I finally caught up with Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman (2017) and found it much better than what I think most superhero movies tend to be. Full disclosure, I don’t see superhero movies. The 3 Iron Man films, for various reason, were my fill up to now.
What’s most interesting about WW, and less discussed lately than a couple months ago, is how political a woman-centric superhero movie was. Not because it was particularly transgressive, except it automatically is by dint of its mere depiction of gender roles, let alone treatment of them. And even from my limited POV of a white male, there remains a strong sense of empowerment to have Gal Godot take up the (slightly adolescent) ass-kicking mantle peppered with an oh-so-serious alternate history, proto-Spongebob Nietzschean philosophy, fake retro fashion, geek trainspotting, and plenty of beefcake cameos.
This is the superhero film the women have been asking for. Or is it? Is it enough to switch the cast sheet, or as Carol Clover argues, maybe it doesn't even matter your sex if we all want is the protagonist to fight the evil they're facing, and get out at the end to star in the sequel.
There was a similar inkling during The Force Awakens (2015), when Princess Rey wields that light saber. I saw at least one post how ecstatic it was for women viewers to finally see a heroine positioned squarely in the center of the current popular culture myth.
This isn’t the place to analyze women in traditionally male roles, or even to discuss why there have to be such things in our entertainment. I’m just noting that in geek culture lately, you got some cross-dressing that gets a lot more political attention and resonates beyond what it might deserve.
Don’t get me wrong. But I'm guessing Gal Godot in that short skirt sold as many tickets as the filmmakers' feminist creed.
Men have been getting this wrong for a long time. Angelina Jolie with hand guns and Gina Corano kicking guys in the balls appeal to 12-year-old impulses in male audiences. Not gonna convince your wife to come see those on a Saturday night.
James Cameron sticks a horse-cock in his heroine’s hands and he thinks he’s doing feminism. Even Kathryn Bigelow thinks that makes characterization. She's wrong, too.
A long time ago (in a galaxy far away), Aliens was playing at the movie theatre I worked at. Giant hit, you’ve heard of it, and the dynamic of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) protecting the young Newt (Carrie Henn) from the bad ass mother alien was powerful emotional stuff. The big moment near the end that James Cameron engineers so well, Ripley appears in the mechanical Transformers-style skip-loader and snarls, “Get away from her, you bitch!”
A scream filled the theatre, the ultimate sense of female empowerment and catharsis. And the scream was from the women. There was an emotional connection beyond a simple action-movie beat.
Hell, just look at the poster. I wasn’t sure Cameron knew exactly what he’d inadvertently stumbled onto there. (After True Lies, I was sure.)
Now, with the huge positive financial responses to Rey and Diana, Hollywood have decided maybe they're onto something. And I might be seeing more superhero films.