Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has responded to James Cameron’s boneheaded comments about the wildly successful superhero film, and it is note-perfect. Wonder Woman, obviously, has been a very important film—it’s the first feature adaptation of the comics character, but it’s also the first major female-led superhero movie of the post-Iron Man era. Sure films like Catwoman and Elektra came before, but those films were treated by their studios like also-rans—Wonder Woman was created in a climate where superheroes are king of the box office, and Jenkins was given a massive budget and major backing from Warner Bros. to bring the film to fruition. The result is a movie that broke barriers, from the highest grossing film from a female director ever (it’s at $800 million worldwide and climbing) to the highest grossing film, domestically, in the DC Extended Universe.
But in a recent interview with the Guardian, Cameron took issue with the kudos Wonder Woman is receiving (somebody needs to go to Jelly School), claiming the film and its representation of its titular character is “a step backwards”:
“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!”
There are a lot of things wrong with this #hottake, but instead of listing them here, I’ll just let Patty Jenkins take the floor, who offered up her response on Twitter last night:
“James Cameron’s inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great filmmaker, he is not a woman. Strong women are great. His praise of my film Monster, and our portrayal of a strong yet damaged woman was so appreciated. But if women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven’t come very far have we. I believe women can and should be EVERYTHING just like male lead characters should be. There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman. And the massive female audience who made the film a hit it is, can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress.”
I believe the appropriate response to this straight up fire is “Boom. Roasted.”
Jenkins is spot-on. Male-dominated Hollywood for a long time has equated a “strong female character” with a “masculine female character”, like Cameron’s Sarah Connor. Which is to misunderstand what makes one strong in the first place, and is just as misogynistic as objectification or stereotyping. To say a woman has to be like a man to be strong is just dumb and that’s what Wonder Woman gets so right. It’s no coincidence that this film that was so powerful, moving, and refreshingly unique in its portrayal of feminine heroism was directed by a woman.