Color me absolutely not surprised that some bullheaded critique of Wonder Woman has been made mere months after its release. No really, as a woman who regularly witnesses men in Hollywood tearing down the achievements of other women and female-led films, the fact that James Cameron chose to tear down Wonder Woman — possibly the highest-grossing film of 2017, mind you — without any substantive reasons other than to low-key congratulate himself and speak in reductive terms about her character makes me think that he's the misguided one. While his comments are not surprising, it's nonetheless irksome and tiring that it's happening at all. What could possibly be so threatening about letting Wonder Woman thrive in the zeitgeist as well as the box office that Cameron would need to tear it down?
The Problem Starts Here
Let's just take a moment to bask in the deeply problematic comments Cameron made about #WonderWoman:
"All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. 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. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!"
You guys, these comments make me so tired. Why can't we just have one nice thing, like a female-led superhero movie that by and large gives us a positive role model to work with?
The glaring problem here is that, from a purely feminist standpoint, #JamesCameron's statement, which implies he understands how to create a strong female character, manages to negate his own understanding of women in film. His comments point toward invalidating the (somehow still-radical) notion that there's room in film for multiple female characters who — bonus! — allow a multitude of ideologies to exist; if we can contain multitudes in real life, the we sure as hell can contain them onscreen.
Furthermore, what use is it to take Wonder Woman as a character down a peg in the name of propping up another female character like Sarah Conner? Both women represent the power of feminist-driven action in a male-dominated world. Both are strong, smart, capable women. Is there not room for both to exist in the canon of positive female role models in film? Is there a legitimate reason to tear apart that cinematic sisterhood of film's great female characters in an attempt to favor one woman over the other? Absolutely not, which seems to be where Cameron and I fundamentally disagree.
Here's The Truth Of The Matter
It's honestly tough to validate the criticism of a man who has only ever created from a male viewpoint and thus has no idea of how meaningful it is to watch a female director bring to life an iconic female superhero who does, in fact, mean something to a lot to people everywhere — and who are capable of celebrating her without objectifying her. Cameron appears to have no problem claiming male Hollywood misused her and she's now being objectified as a result. But to me, this only indicates that he either hasn't seen Wonder Woman, has gravely misinterpreted the film, or simply has no interest in critically unpacking what's happening in the film and would instead prefer to reduce Wonder Woman to her looks, a thing that I can confirm most women really, really loathe.
If nothing else, just look to Wonder Woman director #PattyJenkins' immediate and incisive response to Cameron's criticism for guidance on why he is way off the mark in his comments.
It doesn't surprise me one iota that a man who appeared comfortable basking in the massive worldwide success of his own films (see: Titanic and Avatar) would lob what sounds like insecure, egotistical criticism at a film that could very well hit the milestones of success unique to the films he has made. It doesn't surprise me that a man, who is speaking from nothing but a male-driven viewpoint, would feel it's appropriate to take a superhero that represents love, female empowerment, heroism, strength and determination in the face of great odds by framing her only within the context of the male gaze. But most of all, it doesn't surprise me that another man in Hollywood utterly fails to see the benefit in supporting women, real or fictional, when their success is well-earned.
There's room for everyone at the table, James Cameron; please let women have a seat.