Wonder Woman’s female superhero strength broke the box office. Why has it taken so long?
50 per cent of cinema audiences are female. You'd think the industry would cater to the demand for female role models
We've had Iron MAN, Spider MAN, Bat MAN and Captain America MAN shoved down our throats by movie makers for the past decade or so. There’s hardly any female superheroes in movies - apart from those in ensemble casts like the Avengers and X-men franchises. And they’re only there for the men.
But perhaps we’re entering a new era. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman has already smashed the box office record for a film directed by a woman, simultaneously smashing through a Hollywood glass ceiling with superhero strength.
“There have been great female characters in ensembles, but this is the first time that a superhero movie with a lead female character in front of the camera and a female director behind the camera has shattered all expectations,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
Women were protagonists in just 29% 100 top-grossing films in the States last year, of which only 3% were action films. Why the reluctance to show a female kicking some big-screen butt, Hollywood?
Comic fans will know that in the DC and Marvel universes, strong women are everywhere, not just snogging the hero or waiting to be rescued.
But women in comic book adaptations are usually objectified – look at Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn – even when they’re the protagonist. Up until Wonder Woman’s release the only two female centered comic book adaptations this century were 2004’s Catwoman and 2005’s Elektra.
Neither performed particularly well at the box office. Neither did the two previous attempts at female-centric comic adaptations, Barb Wire (1996) and Tank Girl (1995). This might go a long way in explaining why studios have been so reluctant to have another crack at the genre.
So why aren’t women going to see women in superhero roles? One issue is that, up until now, they were made by men, for men. If you think back to how Catwoman and Barb Wire were marketed, they were clearly aimed at the straight male type. Come on – Halle Berry and Pamela Anderson in bondage gear is not going to make women head to their local Vue.
Jenkins wanted to create a hero who was a model for women – “kind, loving, forgiving...and a badass.” Wonder Woman is made for women and, while there’s no denying that Gal Gadot who plays Diana is absolutely beautiful and totally rocks the iconic WW outfit like I never could, she’s not there to titillate men. Diana’s beauty is her compassion and strength. She’s basically everything you’d want your daughter to grow up to be.
Film mums will be taking their daughters (and hopefully sons) to see this summer to show them that a woman’s place is anywhere she damn well wants to be. And that being kind doesn’t make you weak. And that little girls can grow up to save the world too. Mums worldwide took to Instagram over the weekend to show off their daughters dressing up as Wonder Woman for opening day screenings. Would mums have taken their girls to see Pamela Anderson and her cartoon character body in Barb Wire? I’m guessing not.
Now Wonder Woman has proven that female superhero protagonist movies break box office records. Hopefully we’re going to see more all-action females in our blockbusters - and directing them.
It's about time a woman got some of that superhero action.