Opinion: Where Are All The Wonder Women?

One Total Film writer makes the case for female-led superhero movies...

It’s been another bumper year for the comic book industry on the big screen.

Hits like Man of Steel, The Wolverine and Iron Man 3 have cemented the genre’s top billing by busting blocks at the box office.

That trend continues this week as Chris Hemsworth returns as the hammer-wielding hero in Thor: The Dark World.

No one would begrudge the likeable Aussie his success, after all his character has been one of the surprise hits of Marvel’s assault on the movie industry; a second string superhero who’s been thrust into the limelight thanks to his role in the Avengers universe.

But does anyone else find it strange that we’re about to see a sometime popular Asgardian god get his third cinematic outing, yet one of the most famous superheroines of all time is yet to make it to the big screen?

I’m talking of course about Wonder Woman, but the same is true for superheroines in general who’ve barely got a look in amongst the current cinematic sausagefest.

Since the comic book bubble started more than a decade ago, we’ve seen scores of superheroes make it to the screen, and yet a female fronted film is conspicuous by its absence. True, there are strong women in superhero films. Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is a prime example, as is Amy Adams’ Lois Lane (Man of Steel), Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts (Iron Man) and Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter (Captain America: The First Avenger).

There’s also the catsuit-clad figures of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (The Avengers) and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman (The Dark Knight Rises) to consider.

But even amongst this laundry list of A-list actresses there’s still not a single leading lady to be found.

Instead it’s probably fair to say that to a woman their characters have been little more than supporting roles, damsels in distress or sideshows whose existence is entirely defined by the masculine main attraction.

So why aren’t there any superheroines on our screens?

In a recent interview Marvel studios’ Louis D’Esposito suggested that it’s simply a case of manpower (or should that be womanpower?) and that there’s just not enough room on the slate for the company to focus on a female fronted film.

However when you consider that Marvel’s upcoming productions include obscure characters like Ant-Man and intergalactic curiosities like Rocket Racoon, it’s an argument that doesn’t seem to hold much water.

(Although, on the plus side, it looks like Karen Gillan and Zoe Saldana will kick serious ass in Guardians of the Galaxy - here's Gillan getting excited about an Avengers crossover...)

Still, perhaps the most likely reason behind the lack of female-fronted films is that there simply isn’t an appetite to take a punt on an adaptation without a Y chromisomal character at its heart.

Indeed the industry has had its fingers burned before with flops like Elektra, Catwoman and Sucker Punch suggesting that film fans simply aren’t ready for female fronted films; even if Jennifer Lawerence’s presence in The Hunger Games is a compelling argument to the contrary.

Another issue is that there simply aren’t that many cinema-ready superheroines to work with.

Despite a concerted effort to redress the balance in recent years, the comic book industry is still a typically masculine domain; an arena that’s more Power Girl than girl power.

As a result the heroines who do grace the funny pages can often feel like little more than superpowered arm candy, characters who’ve had more effort put into the design of their skimpy crime-fighting attire than their backstory.

All of which brings us back to Wonder Woman, a character with more than 70 years of history who’s up there with Superman and Batman in terms of DC’s big hitting heroes.

She’s a bonafide icon, a heroine who’s recognised around the world and whose image is emblazoned on all manner of merchandise. So why hasn’t she made the leap from strip to screen?

There have been attempts to bring Double Dubya to the screen before of course. A failed pilot here, a discarded Joss Whedon script there. DC’s inability to get even the most basic of adaptations off of the ground is of course part of the problem, whilst a golden lasso and an invisible plane don’t exactly dovetail with the current trend for gritty realistic superhero cinema.

But if the comic book publisher really do want to make up some ground on their arch-rivals at the box office, then they could do a lot worse than taking a risk on the Amazing Amazon and blazing a trail for superheroines on the big screen along the way.

To watch Thor's cast chat about what they'd love to see in Thor 3 - including a rather brilliant sub-plot suggestion from Kat Dennings - just watch our video below...

Daniel is a freelance film writer; you can watch him ignore his own advice by repeatedly talking about trailers on Twitter @danielbettridge.

Do you think there should be more superheroines at the cinema? And what would you want to see in a Wonder Woman movie? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.


    • FilmFlamFan

      Nov 5th 2013, 13:56

      Lets see.... Catwoman = s**te Movie Wonder Woman TV remake = God awfull Electra = so so movie It will take a strong woman to bring a realistic female superhearo to the big screen. Jennifer Lawrence might be a good choice but she had tied her horse to the teenie cart so it might be too big an effort, Cate Blanchett or Gillian Anderson would be My bet for a good superhero movie.

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    • Porus

      Nov 5th 2013, 14:24

      Get Amber Heard, Get Aronofsky and make Wonder Woman.

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    • jamestaggart

      Nov 5th 2013, 14:27

      These films are based on characters that were thought up years ago when women were not the first choice for a main lead in a comic. You can't blame anyone now for it. Plus, studios are doing there best and getting some very good and strong female roles at the moment for some characters. Anne Hathaway - Cat Woman Scarlett Johansson - Black Widow Karen Gillan- Angela (Guardians of the Galaxy) Chloë Moretz - Hit Girl You cant just look at recent films like Superman and Batman and go... "wheres all the female roles??". That would be like men watching Bridesmaids and Sex in the City and going, "Could do with more men".

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    • Hadouken76

      Nov 5th 2013, 16:17

      JOhanssons as Black Widow, is a boring sack of sh/t. BW should have been Olga Kurylenko (I know shes Ukraine but its like sort of Russia..kind of..ish)

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    • fuzzcaminski

      Nov 6th 2013, 13:41

      Wow Jamestaggart, you missed the point so utterly and completely that your TomTom has commited suicide! I doubt Daniel Betteridge is suggesting Batman and Superman films would be better served if the character focus was on female characters rather than that of Batman and/or Superman, although given the moral ambiguity of Catwoman, why not? In these cases the focus is the male character, so they will (or should) have the strongest storyline, characterisation, etc. I would hazard a guess that what Mr Betteridge is obviously trying to get across is that studios are still reticient to invest in a female led superhero film due to the simple fact that unless the woman is a walking cliche of unrealisitic proportions, wearing clingfilm tight clothing, it's assumed the film will not 'connect' with the audience, which for this demographic, is still primarily males between their teens and early thirties. Both parties are to blame for this though, the audience for not being more open minded and less misogynistic about female roles and women in film and television, and the studios for allowing such preconceptions and opinions to continue.

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    • CaptainCrazy

      Nov 8th 2013, 10:37

      The problem with WW, more than any other superhero, is that she is probably the most difficult character to get right or even interesting. Wonder Woman has endured largely as an image and symbol rather than being an appealing character. She also has the virtue of legacy behind her which gives the false impression of being on the same level as Superman and Batman. Don’t get me wrong, any superheroine who has endured for decades like she has must be on to something however I feel this is more down to DC not giving up the ghost than the public. Can you really name anyone who has been a lifelong fan of WW collecting all her books religiously? Yes, her current run is quite interesting but these are few and far between. I’m not even sure DC knows what her power levels are (or even what they are for that matter) and who can even name her supporting cast? Made out of clay, my a**e. Yes, getting female superheroes on screen can be a tough sell, but when all you’ve got going for you is a relatively well-known insignia and skimpy costume with no other memorable qualities then asking a studio to throw hundreds of millions of dollars behind a film is like saying having a character’s weakness be that she is powerless when her hands are tied by a man. That’s just silly.

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    • demondoyle

      Nov 8th 2013, 20:05

      "Can you really name anyone who has been a lifelong fan of WW collecting all her books religiously?" Um, me? But hey, maybe I'm the only one.

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