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Why Wonder Woman Has Already Made History

Why Wonder Woman Has Already Made History

All eyes are on princess Diana of Themyscira, the world’s premier Amazonian warrior, as fans and critics brace themselves for what could be the biggest moment for superhero franchises in the last 15 years. Positive reception and reviews might lead to a huge shift in the way women are treated in the business, so everyone is on edge about how well the film will do. But regardless of what could be, Wonder Woman has already made history.

On June 2, 2017 Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins, the woman behind Wonder Woman, will be making one of the biggest and most necessary changes to the Hollywood movie industry, critical reception be damned. Jenkins, is now the first female director of a major superhero film and this is an achievement that should not be overlooked. Until news like this is so commonplace that it is no longer newsworthy, we have to celebrate these victories.

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According to recent research by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are women. Men outnumber women in key production roles by nearly 5 to 1. That’s insane. Though some places like Canada and the United Kingdom have taken steps to fix this problem, Hollywood has only become worse with consistently rising Equal Employment Opportunity lawsuits. The current likelihood of any woman helming any movie is abysmal, and the track record for superhero films makes it even worse.

Superheroes in film and comics have always had a bad reputation for being a boys club. Most superheroes are male and similar stats represent the amount of men creating comics. So–surprise–men dominate the superhero genre in film as well, but the material number is staggering. The first superhero movie in the history of American cinema was The Mark of Zorro in 1920 by Fred Niblo and Theodore Reed. So for literally 97 years, no superhero film has ever been directed by a woman. Almost 100 years without a female director. And onscreen representation with female characters isn’t much better.

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Not since 2005 has a woman led a superhero franchise; meanwhile, male superheroes flood the market. Marvel had its shot with Black Widow from the Avengers movies, but despite the fan demand and the lead actress stating she would absolutely do it, they opted not to move forward. When Marvel’s Elektra and DC’s Catwoman flopped at the box office, many were quick to point fingers, ignoring that these were simply terribly written/directed films that were overly sexualized for male audiences. Simply: because two movies (three if you count Supergirl in the ’80s) didn’t sell, big studios supposedly couldn’t afford the risk of investing in a lady superhero movie because people didn’t seem to want to see them, despite how untrue that was and is. Wonder Woman, with it’s confident $100 million budget is changing those tropes by marketing to both men and women without the usual comic book sexualization geared specifically toward the male gaze. Select women-only showings of the film amplify this message.

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Patty Jenkins directing Wonder Woman is the best thing to happen to the superhero genre and to the movie industry in a while. It says that not only can women direct superhero flicks about women for a wider audience; it also says that great directors are being trusted with compelling stories, backgrounds notwithstanding. Early reviews for Wonder Woman are positive, and that bodes well for its impact on the industry as we hopefully move toward a world where a “female director” is no longer a novelty. An important milestone has been reached, and there is no looking back.

The Wonder Woman Cast Discusses The Film’s Unprecedented Importance

Alex Tisdale is a writer and illustrator who runs on coffee and pop culture. You can find him covered in ink and rambling on his website or on Twitter.

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