I spent the weekend on panels at Wizard World Las Vegas and more than a little of the time was taken up talking about whether or not it’s important to have a female director for the upcoming “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel” movies. Shouldn’t it just be the best person for the job?
There are a lot of arguments in which I come down firmly on one side. This time around, I have an opinion, though I get both. Yes, I do think both films should be directed by women. Wait, don’t throw thermal detonators. It’s not just because I think there should be more women directing superhero films. I do, of course, and I absolutely recognize that there are plenty of men (ahem, Joss Whedon) who could do a fantastic job. Please keep that in mind as I continue.
The argument was brought up that J.K. Rowling created a story about a young boy that was pretty incredible. Every writer and director should be able to get into the mind of all of their characters. This is absolutely true. However, there are other reasons that, in these particular cases, a woman would be a better choice.
First, these two properties mean a great deal to female fans. Wonder Woman is pretty much the first name that comes to mind when you say “female superhero.” Captain Marvel is a character that has had one of the biggest transformations in the history of female superheroes. They’re fictional role models. It’s important to get this right. A male director might, certainly. But this is an historic moment in superhero cinema. Female fans are finally getting powerful women in costume on the screen in a leading role.
And here’s the thing: Sure, straight while male directors and studios largely run by them have given us some great female superheroes, but they’re still “token females.” Gamora and Black Widow are awesome, but they’re still a small part of a large group of men. Marketing puts them in the background. Have you seen the #WheresGamora or #WheresNatasha campaigns on Twitter? Yeah, there’s that.
There is also something about intimately understanding the modern female experience in terms of what this represents to pop culture. A guy on my panel talked about walking with his girlfriend, who was dressed in a sexy costume at a con. He realized, after watching the way she was treated by most men, that he had no idea about the micro-aggressions we experience every day. He realized that he couldn’t know them any more than I can truly know, as a white woman, the true experience of what a black or Hispanic or Asian woman goes through every day.
Think of it this way: I’m a journalist, but I specialize in geekdom. I could absolutely write an in-depth story about baseball. I don’t know much about it, but I could research the hell out of it, do interviews, etc. However, when it comes time to pick the best person to write the piece, I would not be better than someone who loves the game and is steeped in the culture. I want someone to direct these films with the perspective of a woman. Yes, a man can do the job, but in the current culture of fandom it’s about time we opened the door a little wider.