Last week the new Wonder Woman film was released and a feminist icon was reborn. Wonder Woman first appeared in a 1941 comic book and was long overdue for her own feature-length movie. Although the 2017 film isn’t perfect, I think it did an amazing job of representing strong, independent females. Furthermore, watching the film forced me to think critically about female representation in Hollywood. I serve on the Global Youth Advisory Council for The Representation Project, an organization that uses film and media content to expose social injustices created by gender stereotypes. Working with The Representation Project has made me realize that the media content we consume, whether it’s books, films, or tv shows, can greatly affect our perception. Although Wonder Woman is an appropriate role model now, it hasn’t always been that way. Her character has significantly evolved since 1941, when she was created. During her very first appearance in All-Star Comics: issue 8, Wonder Woman was a young girl, vying for the attention of a dreamy military hero named Steve Trevor. Diana, the original name of Wonder Woman, enters a contest to prove that she is “the strongest and wisest of the Amazons” and worthy of Steve’s affection. Basically, there’s lots of “I – I love him!” and “I must see him!”
As the winner of the pageant, she gets to accompany Steve back to his country in “Man’s World” (yes, the comic actually refers to Earth as “Man’s World”, which shouldn’t be surprising as All-Star Comics was solely written by men). Although the story is beloved, it’s a problematic plot line we see over and over again in pop culture. It insinuates that a woman’s worth is based on a man, and perpetuates the stereotype that teenage girls are incapable of caring about anything other than boys. It’s normal to have crushes, but teenage girls are constantly depicted as boy crazy and lovesick with very little depth. Maybe Diana had other passions or hobbies, but the only topic that was focused on in All-Star Comics was her obsession with the attractive pilot.
I think the newest Wonder Woman is important, because the narrative is not centered on a man. Instead, this character has the opportunity to truly shine as a superhero. She is not a starry-eyed girl with a crush on a cute boy, but rather a strong woman who is ready to kick ass and protect all life. In the 2017 version, Diana isn’t competing against other girls for the attention of Steve Trevor. Instead, the two act as a team and are seen as equals. I believe a large part of this equality is due to Wonder Woman’s female director, which is a rare attainment in Hollywood since women only account for 7% of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases. Patty Jenkins, Emmy-nominated director and screenwriter, helped bring Wonder Woman to fruition and is also slated to direct the sequel. Despite the rarity of working female directors, Wonder Women has been successful at the box office, bringing in over $240 million so far. In its opening weekend, the film earned $103.3 million and became the largest domestic opening of all-time for a female director, replacing the previous record holder, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Have you seen Wonder Woman yet? Share your thoughts about the film in the comments below!
PS – I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan, in case you didn’t catch that. I dressed up as her for Halloween in 2013, and the resemblance between 16-year-old me and actress Gal Gadot is uncanny. I’m shocked I haven’t been stopped on the street for an autograph yet.