Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Comic Book Movie Women of 2017

Two Steps Forward One Step Back Comic Book Movie Women of 2017.jpg
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With the full force of both Marvel and DC movie campaigns raging with their spectacular, firework-laced steam, comic book women have been more prominent on cinema screens in 2017 than ever before, showing that they are “wanted, needed, and can be successful.”

Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman and Justice League) and Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) return from 2016, while Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok) and X-23 (Logan) join MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde), Major Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell), and Sergeant Laureline (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as central, strong, and powerful characters, irrespective of age, race, or planet of origination.

This is the year in which Wonder Woman was not only praised for having a female director with Patty Jenkins, but the film became the highest-grossing, live-action, female-directed film of all time, setting Jenkins up to become the highest-paid female director in history at the helm of Wonder Woman 2expected in late 2019.

Although 2016 ended with Wonder Woman losing her “job” as a UN honorary ambassador on the grounds that she represented the wrong sort of moral values, by the end of 2017, Jenkins is paving the wayfor more female directors in Hollywood, while Israeli actress Gal Gadot and her Amazonian women have shown that they are more than capable of disrupting and dominating the Americanized Justice Leagueensemble, and by extension, Hollywood’s expectations for a female-driven action film. (Joss Whedon was one such director, who had been famously trying to make a Wonder Woman movie since 2006, only to find himself continually blocked by the system.)

Except, for as unequivocally progressive as 2017 may initially appear to be on the surface, the films of the past twelve months have also been both positively and negatively framed within not only the continuing debates and discussions of recent years, such as those that were raised by female actors playing Ghostbusters and the #OscarsSoWhite movement of 2016, but the emergent moments and movements of 2017. In this respect, the two key comic book films of 2017 are Wonder Woman and Ghost in the Shell.

The Wonder Woman Wednesday series of articles by Michael Fitzgerald Troy of Fanbase Press are a fantastic example of how Wonder Woman can be positively evaluated in terms of empowerment. Other writers examine how Wonder Woman has turned many conventions on their head, alongside a seemingly never-ending litany of online articles about how Wonder Woman is a good role model to follow. Yet, while Google might auto-complete the phrase “Wonder Woman is a good role model,” it also recommends the search option ‘Wonder Woman is a bad role model.”

Leaching out into some of the media analysis that surrounded the May release of the Origins trailer, the feeling that dissent was in the (h)air started with a discussion of Wonder Woman’s (lack of) underarm hair. Things got more interesting as the trailer was digitally fixed in later versions so that her skin tone was color-matched. Crucially, this issue should not be conflated with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o hitting out at Grazia magazine over the “Eurocentric” airbrush hairstyle she was given or Solange Knowles fighting back after her hair was cropped in the magazine shoot, both of which also happened in 2017. Nyong’o and Knowles’ issues concern ownership of their own ethnic representation in the media, whereas, the Wonder Woman “controversy” was centered around the will of the vocal fans projecting their own ideals of what a Wonder Woman can and should be allowed to be…


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