Recently, in an interview with Guardian, Hollywood Ace filmmaker James Cameron slammed the latest blockbuster Wonder woman, calling it a step back!
Alright, buddy, we need to talk.
James Cameron said:
“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 backward. 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 many women in power in Hollywood and they do get to guide and shape what films get made. I think – no, I can’t account for it. Because how many times do I have to demonstrate the same thing over again? I feel like I’m shouting in a wind tunnel!”
First of all, I wouldn’t say that wonder woman is flawless. It is not, definitely, it is not perfect in terms of feminism. The movie passes Bechdel test. The presence of women is not limited to Diana alone. We have interesting people from nagging yet charming Etta Candy to the warrior Antiope. However, the film lacks intersectionality which is fundamental if you ever bring feminism into the context. Gadot’s views about IDF vs Gaza conflict and unintentional depiction of ‘patriarchy vs matriarchy’ could be brought into the context of justice and gender. The latest controversy about Gadot’s role in slut shaming a woman she knew could have been raised. But, Mr. Cameron rather chose to pick on “strong woman” vibe based on how she looks and what she wears. For Mr Cameron, A strong woman is about how much she falls under “masculine” imagination. ‘Cause when you say objectified, it is about appearance, including the clothes.
“She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing”
Objectification of women is a constant presence on-screen owing to the needs of a predominantly male audience. Action heroines are made to wear tight leather, makeup and at times, have to take their clothes off. Notably, when Sigourney Weaver became an overnight sex-symbol after the sequence in Alien and that totally unnecessary moment in Star Trek into the darkness where Alice Eve shows off her six packs in her underwear. But is the objectification of women reduced to the amount of skin she shows? Wonder woman is not spared of objectification, Gadot herself is not spared of the same, but the beauty of the films, when compared to the comics, is that the films lacked male gaze which might reduce Diana into an objective figure. The shots are focussed on her weapons, her moves, and her skills. People remember wonder woman as a badass and above all, a saving grace of DC universe from the disaster *inflicted* with Cavil’s rigid acting and the ridiculous “MARTHA!” moment from Batman vs Superman
The film is directed by a woman and her vision is what we see and thus, the film is not male Hollywood doing their thing, but, in cute words, a wish fulfillment for young girls. Cameron’s comments only reflected his lack of understanding about objectification vs male entitlement. When it comes to the presence of male gaze and of male Hollywood doing their thing; look at all the other super hero films with Caucasian male heroes with sidelined action heroines and damsels in distress. From Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, etc etc.
This film is directed by a woman in a male dominated industry where a lot of section, notably the tweet from Hollywood reporter, underestimated her abilities and the film itself was seen as a potential flop because of the female lead and female director. The success of this film means a lot for women and Mr Cameron is oblivious of all that.
Beauty can’t meet badassery…?
Patty Jenkins herself replied to this in her twitter handle.
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) August 25, 2017
He obviously did not understand what the film stands for. Yet I could understand the intention behind his words because, for women, roles as a subjective figure is still a matter of influence and phallocentric Hollywood. Sarah Connor as a character came at a time when women were painfully reduced. The beauty of Cameron’s filmography along with his counterpart Ridley Scott is that out of all veteran directors, their films featured strong female protagonists. James Cameron’s films had the Ellen Ripley who saved humanity from Aliens, Sarah Connor who is the central character in Terminator franchise (first two films), Anne Kimbrough got to play the final role against the piranhas and Neytiri is a graceful heroine from the Avatar. However, Cameron’s statement reflects on the old-school notion of how strong female characters should meet with the overall outline of associating them with men. Qualities like courage, strength, agility, aggression, toughness etc. are associated with men and women who exhibit the qualities are by default “masculine”, on the other hand, beauty is a “feminine” trait and everything feminine is seen as a docile. Masculinity and feminity are socially constructed, so the thing is, should a heroine be devoid of beauty to be an icon? Sarah Connor is a grey character and we love her for that. She is unapologetic and has a fixed aim. She holds the card in the long race of preventing judgment day but it doesn’t make her less feminine as she is a woman. Femininity is not an insult and beauty is not a drawback. Cameron exploited the idea of feminity when he made Jamie Lee Curtis do the “sexy” dance in true-lies.
Wonder woman is beautiful and she is from a background which gives her the privilege to become a superhero. She climbed up that ladder against the German army in no-man’s land, not because she is motivated by a personal tragedy but because that is who she is. She has all the moments from the film that she gives her the status as an icon. Male writers do follow the general idea of associating socially constructing masculinity with strong female characters as much they shame men for being feminine (see words like “pussy”, “cunt” and other feminine overtones are used to insult men). Wonder woman came past all that and characters like her idolized the term “fight like a girl!“.
The strength of a woman should NOT be associated with her clothes, amount of jewelry she wears and the life choices. Personally, I despised those who spoke against Black widow’s breakdown, about not being able to have children, in Age of Ultron. Why not? Wanting to have children make one a bad feminist?
Breaking the glass ceiling
“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided“
It is simply not. Patty Jenkins proved every major made by sexist Hollywood, “from female super heroes can’t generate revenue” to “no one watched films directed by women“, wrong with this film’s success. So, it is indeed a wrong rhetoric to come from a guy who wrote strong women but at the same time made valid feminist arguments in his films.
Featured image: people.com