What was originally a planned review of Wonder Woman – a film I’ve already seen twice in theaters – is now a lecture about how the internet’s irritating habit of throwing shade at any franchise’s predecessors, needs to stop.
What made me decide to write this post was this article by Mikhail Lecaros from GMA News Online titled “Wonder Women: Gal Gadot’s Live Action Predecessors, From Lynda to Dawn”. The “listicle” gives a run down of actresses who donned the mantle of the Amazing Amazon before Gal Gadot, from a silly 1967 pilot starring a pre-Planet of the Apes Linda Harrison to an even sillier 2011 pilot starring Adrienne Palicki. As I scroll to the bottom, it turns into a totally different article. When discussing the beloved 2017 film, it compares it to the 1978 Superman and the current Captain America series (say what?). Then it goes into this little gem:
In an age of overwhelming uncertainty and cynicism, it is downright refreshing to see a hero up on the big screen who’s doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and not as a result of contrived pathos or self-loathing. Seeing as the DC Extended Universe’s big-screen idea of Superman is an angst-ridden loner with a predilection for killing and collateral damage, Wonder Woman is an excellent choice to be the upcoming “Justice League’s” moral compass.
But who knows? There’s buzz that Superman’s current bout with death will see him resurrected to be more of the virtuous leader he’s usually known to be, but that seems to be more of a retroactive fix than anything else. In Gadot’s Wonder Woman, the DCEU has finally given moviegoers something we never thought we would see from this franchise: a hero we can all look up to.
Take that, Henry Cavill.
There’s so much wrong with these last two paragraphs. First of all it takes attention away from Wonder Woman and centers it on her male counterparts. Hidden sexism right there. As if a woman can’t rise through the ranks without bringing a man down. People didn’t go to see Wonder Woman in droves because they were hoping for a DC film “done right”. They went because they wanted to prove that female superhero movies can be successful. They weren’t looking for a hero to look up to – we already saw her as a hero – that’s why we wanted a Wonder Woman movie and DC delivered. Second it singles out Henry Cavill, an actor just because the author didn’t like his take on Superman. But why Henry Cavill, who had no control over the script and was only doing what he was told to do? Why not say “take that William Dozier” or “take that David E. Kelley”? Better yet, why not say “take that Marvel” who – after 15 films so far – has only one planned female superhero movie? Drop dead, I say. Why have there been three actors to play the Incredible Hulk but no She-Hulk movie? Why not Spider-Gwen: Homecoming instead of Spider-Man: Homecoming? And since Marvel left Peggy’s story in mid-air, it’s high time they give us a third season in the form of an Agent Carter movie.
Say what you will about the DCEU, but at least their Wonder Woman movie was their fourth entry and there are rumors of a Wonder Woman sequel, a Batgirl movie and a Gotham City Sirens movie which has Margot Robbie reprising her role of Harley Quinn. I’ll take this moment to also point out that despite having a male lead, Man of Steel treated its female characters a lot better than most superhero movies:
- Throughout the film, 15 women appeared on the screen with at least one speaking line.
- Both of Superman’s mothers outlive his fathers and both have a scene where they stand up to the villain(s). Let’s also not forget “YOU THINK YOU CAN THREATEN MY MOTHER?!”
- Not one female character is subject to the male gaze yet Superman was subject to the female gaze twice: when Faora gave him the roving eye and when a women soldier said “I just think he’s kinda hot”.
- The only female character that was subject to the male gaze was a victim of sexual harassment – and Clark came to her defense (I had to smile when that sexual harasser walked out of the bar and found his big rig destroyed – HA!).
- For the first time Lois Lane wears pants on the job instead of a skirt – ’nuff said.
- Speaking of Lois, she’s the one who learns from Jor-El how to escape from Zod’s ship, how to turn off the Kryptonian world engine (or whatever it was called) and she bravely volunteers to join Superman on Zod’s ship. She’s also the first human outside of Clark’s family to accept him for who he is and unlike previous Lois Lanes she already knows Clark and Superman are one and the same.
- Zod’s right hand “man” Faora wears armor instead of a tight jumpsuit and there’s no hint of a sexual relationship between her and Zod.
- According to this post, Man of Steel had the highest female audience demo.
Now why do I point this out? Because it was these feminist moments in MOS that made me confident that DC and Warner Bros. could pull of a successful, feminist Wonder Woman movie and if it wasn’t for the success of Man of Steel, we wouldn’t have gotten Wonder Woman. If Man of Steel had failed at the box office, DC and Warner Bros. would’ve never had the confidence to go forward with a planned movie universe and we’d still have to wait to see Diana’s story on the big screen.
Now here’s the third problem with Mr. Lecaros’ article: he singles out MOS as an example of “uncertainty and cynicism”. Hasn’t he ever heard of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy? Or Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Or Logan? Weren’t these films also uncertain and cynical? Weren’t these films also about angst-ridden loners with a predilection for killing and destruction (I don’t know which film he saw but Superman was nothing like that in Man of Steel. Your describing General Zod, honey.) Or do they get a free pass because they received high scores on Rotten Tomatoes? Why is Batman allowed to evolve from a batusi dancing good citizen to a brooding loner still moping over his dead parents? Why can Captain America get away with being such a sad sack? Why is Aquaman cool all of a sudden because now he’s some beer guzzling biker dude? Even the new Wonder Woman is tougher and hardened (at least by the end of the movie) than her ’70s predecessor. But Superman can’t do a little soul searching? He has to be some happy go lucky goody-two shoes stuck in the ’50s or ’70s?
Despite being lighter and softer than its forebears, Wonder Woman was still a serious film. It did not hold back from showing the audience the horrors of World War 1. It showed gas poisoning, wounded soldiers with missing limbs, a character suffering from shell shock, a whole village bombed to death, horses getting whipped, people starving, refugees. And (spoilers!) a character blows himself up in a Zeppelin-Staaken R. VI. When I first saw the film, I walked out of the theater feeling a little depressed by what I saw, not because the film was depressing but because WW1 is a depressing subject. I read a lot of books about World War 1 and let me tell you I can feel the turmoil jumping off the pages.
Now I’m not saying you have to like Man of Steel. In conclusion I’m saying this: judge Diana’s movie on Diana’s merits. Don’t give in to hate and haughtiness and throw shade at her male cohorts. Just enjoy the movie and be glad she’s finally on the big screen.
Take that, haters.