James Cameron Throws Shade at ‘Wonder Woman’ and Patty Jenkins Shuts Him Down

Wonder Woman smashed into blockbuster territory and our hearts this summer, showing that not only are women capable of directing and starring in formulaic superhero movies, but also that DC has the ability to make a good movie after all. And little girls took notice, making the Amazonian princess a hero to a new generation of young women.

Famed director James Cameron has a different take on the summer blockbuster, however, saying this in an interview with The Guardian:

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

Let’s set aside that he just gave a seriously backhanded compliment to his ex-wife Linda Hamilton and ask if James Cameron is actually right. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, who said at the time that “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” Marston doesn’t sound like he’s in Cameron’s corner here.

But it’s not 1943 and the new Wonder Woman film was made by Patty Jenkins, not Marston.

Jenkins gave the following reply on Twitter.

So who is right and who is wrong here? I’m inclined to side with Jenkins. Just because Wonder Woman is attractive doesn’t mean she can’t be a positive role model for women and girls. Women shouldn’t need to hide their femininity to be taken seriously. Nearly 70 years after Wonder Woman hit the pages of comic books for the first time, the theme Marston was pushing, that of a strong woman the equal of any man who retained her femininity and shows the power women have to change the world through love rather than brute force, is more relevant than ever.

Ripley and Sarah Connor were great characters who showed that women don’t need to be perfectly quaffed beauty queens to be competent and strong. Wonder Woman says women need not sacrifice the things that make them women in order to be equal to men. This might be controversial to the men who were mad about women-only screenings of Wonder Woman, but I say we let women decide for themselves what kind of women they want to be.

James Cameron advanced the representation of women in cinema more than most of his contemporaries. The comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For that the famous Bechdel Test comes from actually lauds Alien as passing said test.  But James Cameron doesn’t have a monopoly on how women should be portrayed and what makes a woman a positive role model. I don’t think the little girl who cried because she was so happy to meet Gal Godot is lacking a positive role model, I think she’s found the perfect role model for her.

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