Wonder Woman has been hailed as one of the best superhero films ever. As one of the first female superhero films, it also set the standard and raise the bar on the genre. The movie was not dreary or dark, but rather, full of hope and optimism. Above all, it never objectified the title character, who through stunning grace and power lifted the film that became an inspiration to many, particularly females.
But Wonder Woman isn’t without its criticisms. Sure, the third act may have been a little lackluster and the villain a tad bit generic, but overall, it was very entertaining. But I cannot stress how important this film is to usher in female superheroes and how that is important for girls. They can just be as strong, if not stronger, than the guys. Problem is, a few people don’t share those same views. One notable person who doesn’t believe that Wonder Woman is as great as many are making her out to be is Avatar director James Cameron, who claims that the character is “an objectified icon” and it’s a “step backwards.” So let us get into why he is wrong about that…
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I am not a female. But I understand the importance of having strong female characters and why there is a need to have female superhero films. So I’ll let Cameron’s comments speak for themselves before I share some of my thoughts.
While promoting the short re-release of Terminator 2: Judgement Day 3D, Cameron spoke to the Guardian and shared his thoughts on whether Wonder Woman was a strong female character. Here’s what he had to say:
“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!”
Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins then took to Twitter to respond with the perfect message. Here’s here tweet.
Here’s the thing with Cameron’s comments: He is equating “strong female characters” with his strong female characters and is using the male physique and personality traits as a bar. Which is pretty short-sighted if you ask me. Terminator‘s Sarah Connor was indeed a strong character at the time, and still is now. But in these rapidly changing times, we see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and have different experiences, but all strive to be the best that they can be. While Sarah Connor earned her rank as Cameron’s mentioned, Wonder Woman earned it in a different way. That isn’t to say one is better than the other, because it’s not. The path to becoming a strong female character isn’t the same for all. But the goals are the same.
Worst of all, Cameron’s comments lead us to believe that if a female character is going to be a strong one, she will have to be like a man. In this day and age, a woman can be herself and be strong, without having to change her personality, appearance, or be like a man. That in itself is great. Thinking otherwise would be objectification. We shouldn’t measure a woman’s strength just based on her appearance. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Jenkins had the perfect response to Cameron’s one-dimensional thinking.
“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 indeed a place where two strong female characters with two different approaches to that ideal can co-exist. While Wonder Woman took place during a time where the world had been ravaged by war, the film has to do more with hope and optimism. The character was an inspiration in many ways and changed the characters’ perception of the role of a female. Strength and femininity come in different forms. We can identify that both Sarah Connor and Wonder Woman are strong female characters in their own right and that they have different approaches to that ideal.
But if we are to believe that there is only one way that there can be a strong female character, then we are truly selling ourselves short. Just because one has a grittier and darker take while the other is more hopeful and optimistic doesn’t mean the latter is taking a step back. We should embrace those differences and celebrate all the strong female characters.
[Source: The Guardian]