comics / equality / Feminism / movies / sci-fi

Wonder Woman In The Mix

EDIT: October 2014 – this post was written in January 2014 after Wonder Woman’s role in the MOS/Batman movie was confirmed. Since we have now learned that she will also be getting her own standalone movie, and MOS/Batman seems to be acting as a Justice League launch (as I also noted here) I am much more confident in her inclusion. I just hope they do right by her!

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I recently read, and replied to, a Den of Geek thread about Amy Adam’s comments on playing Lois Lane in the upcoming MOS/Batman movie now that it is also set to include Wonder Woman – and speculation has it, potentially a love triangle.

On the subject Adam’s commented – “I hope that I can involved with a woman on screen where we’re not in a love triangle. That would be fun. Maybe where we team up together and we work as teammates instead of adversaries”

For all we know, this is the direction they will take it, but concerns to the contrary made me feel strongly enough to write a three paragraph response to the thread, so I guess it’s only a stone’s throw to turn it into a blog. Because in all honesty, as a DC fan and a woman, it is something that has been playing on my mind.

Do we need Wonder Woman?

We totally do not need Wonder Woman in this movie! There has been speculation that it might be a brief appearance to just introduce her character for future movies, or she could have a more significant role,  but either way, should she be there?

Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming MOS sequel

Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming MOS sequel

Though it would be nice to have other strong female characters with which Lois could interact, you know, like in real life, bringing Wonder Woman could be a massive step back for the role of women in movies.

First off, I’ve been concerned from day one with this sequel as being Superman/Batman. We’ve only had one stand-alone MOS movie, in which not a lot of character development happened, and we’ve had no movie with this version of Batman, so I’ve felt it would be doing them both a disservice. Adding Wonder Woman too could further dilute the screen time and development of each of the characters. This is more so a terrible move for Wonder Woman who has not had the opportunity to make her own mark in the movies as the other characters have for several decades (whether these incarnations or not, the public at large have a good grip on their origins and their resin d’etre which by and large is not the case for Wonder Woman). This not only means we’ll get a weaker interpretation of her, but it also serves to reinforce (yet again), that even in this day and age one of the most famous female icons of cult and pop culture doesn’t even deserve her own movie. Yet again, a woman is nothing without a man (or two).

Other than a failed pilot and much talk of possible movies in recent years, the most recent on screen live action portrayal was Lynda Carter in the 1970s

Other than failed pilots and much talk of possible movies in recent years, the most recent on screen live action portrayal was Lynda Carter in the 1970s

The second problem stems from this – that it can be argued that including her will get her on screen first and then we can worry about her own stand-alone possibilities (depending of course on the her reception and money making potential). But this is an argument all women have been hearing for way too long – prove yourself a man’s equal before you can be treated as such. I don’t know about you, but I already know I’m the equal of a man, I know Wonder Woman is the equal of a (Super)man, and it’s a sad state that we are still having to prove this in the 21st century. It is so easy to accept this argument as a means to an end, but actually by being complicit in this we agree that it is normal, appropriate and the best course of action. It means that we accept that is how women should be treated and viewed. Even I am complicit in that I will likely watch this movie, which will add me to the throng of viewing figures that have agreed that this is acceptable, despite not agreeing with this. It’s not right, but as with many things it is sometimes difficult to know how to tackle these things.

This isn’t necessarily unique to Wonder Woman, but it has certainly been an on-going argument for many years – that she must prove herself before getting her own movie, or alternatively, claims that she cannot have her own movie as she would never be able to carry it off. Recently this has also been the case for Black Widow in the Marvel movies who has held a supporting role in several of the Avengers movie series, but is yet to have her own standalone movie (or even a buddy movie with her onscreen counterpart and team mate Hawkeye), but certainly this argument has been raging for quite some years regarding Wonder Woman.

A Black Widow / Hawkeye Movie? I would pay good monies to see this (especially if there's no romance!)

A Black Widow / Hawkeye Movie? I would pay good monies to see this (especially if there’s no romance!)

Wonder Woman Vs. Lois Lane

I really commend Amy Adam’s stance on this. None of us like to play second fiddle, and with women already having to play second (or in this case) third fiddle to the men on screen, I’d be gutted if I were her. I’d be truly upset and insulted to think that I could be potentially downgraded to fourth or fifth fiddle behind another character and, potentially, a love triangle.

As it is, modern cinema for the most part (and with some notable exceptions) has not moved on as much as it should or could in the last few decades regarding the representation of women. Women are more frequently than not in roles either involve romance, or if not romance something that relates them to men. Even if they are the star their story has to be viewed through a penis shaped lens. It is  generally assumed by movie makers that their main audience is male, that even though the vast majority of the audience might be female, the story can only make sense if it is set in a cause and effect reality of Man + Woman = normality. 

Interestingly enough, audiences seem to be quite happy to watch films in which women are portrayed as entities independent of men. A recent evaluation of 2013 movies by Escapist Magazine shows that the number of movies released in 2013 that passed the Bechdel Test (a test to show whether women are fairly represented in film or television) earned more than movies that did not. *gasp*

Male Gaze!

I love this video from earlier last year which sums up the Male Gaze nicely. As Rantasmo points out in the video, the Female Gaze also exists, but I think it is fair to say it is a more recent and less frequent development in cinema and the Male Gaze that has existed all movie-viewing lives, is the dominant technique.

The problem with the way women are represented in movies are many and affect us all. It assumes that the audience cannot understand or accept a story in which a woman is her own entity and not seen as an entity whose existence is defined by relationship to man. It is grossly devaluing to women who can become little more than passive objects, but also assumes that all viewers, including men, cannot accept an alternative to this – women as active entities. 

Can you imagine a movie industry where a man is in a leading role, but that role is defined by his relationship to a woman and moreover how valued he is to that woman. A large number of female lead movies have roles who are defined in such a way. One notable exception is one of the best female role models to date in movies – Ellen Ripley. Although there is a hint at romance and some light flirting in Aliens and Alien3, we have already gotten to know an established survivor in Alien, who has no time for romance because she’s too busy trying not to die. It sounds obvious – regardless of gender, a person in danger in real life will either survive or fail, to survive they have to be strong – with that strength comes a single minded focus on that survival, and there is no time for romance. There may be other exceptions, like Ripley, but on the whole this is accepted and obvious for male characters, but for female characters even the lead roles are often given a personality that includes a slither of damsel in distress. Even with her flirtations and her totally understandable terror and fear, this was never the case for Ripley, and gods do I love her for that! She is one of the most real women in fiction.

Ellen Ripley - survivor!

Ellen Ripley – survivor!

In regards to the new MOS movie, the introduction of a love triangle would not only devalue Wonder Woman as a character, but also Lois Lane, another amazing icon (and one of my favourite ever characters). With so many characters already on screen, it would be all too easy to lose two of the most iconic women from the DC universe into a side-line whilst they fought over who gets to set up home in the Fortress of Solitude.

Should we be worried?

On the one hand, no. At the moment the idea of a love triangle is just speculation – but it is speculation based in several realities. The reality of movie making, where it is often inevitable that two female leads in a male centric movie are only there to rotate around his dick, and in the DC reality where there have been instances in the history of these relationships for there to have been love triangles between Lois – Superman – Wonder Woman.

Oh piss of Superman!

Oh piss of Superman!

We won’t really know until more information is released, and until then we might remain hopeful. After all, although her role in MOS was not as fleshed out as we might have hoped, I for one was doing air punches when Lois spent most of the film in practical overalls rather than a “more feminine” alternative (something that sadly plagues the comic book universes and their movies). And indeed MOS passed the Bechdel Test, with several female characters (all portrayed quite well) and talking about things other than the male characters.

Again, although I felt all the characters in the movie were not as fleshed out as they could have been, Lois was introduced to us as defined by her occupation rather than romance and that romance was minimal – more of flirtation followed up by a swept up in the moment snog. On that level it actually felt like one of the more realistic “romances” in recent movies – compared, for example to Thor, in which Thor and Jane Foster (NP) fall in love over the course of the movie… which is set over a couple of days. In all honesty this didn’t bother me at first, but on repeat viewings felt weaker and weaker, much like the film as a whole.

"So... this is all moving a bit creepy fast for me..."

“So… this is all moving a bit creepy fast for me…”

Despite this hope, I do have concerns. I am still struggling to imagine how a film with three leading superheroes will not collapse under its own weight – someone will have to give way to the others and inevitably this is usually the woman. With the movie’s working title as Superman Vs. Batman, we’re not likely to see either of the lads taking a back seat. Again, this comes back to the question of whether we need Wonder Woman in this movie at all and moreover whether having her in this movie will devalue her and worse yet, make that devaluing feel acceptable.

Certainly non DC fans might have a different view of Wonder Woman than those who have spent hours poring over her exploits. If the movie doesn’t do her justice they will see her as just a female version of Superman, or worse yet, just another woman given meaning by the men in her life/movie. Those of us who have long known the glorious princess of Themiscyra could be sorely disappointed in her portrayal. A danger that would be there should she have her own movie, but is increased exponentially by having her as just another character in someone else’s movie. I’m not even going to get started on costume concerns, my opinions on the costume stylings of female comic characters is a whoooooole other story. 

Oh look, actual clothes. That would be nice!

Oh look, actual clothes. That would be nice!

That said, I will be watching this movie for two reasons. Firstly, I hate to judge a movie having never watched it – how can I argue my case if my only evidence is hearsay rather than my own opinions? And secondly, because I really am hoping they get it right and prove all my fears wrong, because if they do she could be glorious.

Don't fuck it up!

Don’t fuck it up!

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6 thoughts on “Wonder Woman In The Mix

  1. Pingback: Justice League Movie? Want!! | My Brain On A Page

  2. Pingback: Why the time is right for a female-lead Marvel Movie | My Brain On A Page

  3. Pingback: Why the time is right for a female-led Marvel Movie | My Brain On A Page

  4. Wow, this was a fantastic post. I really enjoyed reading it. Wonder Woman is such a strong character and I’m glad someone else truly understands her position and how much potential she has for a commercial success. Brilliant post.

    • Thanks, as I noted in my edit, my view has changed a little since the announcement of more characters joining the movie and the standalone movies being slated. I have a lot more confidence in it now, as long as they do a good job 🙂

      • That’s great to hear. The Wonder Woman is slated for a release a year after BvS so I guess we’ll have our answer on how she’s portrayed in film sooner rather than later! 🙂

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