wonder woman patty jenkins

Hire. More. Female. Directors.  

Hollywood would be wise to use Wonder Woman as a springboard to finally hire more female directors. But don’t be too sure they’ll learn that lesson. In 2015, two of the year’s top-grossing films – Pitch Perfect 2 and Fifty Shades of Gray – were helmed by women. Yet by 2017, the number of female directors had actually grown worse instead of better. Per Variety, “women comprised just 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016, a decline of two percentage points from the level achieved in 2015 and in 1998.”

Just before Wonder Woman was released, THR ran a much-criticized story that claimed that Warner Bros. was taking a “gamble” by hiring a female director “whose only prior big-screen credit was an $8 million indie.” Yet this “gamble” theory never seems to come up when Hollywood hires male directors like Colin Trevorrow and Jordan Vogt-Roberts to jump from small indies to big franchise tentpoles. It’s a disturbing double standard, and it’s time for it to end. Wonder Woman was a big hit, and rightly so, but one gets the sickening feeling that had the film failed at the box office or with critics, Hollywood would use it as a justification to keep female directors away from big blockbusters. Again, this is a standard that does not apply to male directors. Suicide Squad was one of the worst reviewed films of 2016, yet Warner Bros. went ahead and re-hired David Ayer to direct their upcoming Gotham City Sirens film. The lesson shouldn’t just be to hire more female filmmakers – it should be to keep hiring them even if they don’t deliver a huge blockbuster right away.

The DCEU’s Wonder Woman was introduced in the abysmal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where she slinked around in the background before being thrust into a headache-inducing battle scene. She seemed nothing more than eye candy there; a prop to be used and leered at via the male gaze. There’s no such male gaze present in Wonder Woman, and the film thrives because of it. Wonder Woman is, of course, attractive, but the camera’s focus on the character isn’t sexualized. Rather, it highlights her physicality and her strength. I’m not sure many male directors could’ve achieved that as successfully as Jenkins does here.

Wonder Woman TV Spots - Gal Gadot

The New Frontier

Where does the DCEU go from here? Well, the obvious answer is Justice League. And that concerns me. The trailer for Justice League, despite a few stabs at humor, gives off the same doom-’n’-gloom vibe that plagued Batman v Superman. There’s a sense that now that the DCEU has finally found its footing on steady ground it’s about to stumble backwards into a murky bog. There’s a lot to be learned from Wonder Woman, but perhaps the most important lesson of all is that maybe, just maybe, studios should start spacing their franchise films out a bit more. If there was more time between Wonder Woman and Justice League, Justice League could have been effectively retooled to reflect the hope and optimism on display in Wonder Woman.

In Batman v Superman, Diana has given up on the world of men and hung up her shield. It takes the arrival of the monster Doomsday to call her to action again. Wonder Woman doesn’t touch on just what made Diana stop being Wonder Woman, and honestly I’m in no hurry to find out the reason. For now, we should be content in the sincerity of this film. The future is inevitable, but for now let’s focus on today. And hey, if Justice League ends up being a dud, there’s always Wonder Woman 2 to look forward to. 

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