Why has it taken so long for Wonder Woman to get her big screen debut? For a character who's only been gaining in popularity in the 75 years she's existed on comic book pages, she should have been the first in line when Hollywood started seeing the box office potential of superhero blockbusters.
Finally, after an entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, the beginning of DC's answer to it and a bevy of more or less successful Batman movies, Wonder Woman is coming to theaters June 2. Many are holding their breath in hopes that the first female superhero to get her feature film will also prove to audiences and studios alike that the fuss about her being female simply needn't be. While we can't tell what the movie's overall quality will be, director #PattyJenkins has been spreading the word that Wonder Woman is first and foremost a universal hero.
Patty Jenkins Knows Just How Big Of An Impact 'Wonder Woman' Can Make
In an extended interview with SciFi Now, Jenkins explained how aware she was of the importance of making Wonder Woman, and how it's been tough just to get the project going. After all, she first pitched her idea for the movie no less than 10 years ago.
"For many years, I was asking the question you're all asking: Why is no one making this movie? [...] The only thing I can think of is that the genre became synonymous with young men, and so I think there was a concern that they wouldn't be as interested in a female lead, and it's taken years for that to sort itself out. That's all it comes down to."
The good thing about the Amazon princess, however, is that detractors of her big screen adaptation could never argue that she wasn't popular enough:
"The interesting thing about her is there's no convincing to do; she has a cool following that never stops."
Yet carrying such a pressure on its shoulders could be dangerous for the movie; if Wonder Woman fails, whether it's rejected by critics or fans or both, it won't be dismissed as just another bad movie. It'll be representative of the potential of female superhero movies in general, and that's why it can make such a big impact. To speak in metaphors that would appeal to Diana, it's a double-edged sword:
"If it succeeds it will make an impact. Obviously, I hope the film is super successful, and therefore I hope that becomes something people believe in. I think that I'm not the only person who's fighting that battle. Things like The Hunger Games have already made a huge impact, and I think they helped open the door for us. It's finally saying: 'Look, there are people making these things with female leads that doesn't become a chicks' film! It becomes a film for both genders!' and so other people have opened the door, but I certainly hope that in the superhero genre this will change things."
And if a Wonder Woman movie sounds silly to you, remember even male heroes haven't always been popular in Hollywood! Jenkins goes on to make an excellent point, which is that superhero movies in general — whether led by male or female heroes — are a relatively new addition to the movie industry. Seeing how quickly the genre has been adopted by audiences, studios and investors shouldn't be so scared of pushing for female-led adaptations — or selling them once they're actually greenlit:
"You have to think about how groundbreaking Richard Donner's Superman was. The idea of making a big, serious movie about a superhero was ridiculous. It was thought to be a ridiculous idea."
Wonder Woman's Biggest Asset Is In The First Part Of Her Name, Not The Second
Still, the most important thing about Wonder Woman is that she's not here to represent the ladies as an isolate category, or to fight the male heroes who've established their dominance over the box office. (After all, what would the Justice League be without her?)
Her qualities go beyond being a woman, and that's the point Jenkins is hoping to make with the movie. For a long time, male characters have represented a sort of "default" gender for heroes, with male and female audiences doing their best to identify with them. Meanwhile, female-led movies have been mostly marketed as being targeted exclusively toward women, and female heroes popular with male fans have been denied their own stories or reduced to a sexual dimension:
"I don't think that one character has to represent either gender. That's part of the interesting thing about Wonder Woman. [...] Of course she won't end up representing everyone, but I hope she represents men and women. I hope she represents all kinds of people that never thought they'd be represented by her, because she's a universe character. That's what I want more than anything."
The success (or failure) of Wonder Woman shouldn't be indicative of the box office potential of female heroes. It should help establish that it's time to stop reducing the appeal of a character to audiences to their gender:
"She's all of us, because everybody's wanted to do the right thing but not known how to do it, or how to be stronger or be good. [...] I tried to just ring the bell of mankind instead of any specific person. But hopefully everybody will relate to the struggle to be a better person."
And if everyone comes out of Wonder Woman wanting to be a better person, we can be sure to see more female superhero movies coming out.
Wonder Woman is in theaters June 2, 2017.
What's your favorite thing about Wonder Woman? Do you have high hopes for the movie?