To give credit where credit is due, James Cameron has helped make strong female characters much more normalized in genres like action and sci-fi, that often shut them out entirely if they’re not being used as objects of desire or random carnage. From Sarah Connor to Ripley (Cameron didn’t create her but took both the character and Sigourney Weaver to their fullest potentials with 1986’s Aliens), the director has shown a keen interest in equal representation on-screen and has undoubtedly done a lot of good for women in the genre.
All that said, his comments about Wonder Woman are pretty indefensibly ignorant, and definitely reek of a bruised ego following a steep decline in relevance since Avatar was released in 2009. I’m not here to bash on Cameron for fun, he’s easily one of my favorite directors of all time, but an interview with The Guardian revealed an out-of-date mindset that he’s trying to pass as enlightened, and the result is just strangely tone-deaf and fundamentally misunderstands why heroes like Wonder Woman need to exist.
“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon,” Cameron said. “She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”
Cameron then went on to say (and let’s not forget the guy’s been married five times) that “being attracted to strong independent women has the downside that they’re strong independent women — they inherently don’t need you! Fortunately, I’m married now to a strong independent woman who does believe she needs me.” His comments would probably have been received less harshly if they displayed any kind of self-awareness. But the more he talks about it, the clearer it is that he has little to no idea what he’s talking about.
The issue here, which director Patty Jenkins expands on much more eloquently, is that trying to have a say in what kind of women are represented, how they’re represented, and who gets a say in what should and shouldn’t be considered acceptable is exactly why Wonder Woman needs to exist. A lot of straight men don’t realize it because they’re not looking for or at it, but there are moments in every single male-dominated superhero movie that involve objectifying, or at the very least admiring, their physicality. Look at this GIF of Captain America and tell me it doesn’t make you feel something.
I mean, come on! The guy stops and readjusts his arm to flex a muscle. If that isn’t blatant objectification, I don’t know what is. And I don’t mean reducing a character to his or her sex appeal. I mean taking a moment to say, “look at these superior beings that are protecting the universe from evil, and look at how beautiful they all are.” Jenkins’ insistence on making Wonder Woman heroic and beautiful is to acknowledge her place alongside these other Gods of both the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.
In response, director Patty Jenkins sent out a tweet explaining her decision to highlight the character’s physical and mental strength, as well as her beauty:
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) August 25, 2017
There’s really nothing in that statement you can get mad about or even deny, really, but I’m sure some people will find a way. Nobody’s trying to take away from Cameron’s legacy here, but his comments were unnecessary and just untrue.
Images: Marvel, DC, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox
Source: The Hollywood Reporter