Wonder Woman is breaking box office records, soaring past $700 million worldwide. It also adds one more example to a long list of movies that demonstrate how women in film are continuously breaking industry expectations.
It’s a much longer conversation than what could be had on a web article, but let’s attempt to look into why movies like Wonder Woman are just as important to the future of film as the studios that finance them.
It’s obvious that the film industry has forced women into the minority. They take less pay and less opportunity than their male counterparts even though they are frequently just as much, if not more, qualified for a given position or role.
To make matters worse, Hollywood has been stuck in a 1950’s mindset when it comes to audiences. Basically taking the position that “a woman’s dollar will go as far as her husband/boyfriend will let it”. Well, as it turns out, the film industry is learning now what many of us have known for some time: They are dead wrong. About their practices toward their female creatives and their audiences.
With Wonder Woman’s second consecutive week at number one, nabbing the third best opening weekend of a DC universe film and best domestic box office record for a female director (Congratz Patty Jenkins!), the film is only the most immediate example of how much creativity, awards and ticket sales female led projects have been producing for years.
Since the film industry’s inception, We have seen invaluable contributions from women that have led to the growth of film as we know it today. We’ve seen early editing legends like Margaret Booth, Anne V. Coates and Dorothy Spencer who were driving forces behind great Academy Awarding films that set the standard for today’s editing techniques like Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Stagecoach (1939) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). We have seen pioneers like casting director Marion Dougherty, who casted many of the greatest films of all time, fight for years just to achieve basic equal creative representation for women behind the scenes.
We have also seen a countless number of great female actors across all generations from Kim Novak to Lupita Nyong’o, of which without their performances, a lot (basically all) of our favorite films would not exist.
While Wonder Woman’s accomplishments are great modern milestones for progression in film, they are only the most recent arguments for how the “Female driven films aren’t profitable” narrative is false.
In fact, three out of the top ten best box office films of all time support strong lead female roles ( Daisy Ridley - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Idina Menzel - Frozen (2013), Emma Watson - Beauty and the Beast (2017)). On top of that, we have seen great female directors over time that have pulled in massive amounts of money and awards for their projects. Women like Jane Campion ( The Piano, 1993), Sofia Coppola ( Lost in Translation, 2003) and Ava DuVernay (Selma, 2014) to name a few.
And perhaps the most important (at least in my opinion) is how many strong suited female cinematographers and writers have emerged in the industry. Powerful films like Fruitvale Station (2013) shot by Rachel Morrison, Meadowland (2015) shot and directed by Reed Morano and, my favorite, Fences (2016) shot by Charlotte Bruus Christensen are visual masterpieces in their own rights. As well, writers such as Fran Walsh ( The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003), Diablo Cody (Juno, 2007) and Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012 – which features a wonderful lead female child performance from Quvenzhané Wallis -).
Because of women like these, past and present, we have gotten the chance as viewers to see narratives outside of the “male gaze” and to experience visual perspectives rarely seen in cinema throughout the years.
Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman is more or less a physical representation of what women have been for years in their fight with the film industry. From the work, effort and creativity shown by these individuals over time, we are starting to hear stories, see places and take on points of view that were previously not as available to film goers because it wasn’t seen as profitable or desirable.
As proven by many films in the past, DC’s Wonder Woman and soon to be by Marvel’s Captain Marvel (which couldn’t have found a better lead in Brie Larson) we have indisputable proof that women belong in the big leagues of film just as much as men. They can tell great stories that audiences want to hear. While it’s unfortunate that this change only makes real ground when money is made, we don’t have to worry too much because these female filmmakers will continue to bring in bank!
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