The box office success of the DC franchise film Wonder Woman has been more than a little unprecedented, raking in millions of dollars since its June 2nd premiere. The film features Israeli actress Gal Gadot as the female lead, and both she and her superhero counterpart are smart, strong, and undeniably badass. With an audience of 52 percent women, compared to the usual 40 percent for superhero comic adaptations, it’s clear that this movie meant a lot to women and girls.
Director and screenwriter James Cameron, however, doesn’t seem to understand the hype, and has received considerable backlash for his remarks criticizing Wonder Woman. After calling the film a “step backwards,” he left many fans both confused and enraged. He told The Guardian, “all of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided.”
He continued, “She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing.” This contrived view – one that, unfortunately, too many men likely agree with – proves that while men are allowed to occupy diverse roles in Hollywood, women must always fit into a certain model.
His comments beg the question – has James Cameron even seen Wonder Woman? The entire movie revolves around her. She is in no way objectified, and she is saved by no one. The love story even lingers in the shadows as the highlight of the movie is her personal journey.
Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman, responded on Twitter. “James Cameron’s inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great filmmaker, he is not a woman,” she explained poignantly. “There is no right and wrong powerful kind of woman.”
Cameron also compared Wonder Woman to Sarah Connor, a character in Cameron’s Terminator franchise. He stated, “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.” Here he insists that women cannot be both respected and beautiful, and that in order to be interesting or multi-faceted, female characters must somehow be “troubled.” It goes without saying that no one would ever claim this about a man.
Paul Feig, director of the all-female Ghostbusters, also responded to Cameron through Twitter: “I wish James Cameron would realize any great leading roles for women are a step forward. Sarah Connor was awesome & so was Wonder Woman.”
And Feig is so right about that. Exposure is always a step forward. Representation is always a step forward. Having a strong, inspirational, confident female lead in a box office success – a character who isn’t just the girlfriend or the supporting pretty girl, but rather, one that little girls can relate to – is always a step forward.
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