How excited are you about seeing a Hollywood film featuring the most popular and beloved female superhero? Maybe you think you’ll go soonish, or certainly, of course, see it while it’s in theaters. Have you bought your tickets yet? What are you waiting for, an invitation from Diana herself? Let me suggest you go as soon as possible. Here’s why:
As you may know, Wonder Woman is directed by Patty Jenkins. She is going to be only the 4th woman to be hired to helm a live action. film with a budget over 100 million dollars. The 4th woman if you only count live action, or if you count animation features as well, the 6th. That number is out of 361. There have been 361 movies made with budgets over 100 million, and Wonder Woman will be the only the 6th movie ever with that big a budget to be helmed by a woman.
I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
Ok, why will going to see Wonder Woman early help? Money talks in Hollywood, as with any money-making business. If lots of people go to early screenings and the movie breaks a number of box office records, it offers further proof that hiring female directors is as smart and financially sound a choice as hiring another male for the next movie with a big budget.
It might surprise you to know that the movie-going public, much like the general makeup of the population, is 51% female. Women don’t avoid movies, and they certainly don’t avoid them if they have a female lead character. Unfortunately, in the US, they do have to contend with the fact that way less than half of the films released by studios in this country pass the Bechtel Test, meaning fewer than 50% have two named female characters that speak to each other and about a subject other than men. Obviously since Wonder Woman partly takes place on an island entirely inhabited by women, this film will pass the Bechtel Test with flying colors!
Things are changing very slowly around the world for women behind the camera, but they are changing. Just this year at the Cannes Film Festival, Sophia Coppola won Best Director for her remake of 1971’s The Beguiled. She is only the second woman to ever win Best Director, with Russian auteur Yuliya Solntseva being the first for The Story of Flaming Years all the way back in 1961. This puts Cannes, the festival who turned away women in flat heels in 2015, ahead of the Oscars, which has only bestowed one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, the honor. Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation are the only other female directors ever nominated in the entire history of the Academy Awards. Hurrah for Cannes! The Academy has a lot of work to do, especially given recent snubs including Ava DuVernay and her glorious movie Selma, Jennifer Kent, the writer/director of genre-buster The Babadook, and Maren Ade and her very strange, yet delightful dramedy Toni Erdmann.
It may seem like this sort of campaign, the desire for a female-helmed superhero movie to do well at the box office, is trivial in comparison with heavier subjects like world health concerns for women. The fact is that directors are able to bring attention to subjects and issues with smaller, Indie films, when they can make big, high-profile money-making movies as well. Even Steven Spielberg will tell you, clout and box office success as a director get many a passion project made. Female directors have important stories to tell that can change public perception about any number of subjects. For example, no one would have ever known the real-life story of brilliant female chess player from the Ugandan slums, Phiona Mutesi, had it not been for Mira Nair’s film, Queen of Katwe.
Numbers matter. They open up opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera, in the writer’s room and editing bays, and for any number of other positions ‘below the line’, like production design, art direction, and sound design. Gratefully for the fans and filmmakers of Wonder Woman, the film has gotten nearly universal praise by top film critics around the world.
So… you and your friends can be some of the first to talk about the beauty, grace, courage, and strength of the beloved superhero. At the same time, you’ll be adding strength to the numbers of current and future women in film. You just have to buy a ticket, put on your Wonder Woman converse shoes, and head out to the closest multiplex. See you there!