By now, it is well-known that DC’s latest superhero movie, Wonder Woman, has been a major box office success. The film earned over $228 million in its first week, and it has generated a great deal of excitement, particularly from female audiences, as well as speculation over what it may mean for the future of women in film. In recent years, there has been a push for greater diversity in major Hollywood films, as women and people of color seek greater representation in film and a departure from the traditional white male lead that one so often sees in Hollywood blockbusters, especially superhero films. To many, the box office success of Wonder Woman seems to point to a place for more female leads in movies, proving that female-led movies can be popular and profitable for film studios.
The film features several women in prominent positions, both onscreen and off. With Wonder Woman, director Patty Jenkins became the first woman to direct a big-budget superhero film, the likes of which have become increasingly common in recent years with a series of major releases from both DC and Marvel. She has also earned the title of biggest domestic opening of all time for a female director. Although she has been writing and directing films since the early 2000s, Wonder Woman may prove to be the film that launches Jenkins’ career to a new level. She has already mentioned her hopes to direct a sequel, as actress Gal Gadot has signed a contract to appear as Princess Diana in three movies (the first of which was last year’s Batman v Superman).
As an activist for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, Jenkins is well aware of the cultural importance of having a woman in a such a major lead role, and she has clearly not wasted the opportunity to bring a strong and compelling female character to the forefront. In fact, the film features a cast of several powerful women. Gadot, of course, has garnered the most attention in the leading role of Princess Diana, and praise of her work is well-deserved: Diana manages to be simultaneously sympathetic and strong, caring towards others and badass when fighting evil, where so often female characters fall more to one side or the other. The other Amazons, though having a smaller role in the overall plot, are equally admirable. Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and Robin Wright as General Antiope were both standout performances as well, expertly balancing the sympathetic, loving sides to their characters with their positions as fierce and unyielding warriors. It is as easy to love these characters when watching them in intimate family moments as it is to love watching taking out enemies on the battlefield.
Just a week after opening, the film had already become a major cultural phenomenon. Women and girls alike felt empowered by the portrayal of female strength they saw onscreen, and many took to social media to share how the film inspired them. When one searches for posts about the film on most social media, what they are bound to find now are a myriad of smiling little girls in Wonder Woman outfits and grown women talking about how much they enjoyed the film and felt empowered by it. The cord it struck with female audiences seems to be primarily responsible for how quickly the film has penetrated popular culture and brought the character of Wonder Woman back to the forefront of public consciousness. (Though, it should be noted, that the film is also enjoyable and worth watching for a male audience as well. It is perhaps just as important for boys to see women as powerful leading figures, too.)
So what does the success of Wonder Woman mean for the future of women in the film industry? Such great success for a big-budget female-led film seems to bode well for the possibility of more female-led superhero movies, and perhaps more female-led movies in general. The road to greater diversity in Hollywood is, of course, a long and bumpy one, and most women know by now that setbacks are inevitable. However, for many women, this movie may be seen as a sign of hope for greater inclusion in the future of film. Likewise, the success of Patty Jenkins as its director could potentially inspire other women hoping to make it behind the scenes in the film industry. Time will tell exactly how big the cultural and industry impact of this film will be. For now, though, Wonder Woman serves as a fantastic tribute to all the power and potential of women and an inspiration to young girls and adult women alike.