Batman. Superman. Spiderman. Daredevil. The Green Lantern. and The Punisher.
What do these famous comic book characters all have in common? “Dead family members?” I hear you yell out.
Well, that’s certainly one thing, but another more important thing they have in common is that they have all made the fantastical leap from comic book page to silver screen. For over 63 years now, audiences have delighted in seeing their favourite superheroes up on the big screen, fighting villains and saving the world.
From as early as 1951, these films have allowed fans to imagine themselves in these roles. Getting to play the hero vicariously through their favourite characters has been something that children have been doing for many years. For many males, these characters not only acted as mirrors reflecting an ideal version of themselves back onto the screen, but they also offered representation for them.
You might be wondering what the problem with this is. Doesn’t giving men positive role models and representation sound great? Don’t get me wrong, it is! It is a brilliant thing that so many boys can grow up seeing people who look like them represented in films. It gives validation to their experiences and to them as people. But this is exactly why it is so galling that in the year 2014 there are still no solo superhero films being made about women. What does this say about how society views role models for women, or how it views women’s needs and experiences?
Wonder Woman is one of the most recognisable female superheroes in the Western world, and as such, she would seem like a prime candidate to star in her own feature film. But despite the fact that she’s been a part of our cultural lexicon for over 72 years, there is still great hesitancy from film executives to give her a solo film.
There have been many reasons given to fans as to why a Wonder Woman feature film has yet to be produced. These include: the confusion surrounding her origin and the absence of a clear, well-known story; the fact that young boys don’t want to see films about girls; the belief that female superhero films aren’t well received by their audiences; the fact that she’s such an important character and the decisions that are made rely on those involved needing to be very careful in how they go about it.
There have been three attempts in the not-too-distant past to bring Wonder Woman back to both the big and small screen. The most infamous of the three was a script penned by nerd-god Joss Whedon in 2007. This was eventually passed over by under-confident executives.
The other two attempts were both television shows and they also failed to make it to air. The first ill-fated attempt — written by Ally McBeal creator, David E. Kelly — was ridiculed by fans after the script leaked online. A combination of terrible writing and a general misunderstanding of the Wonder Woman character led the NBC to abandon the series.
The second attempt, Amazon, by American television network The CW, was more promising. Their imagining would have seen a younger version of Wonder Woman just discovering her gifts and coming to terms with the great role that she would play in protecting the world. Unfortunately this project has currently been placed ‘on hold’ as the network has decided to develop other projects before moving forward with production.
Simply put, this is a mistake.
The CW, once home to strong female-led shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, is missing out on a prime opportunity to continue their legacy of creating strong female characters that audiences can look up to. They are also passing up the opportunity be the only network with a female-led superhero show currently on the air.
Now would be the perfect time to launch a new female-led superhero show, as interest in superhero projects it as an all-time high. Superheroes, while always having a dedicated fan base, have reached a level of mainstream acceptance and currency never before seen in the genre.
More networks are filling up their programming with superhero-themed projects. Fox will soon be launching Gotham, a story about a young detective Gordon fighting crime in Gotham city. ABC also has their own superhero team franchise with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD, which is enjoying great success. Netflix is also set to produce four miniseries based on lesser-known superheroes, in the near future.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be a superhero fan, but it’s also disheartening to see that TV executives seem to have more faith in second-tier characters than one of the most recognisable names in all of comic-lore.
By shelving a Wonder Woman film or television show until they can get it right, executives are setting themselves up for almost certain failure. No film, no matter how well made, can live up to the amount of pressure and scrutiny that has been repeatedly placed on this character. Perhaps if there hadn’t been so many delays, a good-to-great Wonder Woman film would have been some what more attainable to those who weren’t fully invested in the character and it might have been considered a success.
Now, nothing short of brilliance will be able to satisfy the head honchos at DC and Warner Bros. It’s unfortunate that a Wonder Woman film or television show will be held to a higher standard than any other male-led superhero property. This places an unfair burden on the character of Wonder Woman, and does a disservice to her fans.
As it is now, in her 73rd year, Wonder Woman has managed to make it onto the big screen once with a small role in the animated film, The Lego Movie. Israeli-born actress, Gal Gadot, will be taking on the role in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, this is not exactly what I would class as a win for the character. Being introduced as a bit part in another superhero’s film seems a bit of a cop- out.
Wonder Woman is a strong and important enough character that her live-action film debut should be as the lead of her own movie. There’s been some speculation that if the character proves successful in the upcoming Batman/Superman sequel, The Justice League, that she might finally be given a chance at a solo film.
But honestly, Wonder Woman deserves better, and so do women everywhere. Women warrant seeing role models of their own gender up on the big screen; they deserve their own characters that they can look up to, aspire to be, and who represent them. It’s beyond time.
Words by Sam Burgess