Wonder Woman: Superheroes and Afterthoughts

May Wonder Woman be a first step in treating girls as more than an afterthought in the superhero business.
By  · Published on June 2nd, 2017

May Wonder Woman be a first step in treating girls as more than an afterthought in the superhero business.

My girls are Super excited for Wonder Woman! At 5 and “almost 8” (a required edit from my 7-year-old), they dig superheroes. We’ve watched Batman: The Brave and the Bold all the way through twice. And, oh gosh. If you haven’t watched that series, you really need to correct that mistake post haste. There is a scene where Red Tornado gives Batman a coffee mug that says “World’s Greatest Detective” for Christmas that — I am totally serious — makes me cry. We’ve given Bruce Timm’s “Timmverse” the same treatment, with particular emphasis on the Justice League series. Same for many of the Marvel cartoons out there. They’re big fans of Batman, Superman, Aquaman, the Green Arrow, the Green Lantern, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Thor, Falcon, and well. Do you see a pattern? They would truly be engaged every time Shayera (Hawkgirl) had a storyline in Justice League. Same for Black Canary. And, of course, Wonder Woman. It makes a difference when the person on the screen looks like you. If you aren’t just an afterthought.

As a child of the late 80s and early 90s, I was superhero rich. I had comic characters every which way thrown at me. I couldn’t take a step without being bombarded with some kind of new hero or new toy sets to drool over. I’m a guy. And white and straight, to boot. I’m Damien, and it was all for me. All of it was designed to be marketed directly to me. My girls are going through the onslaught of kids marketing now.  Even though there has been some milquetoast improvement in Big Toy’s approach since the 80s, the disparity is still painfully apparent.

Where are the superhero cartoons featuring girls? Many articles have been written over the last couple years about when we would actually see a no foolin’ superhero film with a woman as the titular lead. There’s been much consideration about what other women-led titles should be put into development. These articles are crushingly necessary. And fun! For example, beyond Justice League and the current DCEU production slate, I sure would love to see the Thanagarian Invasion told from Shayera’s perspective.

For all that, where are the cartoon series being marketed to girls? The passion at their age is real. You know, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for nearly a decade. Imagine the built-in audience ten years out if they start developing stories explicitly for our girls. I feel a bit like Batman, making such a cold, logical argument. That’s capitalism for you, though. Why are we all so wired for the next comic book movie? Because many of my contemporaries spent their youths the same way I did: reading the movie development articles in Wizard Magazine just waiting for those pipe dreams to come true.

The only animated superhero show starring girls that I’ve been able to show them is the ever-amazing Powerpuff Girls. But! In a positive move, Warner Bros. Animation has announced DC Super Hero Girls for Cartoon Network coming in 2018. It’ll feature Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl navigating the troubled waters of high school social issues and super powered challenges. And that’s a start.

Would that have happened without the DCEU pursuing a solo Wonder Woman film? I can’t know, but I sure do doubt it. Increasing representation – on both the big and small screen – matters for our kids. Girls have plenty of strong figures they can look up to, no doubt. However, I learned a great deal about standing up for myself and how to deal with challenges from my superhero stories. It’s about time our kids had heroes that looked like them standing in the limelight. How cool is it that within the next ten months we will see a superhero starring a fierce woman and another starring a fierce black man? This matters. I promise you, this matters. In the very least way, it will open up the doors for more entertainment designed for a wider range than young white boys.

I genuinely can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up in a world where nothing you think is cool is actually marketed to you. If you are a white dude like me, please take a moment to reflect on this line of thinking. Don’t get all bristly, just relax. Do you remember how excited you were when the stinger of Iron Man promised a no-shit Avengers movie? How about when you showed up to the theater and that movie all of sudden existed for your eye-holes? Amazing, right? Okay. Literally, all of the women who are comic book fans are still waiting for that moment with someone that looks like them. The Age of the Super Hero Film arrived, and it was mostly a bunch of dudes. These women are excited about this movie. And they should be. From our own Chief Film Critic’s review, it is a movie worth waiting for. This isn’t Supergirl, which takes place in the same universe as Christopher Reeves’ Superman, but is not included in box sets of those films for reasons. It isn’t Catwoman which was a bust. Or, Tank Girl, which was too far off the beaten path for most folks to follow. It’s flippin’ Wonder Woman.

I hope for a box office success. Any single movie can only hope to be enjoyed by audiences far and wide. It isn’t fair to put the burden of success for women-led superhero films on this one outing. It isn’t fair to put the existence of opportunities for future women directors in the hands of Patty Jenkins. But, we do. I hope for Wonder Woman to be a boss movie about a dope superhero finally getting her due on the big screen. I hope it sparks a revolution in children’s entertainment. We are due for more. For now, I’m going to take my girls to see this flick this weekend. Happy watching!

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Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.