Patty Jenkins wasted little time in responding to James Cameron’s assertion that her movie Wonder Woman was “a step backwards” for Hollywood and specifically the way women heroes are represented in movies.
“James Cameron’s inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great filmmaker, he is not a woman,” Jenkins said via Twitter. “Strong women are great. His praise of my film Monster, and our portrayal of a strong yet damaged woman was so appreciated. But if women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven’t come very far have we.”
One can’t help but get the sense that Cameron’s notorious ego clouded his judgment here. In the same interview, Cameron patted himself on the back because Terminator 2’s Sarah Connor “was not a beauty icon.” Instead, “she was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit.”
Yes, Cameron is responsible for some of the most indelible and complex women heroines in movie history. Yes, Sarah Connor was all the things he says she was. But his assertion that if a heroine doesn’t meet those qualifications she’s unworthy of our adoration is narrow-minded and reductive.
Jenkins agrees. “I believe women can and should be EVERYTHING just like male lead characters should be,” Jenkins said “There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman. And the massive female audience who made the film a hit it is, can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress.”
Cameron’s belief that because Wonder Woman is nice to look at she’s “an objectified icon” is misguided. He’s operating under the belief that “strong female characters” are only such if they exhibit the same qualities of their male counterparts. That’s simply not true. As Jenkins writes, “if women have to be always be hard, tough, and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere, then we haven’t come very far have we… There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman.”
Throughout Wonder Woman’s press rollout, Jenkins said time and time again, that her intention was to make a different kind of hero, one steered by compassion, love and sincerity. Women contain multitudes, and Wonder Woman was a perfect example of that, which is probably why it made almost a billion dollars at the box office.