About a month ago, me and a good friend were catching up on our current favorite shows on Netflix; as he admitted to binge watching Justice League, he mentioned that the upcoming Wonder Woman movie will be the first movie to be released by Marvel Studios or DC Entertainment–two of the largest superhero film producers–with a lead female role. I was completely awestruck by this fact; as I expressed my disbelief he replied, “I can tell by your reaction that you’re a big feminist.”
Yes I am a proud feminist, and yes I was caught in disbelief, but why is that such a revolutionary stance?
As we consume mass media without critical analysis, it’s implicit messages are ingrained into our mentalities. We never seem to question the underrepresentation of women in both film and television because for years on end we have grown conditioned to accepting powerful lead male characters as the norm, while female protagonists usually lack empowerment and seem to always require a love interest. Many may argue that female superheroes are not portrayed in films simply because Marvel and DC comics do not feature many–and to those, I say that that assertion should only help you realize how much deeper the roots of this underrepresentation go.
The upcoming Wonder Woman movie, set to be released this June, is only one major example of the many forms of resistance surfacing against these stereotypical gender portrayals within the media.
Many marginalized identities are to be represented in this film. Hailing from a matriarchal utopian island, only inhabited by females, the character of Wonder Woman herself is a queer, intellectual, and powerful woman–a combination of traits that are not usually intersected and depicted. She is an individual whose only motives are to reach justice and equality. This proves that while encompassing “feminine” traits of compassion and kindness, you can still kick ass.
The lead actress, Gal Gadot, is an Israeli woman of color who was especially chosen for both her on-screen talent and off-screen persona. Because this movie is predicted to be such a pivotal project in expanding diversity and empowerment, the producers wanted both the character and actor to serve as a role model to the youth. To young boys, Wonder Woman will counter the gender roles that they have been taught within this patriarchal society, and to young girls, they will now have a superhero that they can relate and look up to.
In addition, the chosen director, Patty Jenkins, is to be the first female to direct a studio tentpole action film along with the first female director of a film with a $100 million dollar budget. Women have continuously been underestimated both on-screen and behind the scenes of mass media; however, especially in our current political climate, this is the perfect time to portray just how powerful and successful women can be.
As an aspiring filmmaker and a student pursuing women’s studies, I am already immensely inspired by this long awaited movie. I believe that as the first major film featuring a female superhero, Wonder Woman will serve as a symbol of female strength and resistance. As this iconic, queer, badass, feminist character breaks barriers and stereotypical societal norms, this pivotal piece of media will do exactly the same.