Look at Black Widow in the Marvel movies. Her back story is never fully explained; we only see snippets. She’s been hinted as a love interest to Hawkeye and Captain America (only for the Hawkeye one to be completely dismissed by his very secretive secret life and wife).
Despite whole movies dedicated to the origins of male heroes; Batman Begins, Man of Steel, Captain America: The First Avenger, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow barely gets enough screen time to explain her association with SHIELD yet alone her fighting prowess. But she’s not the only one.
The Case for Wonder Woman.
The Wonder Woman comic debuted in 1941. It was a time of war, but not just with Hitler and the Nazis. There was a war being waged for women’s equality.
The Press Release at the time made this particularly clear;
“ ‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” because “the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.’” Source: New Yorker
|Source: Smithsonian Library|
Her merchandise has been selling successfully for decades; everything from bed covers to lunch boxes to key-rings. She's a commercial success.
In the 1970s Warner Brothers gained the rights to DC Comics. This meant they could produce TV shows and films based on the characters and storylines from the comic books. Since 1978 they’ve made 6 Superman films (7 if you count Batman vs Superman) and 8 Batman films (or 9 if you count Batman vs Superman). But there’s yet to be a Wonder Woman film.
Heck they’re even making a film about a supergroup of villains, The Suicide Squad, before they make a female led film.
Sure, I mean we got the booby prize (no pun intended); and Wonder Woman is set to appear in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice in early 2016.
But does she appear in the title? In the main promotional poster? No.
Wonder Woman is expected to get her own spin-off following her cinematic debut in Batman vs Superman. It’s in pre-production, aimed for release in June 2017. It’s also set to be directed by a woman – Patty Jenkins. Female directors are still a rarity in Hollywood.
Since the world became superhero obsessed around the time of the release of Batman Begins in 2005, spurring a whole range of darker comic book storytelling and constant remakes, Wonder Woman will be the first female star to get her own movie.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are no plans to make a Black Widow movie. What was set to be the first female led Marvel film, Captain Marvel, continues to be pushed back for release, and is now looking at a 2019 release date. Instead we’re getting Ant-Man and the Wasp. While the Wasp is a strong female character, and played well by Evangeline Lily, it’s the ultimate consolation prize. We get the double-billing before we get a female lead. Not quite the victory for feminism it should have been.
The news of a Wonder Woman film follows the latest rush of female led comic book-based TV shows this year; Marvel's Agent Carter, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Jessica Jones. (Yes, Marvel do title all their productions with Marvel preceding the name. And yes, it is rather annoying.)
These are the first female led TV shows that aren’t about the lead character looking for love or modern dating (Yes I’m looking at you New Girl, The Mindy Project, and about a dozen other pilots that air every September) to be made in the last couple of years.
They’re about badass females; reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars and Xena: The Warrior Princess.
Agent Carter, played by the amazing Hayley Atwell, was a feminist triumph. Male characters asked HER for help. She trounced on the 1950s post-war ‘shoving females out of the workplace and back into the kitchen’ mentality. She was freaking awe-inspiring and was commissioned for a second
series due out next year.
Supergirl has gotten off to a mixed start since it first aired in late October. The pilot was the highest rated TV pilot this year, but ratings have dropped over the past few weeks. It’s fun and runs along the same styling as the CW’s successful The Flash.
Netflix’s Jessica Jones series is debuting next weekend, 20th November. The anticipation on social media in the weeks leading up to release has been huge. And following in the footsteps of the highly acclaimed Marvel’s Daredevil, it shouldn’t put a step wrong. Watch the trailer here.
So yes, we have a resurgence of strong female leads on TV.
And from next year, the film industry is set to follow suit. As the character of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games has proven, strong female character led films, and female led literary adaptations, can do well in the box office. There’s no reason why Wonder Woman won’t do the same.
It may have taken almost 40 years for DC and Warner Brothers to put a female on the big screen, but we’re also lucky that the first one, Wonder Woman, has her origins so tightly knitted into feminism.
Do you enjoy seeing strong female characters on screen?
Will you be watching the Wonder Woman film when it comes out?