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Female-Led and/or Directed Movies: How Wonder Woman Succeeds where Ghostbusters (2016) Fails

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It’s been several weeks, I think we’ve all had enough time to absorb Patty JenkinsWonder Woman. After several failures, high profile or otherwise, for female superhero blockbusters, we finally have one that shows what women can do! Wonder Woman is a game-changer, in that a female led and female-directed movie has not only received positive critical reaction (including from this website’s own review, written by myself), but has been projected to, and received, much profit as well! This is only good news for female directors in the future! Female led and directed movies are only going to become much more commonplace, as they should, because many are just as talented filmmakers as men, and this can only lead to more interesting stories and perspectives many may not have seen before! Another benefit is Hollywood finally putting (at least some of) its money where its mouth is!

Last year was a major setback for female-centered movies in the form of Sony and Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, reducing its main cast to generic stereotypes. Making some very talented and very funny comedic actors look terrible and sound as if they are not funny at all. A poor attempt at making a feminist comedy film that backfired for both the studio and the director. Here I list the reasons of how and why Wonder Woman, a superhero movie who was written from the beginning as a feminist hero, succeeds where Ghostbusters fails.

Respect of the Source Material

Jenkins has said in multiple interviews how she grew up watching the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV show, in addition to reading some of those comic books later in life.. Jenkins would be on the playground at school with her friends, they would all be playing as Wonder Woman, running around, fighting the bad guys, having fun. Inspired especially by the movies of her youth, such as the 1978 Superman by Richard Donner, she dreamed of making movies herself. That fangirl would one day become a director trained in the intricacies of cinema. This gave Jenkins the vision of knowing how to balance giving the fans what they wanted to see with what works and doesn’t work in a movie.
Feig has made no secret of his lack of understanding of how the Ghostbusters have this huge fanbase around the world. I myself am not the biggest fan of the Ghostbusters, but it was easy for me to tell. The large amount of merchandise, the cartoon shows, the video games, the fact that fans had been clamoring for decades for a third movie. For Feig to not know about this is understandable I suppose. But it is not a good idea to hire a director who doesn’t understand the IP he is making a movie about.

 

Marketing

When Ghostbusters’ trailer debuted, it quickly became the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube. That normally does not mean a lot, something can still turn a profit regardless of internet hatred (Transformers, Batman V Superman). But then the comments started flowing in on the video, the majority of which stated that the movie just looked terrible, or was unfunny, or they were sick of Hollywood reboots and remakes and crave something original. Though a small but vocal minority sent truly sexist and misogynistic comments of a… colorful variety.
Sony, in desperation over its previous critical and box office bombs, and wanting a cinematic universe like Marvel’s but failing with The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, began deleting the more or less civil comments, while purposefully leaving the actual sexist and misogynistic ones, painting a false narrative that antipathy towards the movie could only be explained as hatred of women. Paul Feig himself worked with the screenwriters to make sure to add some insults both to the internet community that disliked the trailer, and the Ghostbusters fanbase in general, insulting its core audience. Sony and Feig, rather than take the high road and take the criticism in stride, ignore the actual misogynists, and focus on making a good movie to prove them wrong, were so obsessed with striking back and one-upping and insulting the skeptics and sexists, that they unintentionally created a movie for misogynists on the backwater lands of 4chan and Tumblr to point at as “proof” of their “point”.
Wonder Woman’s trailer was released after the critical failure of Suicide Squad, and it was mostly well received. It was not without skeptics, myself included, who thought it looked good, but were preparing themselves for the worst after Suicide Squad, which had looked like a fun ride in the trailers. The typical internet misogynists and sexists came of course but instead of growing an obsession with striking back and being proven the bigger kid in the high school gym, director Patty Jenkins and her cast and crew just ignored it and focused on making a movie. Proving themselves the better women and men. Instead of co-opting the feminist backlash towards the sexists, WB just let fans and internet denizens fight each other and let Jenkins focus on her film.

 

Insulting Fans When Accused of Disrespect, or for Having no Interest in Your Movie

The following are the contents of Paul Feig’s tweets in response to people who dared to criticize a soulless, corporate committee-mandated attempt at a cinematic universe/money machine. He could have simply ignored, focused his energy into making a good movie, and then wave that in his critics’ faces to show that he won.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s just say you will have a difficult time looking for content similar to this on Patty Jenkins’ Twitter feed. At least we now know there’s a good chance celebrities actually waste their time reading our stupid tweets. For some reason.

Characters, Not Cliches

A movie can survive many things. That does not include poorly written characters. Ghostbusters 2016 had bare-basic cookie-cutter traits for characters. Kristen Wiig played the skeptic who soon BELIEVED! Melissa McCarthy played a dumb girl who likes food because she’s fat. I think. Kate McKinnon played the children’s cartoon, wacky, bleached hair, over-the-top voice, oversized lab coat scientist. Leslie Jones played the sassy black lady who knows the streets and yells like a banshee because she’s black and that’s the only thing black people are allowed to do in movies. None of them even have a real goal they strive towards. They just go out hunting ghosts because the script told them to and the movie is called Ghostbusters so they felt they had to. Also, having the protagonists fighting the actual Ghostbusters logo is a sure sign of telling the Ghostbusters fans, the people most likely to watch your movie and buy your merchandise, that you hate them the IP they are fans of, and are ashamed to even bear its name.

Wonder Woman presents its title character as a naive, idealistic, young woman determined to change the world and fulfill what she believes is the duty of her people. Diana has a goal she is working towards, kill Ares and rid mankind of his corruption so that peace may return. Diana’s mother, Hippolyta, and aunt, Antiope, represent the dual nature of the Amazons of Themyscira. Hippolyta as the wise, peaceful, nurturing, firm but fair ruler. Antiope is the strong warrior, committed to the defense of her people, insisting that it is only inevitable danger will come to Themyscira.

Later in the movie Diana meets American pilot/spy Steve Trevor, a selfless soldier who only aspire to do the right thing and save his comrades from the horrors of chemical warfare. The supporting cast in the world of man also includes Sameer, French-Moroccan who had aspirations as an actor, seeking to charm women, but who hides a capable soldier, a master of disguise, helping infiltrate behind enemy lines; Charlie, a Scottish marksman who tries putting on a tough and manly act, but beneath it all is a frightened man, suffering from PTSD because of the toils of war; and Chief, a Native American smuggler who trades with both sides of the war, even smuggling his team through to the front lines! Read up on Chief’s actor, Eugene Brave Rock, and how much control he was given to make the character his own. With Native Americans having so little roles in Hollywood, it’s cool to see a role that feels like a real person rather than an outsider perspective. Between Wonder Woman, Longmire, and Legion, new doors are starting to be opened for Native actors to play roles other than the stock Native.

Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy is a unique women for 1917. Entrusted by Trevor with more importance than a woman in 1917 would normally have, creating a co-dependence between Trevor and Candy. Candy even takes out a German spy in London, and helps Diana and crew cover their tracks when they go on their secret mission in Belgium!

A Movie That Knows What It Wants to be

 

As I wrote in my Ghostbusters review, watching the movie gave me the feeling that there was never a plan for it. Ten minutes in and it looks to be a redemption story for Wiig, then forgets about that until the last ten minutes. It sets up a “Ghost Bros” TV show team for the Ghostbusters to go against and prove ghosts are real, but never utilizes that. Bill Murray comes in as Walter Peck if he were a paranormal debunker then is killed after sitting in a chair for two thirds of his screen-time because it was obvious he could not care less about whatever was happening on set. The movie was such a mess. Also, if Paul Feig thinks men aren’t funny, then why is he writing and directing comedy films and why even bother bringing in the original movie’s stars, men?

Right from the start, Wonder Woman shows us exactly what it wants to be. It is a story about the maturing of a character from a naive, idealistic child with a black-and-white view of the world and good vs evil, learning there are shades of gray. The world is not simply a land of good guys and bad guys. There is complexity. Good men for the wrong cause. Cruelty on the side of good. The right act at the wrong time. The wrong act at the right time.

 

Conclusion

 

Rather than developing an obsessive need to vindicate yourself and lash out at anyone who dare say otherwise about your supposed ingenuity, it pays in the long run to focus on making your product the best it can possibly be. Look no further than the profits of the two movies in question. Ghostbusters (2016) was a box office disappointment, just barely making back its money, with its merchandise, in bulk, occupying store shelves and collecting dust before simply being removed for lack of sales. Wonder Woman has gone on to be the highest grossing live-action movie from a female director! It’s merchandise popular with people of many stripes! By focusing on making a movie, Patty Jenkins has shown female movies can work, and Wonder Woman, already a cultural icon and one of the more well-known comic book characters, has become an icon of cinema that audiences cannot wait to see more of!

Image Source: www.vox.com

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