their reviews. Vulture‘s David Edelstein wrote that the only positive note about DC’s latest film is Gal Gadot who he describes as ‘perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness.’ Edelstein then continues to praise Gadot only for her physical attributes, including her raspy voice, without actually discussing her talents. Earlier this month, patrons of the Alamo Drafthouse were up in arms about a planned female-only Wonder Woman screening with a man even suing the theatre. The cinema announced that the screening was to be a safe place for women to celebrate the film and each other and that the venue would only have female staff working the event both at the ticket booths and concession stands as well as in the projection room. The cinema did not back down when patrons threatened to never return not only going through with the event, but extending it as it proved so popular.

With a budget of $149 millionWonder Woman dwarfs in the face of other DC films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice who boast estimated production budgets of $225 million despite critical failure! Wonder Woman is undeniably the most famous female superhero so it is ridiculous that a film about her be given less money than upcoming DC films like Aquaman, whose protagonist has never appeared in a stand-alone film or television series. The character has also been dubbed the world’s worst superhero online and in comic book circles. Although the character has some die-hard fans, the lack of previous media attention makes me wonder why Aquaman, which is currently in production and set for release in 2018, was granted a $160 million budget while Wonder Woman remains the lowest budget film in the DC Extended Universe.

It’s important to show production companies that films by women and starring women can make money! If you can, head to the cinema and buy a ticket for Wonder Woman to prove to the world that female directors should be given every privilege (and budget) male directors are. Click here for a list of other films by women being released in 2017 that are worth your attention. 

Published by Gemma Pecorini Goodall

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