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.

Problem solved!


  1. “In the end the villain(ess) topples from a high place so the heroine didn’t have to kill anyone.”

    This is an excellent piece, Heidi. And this might be my favorite line.

  2. While I recognize and appreciate the snark in this post, I think the biggest stumbling block is that all the general public knows about Wonder Woman is her costume and that she exists.
    Your average person on the street could tell you superman or batman’s personalities. I’m a life long comic reader and the best description I could give you about WW’s is a very vague “strong”.

  3. @Jacob…
    Flip that, and insert “Iron Man”.

    I was going to say, maybe Disney should make an analogous movie and slap DC/Warners face… A princess from a tropical island, has powers, must learn to use those powers, meets gods and is helped by them, must fight evil, become a hero… But then I realized Disney IS making this movie.

    November 23, 2016
    They’ve even cast Dwayne Johnson as Maui!

  4. Yup, the reason no one knows how to make a Wonder Woman movie is that men are sexist and they don’t want to see two female characters having a conversation. It has nothing to do with the fact that Wonder Woman has had almost no good stories in 70 years, a host of truly insipid villains, an origin story that’s silly and convoluted, a history of creepy, offputting bondage scenes, a lame supporting cast, stupid devices like an invisible airplane and a lasso that makes people tell the truth, and no particular reason to exist other than, well, why not have a female Superman? Oh yeah, and the element of the character people remember most fondly is a cheesy 70’s TV show.

    No one has been able to crack a Wonder Woman movie because no one can figure out why Wonder Woman exists. She’s a character in desperate need of a top down revamping, and how about maybe an inner conflict or two? The superheroes who have successfully anchored movies all have a recognizable character arc and a conflict they’re trying to overcome. They all have room to change and grow. Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, we know who these people are and we know what drives them. Not so for Wonder Woman and that’s the problem. “A female Superman” isn’t anywhere near enough.

  5. ” all the general public knows about Wonder Woman is her costume and that she exists.”

    This is two more things than the general public knows about most characters in most movies before they come out.

  6. @Jacob goddard
    And yet that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from making an Ant-Man movie. You’re gonna run into that problem with any superhero movie, and it’s not exclusive to any one character.

    Under your criteria, if they can crank out two Thor movies, they can certainly do something with Wonder Woman.

  7. Mark, all of your reasons also apply to Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man (ANT-MAN???) Green Lantern and more as others have pointed out. If a movie can make people cry about a monosyllabic tree, a movie can do just bout anything.

    Here’s an interesting piece (from 2008!) about how screenwriters are trained to avoid more than one female character.


  8. “Mark, all of your reasons also apply to Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man (ANT-MAN???) Green Lantern and more as others have pointed out.”

    Green Lantern? Yes, and we saw how that movie turned out.

    But Thor, Guardians and even Ant-Man have way, way, WAAAAAAAAAAYYY more of the dramatic meat on their bones that Mark is writing about than Wonder Woman. Not a lot of it made it to the screen but it’s there in the comics, giving the filmmakers at least somewhere to start.


  9. “Why Warner Bros. axed Michelle MacLaren, and what that tells us about the state of female directors in Hollywood”


    “If you care about movies and how they are made, the trade stories about this project probably confirmed every suspicion you might have about the horrifically dispiriting way these movies are conceived. I use the word “movie” reluctantly because right now, Wonder Woman is certainly not one: It is a release date (June 23, 2017), and it is a promise to stockholders (as the third of 10 upcoming connected DC Universe films that are meant, between 2016 and 2020, to show that DC can play on Marvel’s field), and it is a recognizable — albeit dusty — title. Right now, that’s all it is. It’s certainly not a movie in the sense of being an entertainment product that starts with an idea and then results in a script that is good enough to attract a director and stars. …

    “So, like many modern-day blockbusters, Wonder Woman will be developed via the monkeys-at-typewriters approach: Let’s have a bunch of different people write different Wonder Woman scripts, pick the parts that we sort of like better than the others, proceed to humiliate the “winning” writers by asking them to interpolate the stuff from the “losing” scripts that we also kind of liked, let the WGA work out the credits and mop up the blood and tears, sew everything together, and sell the resulting Frankenmovie to an audience we will have programmed (via an incessant drumbeat of teasers, trailers, and post-credit sequences) to show up for whatever this thing turns out to be.”

  10. Heidi: The George Perez run is classic, and remain the best Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read.

    But have you read the Robert Kanigher-written stories from the ’50s and ’60s? Oy. They’re utterly awful. You can find them in the Showcase volumes of WW reprints in B&W, if you can stand the experience.

  11. Am I really the only person on Earth who actually understands what people at WB actually mean when they talk about a Wonder Woman movie being ‘tricky’ and ‘difficult’ to make?

    They don’t mean that making the movie itself is in any way a confusing or difficult process; They mean that, as media coverage of the 2017 movie so far has shown, it’s impossible to make any single creative decision – casting, setting, choice of director – without half of the internet jumping down your throat and screaming that NO that’s WRONG and you’re so STUPID and you’ve RUINED IT FOREVER.

    No one can create decent art with millions of pushy know-it-alls peering over their shoulder, breathing in their ear and nit-picking everything they do before they do it, and it’s ridiculous to expect them to. Just leave them the fuck alone and let them get on with it. If it doesn’t work out, no harm done: They can just have another try. Everyone seems more than willing to grant Marvel an infinity of do-overs. These characters can survive anything – You don’t stay in continuous publication for 75 years without being resilient and capable of coping with varied interpretations.

  12. RD: The Internet seems to have an insatiable demand for “news” (and gossip) about superhero movies, exceeded only by the desire for Star Wars “news.” I don’t know how to stop that, unless people with different tastes in entertainment become more of a force online.

    The 500,000 Internet articles about every single superhero movie makes these movies seem more pervasive than they really are. And it’s a big reason why so many critics are burned out on the genre.

  13. The thing with Ant Man is that it has an immediate “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” Disney’ish relatability that a kid can instantly get behind. Guardians had a talking raccoon with a gun, again, instant disney’esque relatability(which makes me think a Wonder Woman movie with a talking tiger might have actually been a good thing as far as general audiences are concerned. Although we should really save that idea for Shazam). The appeal of a green power ring whose wearer can make a giant slingshot is something that can be conveyed quickly in a trailer. As can a suit of armor. Even Ms Marvel and Captain Marvel have a more inherent, visually appealing power set and ability to have a mass appeal to general audiences. But what do you put in a WW trailer that doesn’t look like an all female 300. What do you put in a WW trailer to sell the character to the 99% of general audiences who don’t read comics and who are only familiar with the character because her image was on their daughters school back pack?

    Certainly the bullet deflecting. And an invisible Jet, in spite of cries of being ridiculous, might be a neat visual. The Lasso could definitely be played for laughs. Still, I can’t think of anything to put in a WW movie trailer that would reach a non fan only vaguely familiar with a hero who wears a red, white and blue swimsuit and is super strong. But then again, I didn’t find any of the Hunger Games trailers remotely appealing and thought it was nothing more than a Running Man rip off and the HG films made a ton of money, so what do I know?

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