There was a surge of excitement yesterday on the internet over the announcement that Wonder Woman is finally getting a movie of her very own. The LA Times collected some excited tweets:
They just announced a Wonder Woman solo movie? Okay. Pardon me for a moment. I am having feels.
— GHOUL SLIME-MOAN (@GailSimone) October 15, 2014
TODAY IS A GOOD DAY
— Noelle Stevenson (@Gingerhazing) October 15, 2014
— Girls Reading Comics (@girlsreadcomics) October 15, 2014
I admire everyone’s optimism here, but I have to put on my joy-killing pants now. I mean, it would be fucking awesome if there was a good Wonder Woman movie. There’s so many ways you could do it! Wonder Woman could be a wise-cracking riot grrrl-esque badass, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or, it could also be cool if they played with the idea that she’s an Amazonian, by having her be someone who is legitimately disturbed and upset by the fact that human beings have screwed our world up so badly by letting men run everything while excluding women from power for thousands of years. It could be played in much the same way that Steve Rogers was played in Winter Soldier as an emissary from the 1940s, here to judge us for letting go of our freedoms out of fear. Or, you could do it comedically, like she is someone who keeps getting tripped up by a culture that unfairly treats women like they’re lesser citizens.
There’s so many ways to do this that could be awesome, but I will bet dollars to donuts that DC decides to go with “none of the above” and carefully avoids injecting too much personality, much less feminism, into the character of Wonder Woman.
Let’s all be honest with ourselves: DC is, for whatever reason, terrified of making movies fun and has completely ceded that ground to Marvel. The Superman stuff that’s come out makes me want to kick my screen in, it’s so bad. The Dark Knight movies were pretty good, but I have to admit, upon rewatching I find them to be overlong and tedious and the sense of characterization for the “hero” characters is just not there. They’re missing the spark that makes even the lighter Marvel fare fun.
A big part of the success that Marvel has had owes to the fact that they’re willing to commit to the characters as characters. They are willing to explore the implications of who these characters are and how their backstories matter for more than it just gives them superpowers. Tony Stark’s over-privilege causes him to be sideswiped when things get for-real serious for him. Steve Rogers feels like someone who actually lived in the 40s, and not in a caricature-type way, but instead situating him as a 40s-era New York liberal. Even Thor is more fun than anything that DC does, because they really don’t hold back from portraying him as a good-natured guy, but one who is nonetheless from aristocratic warrior culture.
Imagine if DC had the courage to do to Wonder Woman what Marvel did with Thor, by heightening the culture clash between an Amazonian and modern Americans. Imagine how much fun you’d get if she was routinely confused by the casual sexism of our culture! Imagine how much joy it would give audiences if, because she comes from a matriarchal culture, she didn’t know how to behave in traditionally feminine ways, and how much fun it would be to see how that challenges people. Hell, just imagine if she saw every bit of rude sexist behavior as a challenge to fight her, because she doesn’t have the framework to understand that’s just how it is. Instead, we’ll probably get like one or two mildly feminist moments before she recedes into a character that is supposed to be strong but also non-threatening. In real life, a woman who has never known sexism in her life would be totally threatening to nearly everyone. There is no way they are going to have fun with that, though.
I don’t hate everything DC-related. Their TV offerings, especially Arrow, are good. But that’s because TV gives you more room to explore, because the stakes are lower. The movies, however, are far too wrapped up in the big male Hollywood ego machine and there’s just no way that we’re going to pry a fun Wonder Woman out of it. Plus, it’s probably going to be dour. So yeah, I wouldn’t get too excited. Instead, keep the pressure on Marvel to do a female-centric movie, because they could actually do it right if they put their minds to it.