Yesterday’s Kim Masters piece on the WB superhero program revealed a lot of behind-the-scenes disarray, especially with the long problematic Wonder Woman movie. Five screenwriters and two directors…I think a revolving door is an apt metaphor. As I’ve written here countless times and other have also written countless times, no one knows HOW to make a Wonder Woman movie! It is terrifying! Talking tigers, ice cream socials…it’s a minefield.
I think there’s kind of a simple reason behind the Dread of a Wonder Woman that all this reveals. It’s partly because of the whole spanking and bondage subtext for her creation (although George Perez, Azzarello and Chiang, the 70s TV show and the makers of that well received animated Wonder Woman movie seemed to deal with it just fine.) But I think a bigger reason is that a Wonder Woman movie will end up having more than one female character. And they will have to talk to one another! And that’s terrifying.
I mean I guess you could make a WW movie that didn’t have Amazons or Etta Candy but…isn’t that kind of the point of the movie? There’s a reason that there’s a Bechdel Test and so many superhero movies fail it. (Short Version, for a film to pass the Bechdel Test, two women must talk to each other about something other than a male character.) Dudes hate to see women talking to one another in movies. They just do. It just makes them itch with a horrible red burning rash and they have to stop what they are doing immediately, douse themselves with Gold Bond powder and start watching a college football game to get their nerves calmed down. How on earth our society survived Velma and Daphne, Nan and Flossie, Zena and Willow and Ripley and Lambert I’ll never know.
The Thor movies introduced a goofy female sidekick for the female lead, and with the X-men it’s unavoidable, but otherwise, girl on girl conversation is at a minimum. In Man of Steel, Lois Lane (iconic character) walks up to Mrs. Kent (iconic character) and asks her a question…and then they cut away immediately! No lady chat about periods there. The rash was so very close to breaking out. Even in the Avengers, and Captain America Winter Soldier, Black Widow and Maria Hill may look tensely at one another but they don’t say things like “You’ll have to uncouple the power housing.” or “I’ll circle around while you go in the front” or other inane superhero banter, because THE RASH.
Anyway, Thor may have proved that its possible for women to speak on screen without destroying a film, but a Wonder Woman movie would probably ruin everything. To have Diana Prince The Only Girl/Smurfette in her own movie would be wrong, and the people making it must know that deep down (in the comics Amazon Island was a paradise of women doing things together!) But to actually make a movie with more than one female character is so so so so problematic.
Look Warner Bros, if you are reading this, I’ll save you millions of dollars. Imagine a film about a teenaged girl who discovers she has powers for social good that she must use to help people. It’s called The Hunger Games or Divergent, take your pick. The girl learns about her powers, trains, fails a little, succeeds more and discovers a major foe that she must fight to save people’s lives. In the end the villain(ess) topples from a high place so the heroine didn’t have to kill anyone. Now just make that movie into Wonder Woman.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.