WONDER WOMAN – WOMEN IN POPULAR CINEMA

I love the cinema – between Amazon, Netflix and the real thing – I probably watch at least one film a day – there are days when I gaze at the screen and think I must have seen every film every made. Of course the overwhelming majority of these films show how men view the world, which seems to be through the eyes of a teenage boy – regardless of age. So in popular, big budget, Hollywood films violence is ubiquitous, guns are comically big and people feel no pain. Women do not exist after the age of 25, they have the body of a prepubescent child with ludicrously large breasts and the morality and taste of the male adolescent.

The only woman director to win an Oscar is Kathryn Bigelow – whose films are generally from the male POV – ironically her early film in which the hero is a woman ‘ Blue Steel’ starring Jamie Leigh-Curtis, is probably her least known.

Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, last helmed a major film in 2003 with Monster which won an Oscar for Charlize Theron. In the intervening 13 years many male directors have repeatedly been given enormous budgets to make critical and financial flops – with little detriment to their careers. Why did Jenkins have to wait so long and why is this the first big budget superhero film featuring a woman? Having endured recent leaden, humourless and self-indulgent ‘epics’ with superheroes who have the animation of a large wardrobe – Batman v Superman and women who appear to house the brain of a toddler in the body of a super-model – Suicide Squad – Wonder Woman is a joy.

Women – some of them over 25 – are the protagonists of this story. They are strong and independent, they are warriors, yet there is little cartoon bloodshed and violence and war are portrayed realistically.

The characters have back-stories, even a superhero faces moral dilemmas. There is a lightness and wit which is refreshing and essential in the genre – the threat of a woman in an Edwardian club is more feared than that of the German war machine.

And most important for Hollywood the film has not only been a success with critics, but has made a lot of money – the sequels and copycats will already be in the pipeline. And if Bigelow’s Detroit is similarly successful more women directors may be trusted with big budgets.

Wonder Woman expresses a woman’s voice, but it is not a ‘woman’s picture’. It is an action movie, faithful to the genre and on a big scale. Women want to watch small scale films about relationships and emotions, but they also want popcorn movies. We want to laugh, to be thrilled and to be entertained.

Women and viewers with more mature taste have retreated to their homes and have fuelled the boom in streaming and the Golden Age of Television. It is time to recognise other voices on the big screen – not only women, but people of different classes and cultures. We need to hear more stories – the experiences of our whole society,

Boys and men leave the cinema believing they can be heroes, girls and women that they can be girlfriends. Women too need to paint on the big canvas – surely it is now time.

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