THere’s a scene in Wonder Woman 1984 where the luminous Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) glides into a packed party. Everyone is watching her, but this is not a Cinderella moment, with admiring glances and a collective gasp. It is a complaint of sexual harassment. The camera shifts to Diana’s point of view and we experience a series of persistent and entitled men making fun of a woman who is clearly not interested. It’s a rare case of a superhero movie that shows everyday sexism from a woman’s point of view.
It’s an appropriate move by Patty Jenkins, the film’s director and co-writer, who has developed the accessible feminism of 2017’s Wonder Woman in tune with the times. Since the premiere of the first film, the allegations against Harvey Weinstein emerged, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements were born, and the Producers Guild of America released new guidelines to combat sexual harassment on set. The first film to adhere to the guidelines? Wonder Woman 1984.
“The PGA called these guidelines the ‘first steps’ in changing the culture of Hollywood,” says Helen O’Hara, author of the upcoming book Women vs. Hollywood. “They point out that those responsible take sexual harassment seriously. Those are signals that have not been consistently sent throughout Hollywood history; in fact, sometimes the opposite has happened: access to young women is seen as an advantage of work for older men. “
Throughout Wonder Woman 1984, Diana and her new friend Barbara (Kristen Wiig) endure unwanted male attention, from conversation lines to sexual assaults. It is suggested that this is a factor in both Diana’s lonely lifestyle and Barbara’s dark desire for power. “In movies where a previously meek woman gains super powers, she lashes out at the men who bully,” O’Hara notes. “Catwoman did it in 1992, in Batman Returns, and again in the 2004 Halle Berry movie.” It also makes reference to Hit-Girl in the Kick-Ass movies. “Interestingly, many of these women are antiheroines or morally shady figures.”
Though not strictly a superhero, Lori Petty’s punk heroine tackled lustful men in the 1995 film Tank Girl. Producer and actress Margot Robbie is planning a remake, and you can see her influence in this year’s Birds of Prey: When a pet vendor lasciviously suggests “payment in kind,” Harley Quinn (Robbie) feeds him to a hyena.
A healthier example goes back to 1984 and the critically-ridiculed Supergirl, starring Helen Slater. In one scene, she faces two truckers who go from calling her a “honey bun” to threatening to gang rape her. “Why are you doing this?” Supergirl asks. “That’s how we are,” they shrug before being thrown into a garbage container. Cut to 2019, and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) in Amazon’s The Boys is taking down the attackers with similar gusto. But her story has a #MeToo twist: she becomes a vigilante after being forced into a sexual act by a superior.
While these criminals are clearly villains, Wonder Woman 1984 shows that common men can be a collective nuisance without realizing it. “I think this movie is taking leaps and bounds in portraying bullying as a reality,” says O’Hara. “The party scene conveys the feeling that it can be tedious and annoying, while still being totally believable. I hope that gives the men who watch the movie an idea of the irritation factor that can be involved in that kind of low-level bullying. ”Later in the movie, a key scene subtly conveys a message: nice guys keep the conversation clean and does not exceed your welcome.
Elsewhere in the nostalgic story, there is a playful feminist streak at work. The villain, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), poses in cheesy TV commercials with a group of models, echoing Biff Tannen in Back to the Future II. In a reversal of a famous movie cliché, the costume montage involves a man. Walking in high heels is revealed to be a real superpower. And Barbara is clearly in awe of Diana’s extraordinary beauty and poise; it is recognized to be an unattainable ideal (unless you are holding a magic stone). While her appearance helps sell movies, Wonder Woman’s goodness is her most important attribute in the plot.
So Wonder Woman 1984 feels like a #MeToo movie in many ways, but will more superhero movies commit to the cause? This year’s production crisis could delay the progress of the sets, says Louise Tutt, deputy editor of Screen International. “The PGA guidelines require additional training from the entire cast and crew, and at a time when productions have to spend around 20% of their budget to implement Covid-19 security protocols, these kinds of ‘extras optional ‘may be left on the road. “
Dame Heather Rabbatts, President of Time’s Up UK says there is a lot of work to be done: “As we enter 2021, we must ensure that the progress we have made in ending bullying and harassment does not go backwards.”
At least, hopefully, next year will bring more female superheroes to the big screen. After releasing Captain Marvel in 2019, Disney’s plans for 2021 include the belated Black Widow, directed by Cate Shortland and starring Scarlett Johansson, and Eternals, directed by Chloé Zhao and starring Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek. That’s a ton of powerful, A-list female talent ready to line up bullies, or even just gently push them into the present.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.