This last weekend’s release of the Warner Brothers film adaptation of “Wonder Woman” was a long time in coming. Numerous scripts failed, including one with the surefire name of Joss Whedon, but this summer is seeing Diana Prince brought to theaters. The iconic princess from the Greek isle is finally on the big screen, and feminists are excited!
Or they are upset. It really depends, based on the particular subject, or who the source happens to be—and sometimes the same source has felt both ways about the same issue. It should be expected, given the genesis of the character is fraught with conflicting issues, not the least being she was created by a married male, and modeled after his live-in girlfriend
A psychologist named Dr. William Moulton Marsten went to DC Comics in the 1940s to complain about its all-male cast of characters. As a result, Wonder Woman was initially conjured to combat what he described as “bloodcurtling masculinity” (a forebearer of today’s “toxic,” no doubt). Marsten’s invention of the lie-detector machine is represented by her lasso of truth. Yet even as he created the character as a pro-female exemplar, he injected some micro-aggressive masculine concepts. His heroine was frequently bound by villains. He explained this was because “women enjoy submission.”
Remember ‘Suffragette’ and ‘Ghostbusters’?
This conflicted nature exists throughout today’s feminism, and has been on display with feminists’ reactions to recent films with deep feminine attachments. In recent years, Hollywood has often grappled with movies that should appeal to the activist female demographic but can deliver unpredictable results.
When “Suffragette,” a historical drama on women’s rights, was released in late 2015, it was given a slow release to appeal to the awards shows and develop a passionate following. Feminists instead levied harsh words at scenes that were cut, and resisted the racial composition of the cast. Instead of a gradual expansion over a few months, the film died a quick death in theaters.
Then there was the other end of the popularity polarity—too much fervor. Last summer saw a promotional conflagration when an all-female “Ghostbusters” debuted. Feminists spent months supporting the film, then they lashed out at males who dared resist the recalibration of the cast. Estrogen outlets branded the critics as “man-babies,” and director Paul Feig and some of the cast verbalized they did not want those people attending their film. The result was a financial failure and a huge loss for Sony Pictures.
Damned If You Sell, Damned If You Don’t
“Wonder Woman” is a different entity. A superhero film with a decades-long fan base is less likely to suffer from feminist boycotts or a backlash. However, attachment from those with a vested social cause is still going to happen, given the character’s built-in empowerment. The direction they would take that attachment, however, has frequently conflicted.
Starting last year we saw the paradox within feminist circles regarding Diana Prince. The United Nations announced last October, in a joint effort with DC Comics and Warner Brothers, it would use the character as “Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.” Current and former Golden Lasso lasses Gal Gadot and Lynda Carter attended the public announcement. It was a deeply significant symbolic move by global leaders on behalf of feminist causes. And feminists hated it.
Almost from the announcement there was resistance, and soon an outcry went forward. Feminists declared using the lithe and underdressed heroine was sexist and delivered an improper message to the world’s ladies and girls. An opposition petition garnered more than 45,000 signatures. At issue was the inappropriateness of Wonder Woman’s appearance, due to her being “A large-breasted white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring bodysuit with an American flag motif and knee-high boots”
As a result, the UN scrapped the outreach in less than two months. A spokesman last December declared it had been planned to be short-term, yet this contradicts the October announcement that said the UN would use Wonder Woman throughout 2017.
The film’s marketing also led to complaints of rampant sexism. For weeks, the Internet, led by feminist writers, lamented the “fact” that Warner Brothers was spending far less on selling “Wonder Woman” than it had on recent comic adaptations “Batman vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad.” Warner Brothers was accused of being afraid that a female-driven film would not draw well.
Except this was provably false. The studio heavily bankrolled this “scary” female enterprise, with estimates its budget is north of $150 million. Additionally, the studio actually spent more on advertising this title than it did for “Suicide Squad,” even though that film was a character-launch property to expand the DC cinematic universe. Once this reality came to light, other complaints had to be found.
We Want Marketing But Not Any You’re Doing
At the Web site The Mary Sue, this duality of derision was on display. At first the site led the chorus of “where is the marketing?” Then, after complaining audiences were not inundated with cross-promotion campaigns, they complained about the cross-promotions taking place—specifically a branded tie-in campaign with Think Thin diet bars. This sends the “wrong” message, you see. Offering a product that women demonstrably favor and linked to a female-centric theatrical release is not savvy marketing, it is hateful body-shaming.
As a targeted promotion the independent theater chain The Alamo Drafthouse announced they were staging a “women-only” screening of the new release, with proceeds of the ticket sales going to Planned Parenthood. The empowerment could be felt across the seas to Themyscira—until men poisoned the fun with their toxicity. When conservative writer Stephen Miller announced he had purchased a ticket to that particular showing, it touched off a social media firestorm.
Accusations and invective flew, calling him a “man-child” who must feel emotionally threatened. Entertainment writer Josh Hoffman accused Miller of thinking like a rapist, and the Village Voice stated Miller “planned to forcibly penetrate” the event. All this, as a result of him doing nothing more than state he had purchased a movie ticket.
After years of telling us patriarchy is vile, and exclusionary practices need to be snuffed out in any and all environments, here are the same activists energetically applauding an event that is exclusive based on gender, and wailing at the thought of integration. I could point out the contradiction and hypocrisy at play, but that seems endemic with the feminist association with this movie. You see through the double-standards with the same ease as seeing through Wonder Woman’s airplane.