Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wonder Woman and 'Witchblade'- A Proposal As We... I... Wait

When I talk about my desire for a Wonder Woman comic movie, it's usually framed as a complaint that I don't think it's likely. Then, for some reason, one of two things happens. Either 1) someone involved will deny that there's sexism impeding a WW movie, or 2) it  turns into a "Marvel is better than DC" slug-fest where the other person acts like since Scarlett Johanssen is in the background of The Avengers (and apparently a side-character in The Winter Soldier, too), somehow Marvel movies are Comics' Gift to Women and People of Color, and I should be grateful- and satisfied- with Marvel's accomplishments. 

I call bullshit on both.

1) This one comes from ignorance- not necessarily willful, but ignorance nonetheless. And said ignorance can come from male privilege, or from sheer lack of understanding, or some combination thereof. Because, believe it or not, it's not just dudes saying sexism isn't involved to me- it's women. Women that don't realize the arguments they lay out- like, "How can you expect them to make a Wonder Woman movie when Catwoman and  Elektra were flops?"- actually have sexist origins in themselves. And there are dudes that also don't realize that sort of dribble is sexist in origin. Saying those two movies set the precedent that people won't see female-starring comic book movies completely disregards the fact that those movies tanked because they were bad movies. Bad movies that happened to star women. I couldn't finish Elektra and I regretted finishing Catwoman

Another big argument is that her backstory is too hoakey or convoluted or unrealistic. Even though, you know, this guy has two movies already:

Being the actual origin of Norse mythology? Totes doable. Being associated with Greek mythology? Not at all.


Or they'll bring up the Invisible Jet. And yet, uh, how many franchises have incorporated cloaked planes or ships? Again, we can gain look to Marvel:  X-2 and The Avengers both had stealth planes, but we've also seen that  shit in like millions of sci-fi properties that take place in space. Her Invisible Jet would not have to look like this: 

My point is stuff that has passed just fine  in other movies gets used as excuses for why a WW movie won't happen or would be "way too difficult" or whatever. And the basis for using those things comes from her being  a woman. I'm not sorry if you disagree, either- open your eyes a little and  think about it.  

2) As you could probably tell from my wording above, I do not believe that having women peppering the background in movies means equality. Women are not the active people in the Marvel movies, none of them. They do side-things, they help out, they complicate the plots of other people or have sub-plots at most, but who really pushes the main plots forward? Who really resolves them?

Thus, I find it exceptionally naive to assert that Marvel is "good" at portraying women. It's better than DC, sure, but good? I don't think so. That monstrosity of Elektra is, after all, a Marvel movie. And it's condescending that I often get treated as if I should be glad Marvel is around doing what it's doing, as if that should be  enough to satisfy me and I have no right to complain  or critique- I should be on my knees in gratitude, not biting the hand that feeds me. 

The X-Men movies do have a lot of women in them, but  none of them are the stars, are the major players in the plot- the original three were about Wolverine and First Class was about the relationship between Lensherr (Magneto) and Xavier. You can argue that Pheonix in X-3 drives the plot, but it falls apart when you consider that she was doing Magneto's bidding  and, oh yeah, SHE BEGS WOLVERINE TO KILL HER. She's a mystery for the other men to unravel, a tool for them to use, and a plot point to angst around. Anything she "does" is at the whim of or intended to emotionally affect a man in the movie. Yeah. And Rogue's subplots always involve her relationships to and with men. Her angst surfaces the most in X-3 when she thinks Bobby is cheating, and she seeks to cure her mutant gene so as to win him back. 

The Avengers has three women with more than two lines, Black Widow, Agent Hill, and Pepper Potts. All Pepper does is walk around in booty shorts, so um, yeah. And perhaps I'm misinterpreting, but Black Widow waving a scepter at an energy beam isn't really what we're supposed to care about at the end of The Avengers- we're supposed to focus on Iron Man. Black Widow is waiting for orders- orders from a man- and not acting on her own, there. No, it's Iron Man's tossing of the nuke into the portal that is seen as the heroic act, not her closing the portal. Then there's Agent Hill. Yeah, I like her a lot and agree she's pretty kickass, and I would have loved more scenes with her as the centerpiece, but she's still only a side-character. A prominent one, to be fair, but she takes orders from Nick Fury and is kept out-of-the-loop of a lot of his schemings, and after her opening action sequence is subsequently always to the side of Fury. 

I could go on, but the point is that while sure, there are more women in Marvel movies by the raw numbers, and yeah, they do a little more, the "better" in the "better than DC" is a VERY  relative  term, and, frankly, doesn't amount to much for me, because DC is so crappy at it that there's hardly much to be "better" than in the first place.  I don't think Marvel is  good at portraying women, because to me, being "good" at it means not having women whose characterization and stories revolve around or are entirely dependent on men. They're better in that there are more women, and they get to do some cool stuff, but until a woman is the center of her own story, I can't bring myself to say Marvel is "good" at women.

Now, recently, it has been announced that Gal Gadot will be playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming Superman-Batman flick, serving as a sequel to Man of Steel. I have pretty gorram mixed emotions about this, and it comes down to hope. Hope that Snyder doesn't screw it up, because as far as I can tell or suspect, this is going to be a litmus test. If the movie does poorly, they're going to say it was because of the character of Wonder Woman, and thus use that as fodder for not giving her her own movie(s). If the movie does well, they'll heavily scrutinize reviews and nitpick what is said about Wonder Woman, and I imagine any negative feedback will be blown way out of proportion and, again, used as fodder for preventing Wonder Woman movies from being made.

I like the little letter to Zach Snyder here, written by Glen Weldon, except for something she brings up that also gets talked about in the interview above her letter. What I'm talking about is this shallow argument about her, that Wonder Woman is difficult to portray also because she's a "contradiction" because she's a warrior for peace. I think in today's climate of sporadic conflict, revolution, and suppression of the people, Wonder Woman is exceptionally topical and not, in fact, out-of-place. I mean, my God, there are how many conflicts going on right now, as I write this? Just because there isn't an international war going on, doesn't mean there aren't people fighting and killing each other all around the gorram globe. And as for the dude being interviewed, I emphatically disagree with him when he says WB has been trying to make a Wonder Woman movie, too- I've seen too many articles about proposed script ideas or finished ones being rejected by WB executives. 

So I guess, my hope is that Wonder Woman will be done well in this movie, and it will, like the dude in the interview suggests, be the backdoor for her to have her own franchise. Because he's right- she's not a sidekick. She should be front-and-center. 

In the meantime, though, I have a proposal.

Witchblade, people. A quick elevator-pitch summary is that it's a series about the women that inherit a magic gauntlet with a sword embedded in it. This gauntlet can only attach to women, so by default, because of the mythos surrounding it, the main characters are women. As the Wiki article will tell you, there have been all sorts of reproductions and off-shoots of the original American comic series, including an anime and multiple mangas in Japan, as well as an American television series that was actually the continuation of a made-for-TV movie that received mixed reviews, but enough positive ones to get said series a green-light. 

I remember that show, and I remember liking it. It was dark and gritty, but it starred a tough cop that kicked lots of ass while still having, you know, a heart. And while yeah, it only lasted two seasons, it remains the highest-rated show to ever be cancelled to date- it was cancelled because the lead actress, Yancy Butler, had personal issues, including addiction, to deal with. I don't blame her for that, but it needs to be emphasized that the show was doing well and received praise from reviewers and viewers alike. 

I remember the show and I remember liking it.  I remember being impressed with the fact that it had a female lead that wasn't scantily clad all the time. I'll admit, I've never read the comics, which yeah, as far  as I can tell, feature a lot of this:

Typical metal bikini for a comic
But the show, it was all about this:

Full leather? That's NOT skin-tight? GASP!
Maybe a little skin, but still, a loose-fitting
T-shirt underneath that leather jacket
The show (and movie) was about the original wielder of the Witchblade, an NYPD cop named Sara. I think if a movie was made that followed the lead of the TV show, that focused on Sara finding the Witchblade and her beginning acceptance of her new power and responsibility, it could be the start of a pretty awesome, female-centered, comic-movie series. And Hell, they could even make up their own star, if they though Sara was played out or something- that's what the Japanese animes and mangas have done, after all.  Just keep the fact that a woman has to inherit the Witchblade as part of the plot, and you're fine. 

I'm tired of waiting for Wonder Woman. While I'd love to see her in her own movie, I'm too skeptical to think it'll happen any time soon, so why not write a good movie about a sword-wielding homicide detective that just so happens to have been born with a uterus? 

Put this thing on an awesome female actress, emphasize the ass-kicking in the trailers, and you'll get dudes in the seats. I have no doubts.


  1. "How can you expect them to make a Wonder Woman movie when Catwoman and Elektra were flops?" [...] Saying those two movies set the precedent that people won't see female-starring comic book movies completely disregards the fact that those movies tanked because they were bad movies. Bad movies that happened to star women.

    I cannot deal with this. It is one of the most irritating arguments whether it's about superhero films, action films, anything with a female protagonist at all, etc. I think a nice counter argument is "Well, maybe if there were more films with female protagonists in the first place, we wouldn't have to judge each film so harshly as if it speaks for all films with female protagonists." It also has the side effect of making you feel guilty for not supporting female-driven properties even when they're problematic or just awful because you're supposedly sending a message to the powers that be that you don't want media featuring, produced by, or produced for women in general.

    Although I'm not very well-versed on Wonder Woman's backstory I do see some things that could be problematic about adapting it for a general audience and for a film. But that should drive the creativity of people who do want to bring Wonder Woman to the screen in a faithful, engaging way not elicit a string of excuses.