Saturday night, as millions tuned into Mayweather-McGregor fight night, I went to see Wonder Woman. (Yes, I know, I'm a little late in the game, but with two little kids, getting around to seeing a movie, even a summer blockbuster, is a challenge). It was one of the last screenings this summer and still on my summer to-do list.
Apparently, berating it was still on action filmmaker James Cameron’s summer to-do list as he had these comments to say in a recent interview with The Guardian: “All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit.”
This is an interesting comparison that Cameron draws forgetting to realize that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character was the one with super human powers in Terminator 2 and looked like a muscular, male lead prototype for an action movie. He also fails to mention the Sarah Connor sex scene and her nudity in Terminator, which never happens in Wonder Woman.
What Wonder Woman does that James Cameron has not is feature droves of women completing tasks that have been stereotypically and historically reserved for male figures in film. Yes, Cameron is good at creating strong female characters—Sarah Connor, The Alien Series’ Ellen Ripley, and Avatari’s Neytari—but has he ever done what Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has done during the first twenty minutes in Wonder Woman?
It’s an understatement to say that I loved this movie, but I cannot state enough how much I was in awe of the first ten to fifteen minutes of it. It featured only women. Much like a male war film has extremely long sequences of only men preparing for battle and/or actually battling, viewers see women, physically strong women practicing fight moves, taking a punch, or getting body slammed. And they are gorgeous, but not your stereotypical Hollywood gorgeous.
These are strong women, thick women, muscularly-toned women, and a little girl aspires to be like them, not primarily because they are beautiful, but because of their extraordinary fight moves. And although Diana, (aka Wonder Woman) is a princess, as a little girl, she does not desire to play princess the way most little girls do these days.
As I watched this scene, I tried to think of another which featured only women of that many numbers doing such a stereotypical male action like fighting and having the director of the film also, in fact, be a woman. I thought of Hidden Figures and the new Ghostbusters, but both were directed by men, and they only feature a few women at a time or in the case of Hidden Figures, when more women were in the scene, it was for a short amount of time. I also looked at James Cameron’s films, which again include a number of strong female roles, but they are nearly always solo with an equally as strong or stronger male lead by their side.
During the Amazonian female-only scenes, fierceness and strength were the norm. As a viewer, I wondered what would happen if more and more films portrayed women in this manner, would life imitate art? What if this became the stereotype for women in mass? James Cameron’s Sarah Connor and other strong female leads don’t do this for me. Yes, I admire them, and after seeing the films have thought to myself, “I need to be more like Ripley, assertive, strong, ballsy.” But after seeing Wonder Woman’s ability to show a culture of women so strong and powerful that they make the men that come into the scenes later (as in the men making decisions about the armistice for World War I which bear a striking resemblance to the nearly all-male pictures of men making major decisions in Washington D.C.) look like weak imbeciles, it made me believe all women had the capability to be Ripley, or Sarah Connor, or even Wonder Woman (minus the special powers and magic rope).
So, yes, James Cameron, the character of Wonder Woman is beautiful and a sex icon. But so is the character of Superman--her equal. Superman is not tough or gritty--he is virtually flawless in physical looks, strength, and sexiness--very different from Arnold the Terminator. Besides, don’t deny Sarah Connor’s scale of beauty or sexiness, I’m sure there are plenty of men in this world, and women for that matter, who are attracted to her (didn’t you in fact, marry Linda Hamilton?).
I cede my conclusion to the film’s director, Patty Jenkins, who responded on Twitter with: “…if women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven’t come very far have we. I believe women can and should be EVERYTHING just like male lead characters should be. There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman.” Agreed.