"Here is why Wonder Woman proves we're ready for stronger female superheroes." "Why Black Panther proves we're ready for more diverse superhero film." "Is 2017 the year we finally add diversity to our superheroes?"
These are only some of the many articles that have been popping up on my Facebook live feed since the Wonder Woman movie and Black Panther trailer started receiving praise from all across the internet. Both these films have fans hyped that more people are going to demand more diversity in mainstream comic book films, something they didn't think we were ready for back in the era of the '80s and '90s.
True, all the of the comic book movies since 1978's Superman have been very testosterone-filled, with the usual white man donning the cape and fighting crime, but does that mean we simply weren't interested in seeing a woman or man of different color do the same thing?
Before Wonder Woman, really think about the other female-driven comic book movies that have come out. Go ahead, I'll wait. I won't blame you if you have to use Google. With the power of the internet, you probably came up with films like Supergirl, Tank Girl, Barb Wire, Elektra and Catwoman. Yeah, notice a pattern? All these movies were despised by critics and audiences alike, and bombed big time at the box office. However, is it because women took the lead role?
Well, most would agree that #Supergirl failed because the lead acted too "innocent" and way too — for lack of a better word — dumb. In the film, Supergirl is sent to Earth to recover an Omegahedron that powers Argo City, an city inhabited by Kryptonians after Krypton was destroyed.
However, she spends the majority of the film attending school for no reason and fighting over a guy from the movie's villain, a wannabe witch named Selena. The film was more interested in showing off that a woman was in the superhero costume this time around that they forgot to write her competently and with a good story.
Tank Girl, on the other hand, made the bold move of creating obnoxious and unlikable characters. Set in a Mad Max-esque apocalyptic future, the film follows loud, annoying Rebecca Buck who is on a mission to stop Kesslee, the evil head of the Water & Power corporation, from taking control of all the water to rule over the people.
Critics and audiences didn't think the story was very engaging and that the editing way too sloppy and juvenile, with quick edits and comic transitions to try to make it feel more like a "comic book" movie. The comic that the film was based on, while popular in its own respect, wasn't too well known by American audiences. All that and more is most likely why this movie bombed at the box office.
Barb Wire was too busy showing off how big Pamela Anderson's breasts were to have an engaging story or interesting characters. These kind of movies were fascinating because it seemed that the only way writers could write a strong female character was to make her an unlikable bitch who never smiles and barely shows any emotion.
This film was too busy being a Michael Bay film before Michael Bay even entered the scene, obviously marketing to the mid-teen demographic who got excited when they saw a pair of boobs. Roger Ebert also stated that the story was distractingly a very obvious copy of Casablanca, considered one of the best films of all time.
What about #Catwoman? Well, it had nothing to do with the material it was based on. The movie promised audiences Catwoman from the Batman comics and what we got was a character named Patience Phillips who battles an evil makeup corporation — empowering, huh?
Even when Halle Berry won the Razzie Award for the worst leading actress in the film, she went up to that podium and agreed that the movie was a "complete piece of shit" and shared a good laughed about it.
What about comic book movies with black leads? Surely there must be better films on that list than movies with leading ladies. Well, kind of. A lot of people seem to forget that while #Blade was mixed with critics, it has been considered a cult classic by audiences. It was even the real first successful R-rated superhero film before Deadpool turned it into a trend.
Why was it a big hit with audiences? Because it gave us everything we wanted in a Blade movie. Fun action, cool characters and a corny, yet engaging story about Deacon Frost wanting to wipe out the human race and become the most powerful vampire that ever lived. It was silly but enjoyable for the time it came out.
Unfortunately, fans were on the fence with the sequels. Blade II received moderate reviews, and Blade: Trinity was mostly despised by the masses. The only other comic book film with a black lead was Spawn and that was considered a complete failure of good source material. Critics agreed that the film relied too much on computer-generated effects that were not perfected yet, and that the movie failed to bring the hard morals and themes from the comic books to the big screen.
So, why does everyone keep saying the same thing over and over again? Why does everyone think people were never ready for woman leading comic book films and more diverse superheroes?
The problem wasn't that people weren't ready for these changes, it's that comic book films are only recently becoming perfected. The problem wasn't that people were sexist and didn't want to see females running their comic book films. The problem was that every one of those films before Wonder Woman were poorly made and didn't understand their audiences.
Nobody ever said that they didn't want more diverse comic book movies. The Crow was a success even though it starred Chinese-American actor Brandon Lee. 1975's Wonder Woman TV series was a success despite starring a woman, DC rebooted Supergirl on TV in 2015 with warmer responses. People have even been fighting for a Black Widow movie from Marvel since her role in The Avengers.
There was never a time we didn't want a good Wonder Woman movie, and there was never a time we didn't want a good Luke Cage Netflix series. There was just a time when we didn't know that's what we wanted because it was never given to us in such way that we're seeing right now.
Who was really a big fan of Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man and demand that Marvel turn them into big movie blockbusters? Nobody, but if you just put in the right effort with an engaging story and fun characters, people will go see it (and like it). That's pretty much the base on how the Marvel Cinematic Universe became what it is today.
Does Wonder Woman and Black Panther prove we're ready for more diverse comic book movies? I think we were always ready for them, whether we knew it or not.