The case for why DC should tackle a Supergirl movie before a Wonder Woman movie.
I wrote a little bit a few weeks ago about the importance of getting the Wonder Woman storyline right when she is written in comics, books, television and movies. If I had a huge ego, I’d say the folks at DC Comics read what I wrote, (I’m sure they didn’t!) because Diane Nelson, new President of DC Comics just came out with a statement about writing Wonder Woman for the big screen in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter on DC Comics movie strategy over the next several years.
Nelson: We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky.
I agree there are some pretty high stakes in getting a Wonder Woman movie off the ground. Unfortunately due to the world we live in, a failed Wonder Woman movie would be seen as the inability to sell any female superhero. Batman can bomb and get more movies. Superman can choke and still get another reboot. But Wonder Woman wouldn’t get another shot if her movie failed, because no one would be willing to take a critical look at why the movie failed; they’d just chalk it up to “women’s stories don’t sell” even though that would almost certainly not be the problem.
I don’t think the story line of Wonder Woman is all that tricky, really. For one thing – start without an origin story. Just drop her into the action – In medias res, kicking butt and taking names. Then make small references to her origin story where it’s absolutely needed, and leave the rest up in the air. Let it be a mystery you fill in about movie 2 or 3. Wouldn’t that be a fresh take on a superhero movie? Start by showing, not telling, and from the point of view of the average person on the street, who wouldn’t know or care about what’s going on on Mount Olympus, but who does give a crap about what’s happening around them.
Stop talking about gods and goddesses (especially when they get them all wrong) and just have Wonder Woman work on some issue of global injustice, especially one that relates to women. Also drop the “female superheroes get female super villains” trope (which I REALLY need to devote a whole blog post to!) and have her fighting some patriarchal cultural problem with male bad guys. Because look at the reality of the world – 85% of the time, the bad guys are men.
Go back to “the Amazons are alive and they’re good guys” stories of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman era, but wait to reference why she left the island and all that until future movies. Then go back to the “clay baby” origin story, and the Perez origin story in particular. Compelling story lines could be made with those elements, without rubbing anyone – most especially me and other feminists – the wrong way. And really, for Batman and Superman, it’s important to tell their origin stories, because they’re pretty big babies, full of angst and woe. Wonder Woman is strong and confident and capable and doesn’t need an emotionally unstable childhood to explain her frame of reference.
Nothing is tricky about all that. What’s tricky is that there are a bunch of men involved in DC Comics who really don’t want any of those story lines to happen, because they’re pretty sexist and can’t manage to reconcile good storytelling, what the public wants to see in a superhero movie, and what they need to uphold for the integrity of Wonder Woman as a cultural icon. That’s not a problem with Wonder Woman; that’s a failure of imagination with DC Comics staff. If I were a betting sort of girl, I’d bet that the Joss Whedon story that got canned was something along the lines of what I outlined above. (I am a betting sort of girl, BTW.)
I kind of agree that I’d rather not see them bomb with Wonder Woman. So I’ve been writing in every comments section I can find about what I think they should do – start with another female character. Specifically; start with Supergirl.
There are some good reasons for doing it that way:
- Supergirl already had a fairly successful movie that people like many years ago.
- They just had a very successful Superman movie come out recently.
- Supergirl is pretty straightforward, if they use the very popular Candor/Identity origin story. The advantage of that would also be Angry Supergirl, and nothing is better than Angry Supergirl. If you’re writing Angry Supergirl, she can be “Ripley in Aliens” badass, and she could tackle a lot of cool global issues story lines.
- Casting would be easy, because they answer is a really obvious one: Dianna Agron. She looks the part, and she does Angry Face really well. She’s also a competent actress that could carry a movie if she’s given a consistent and well-written role, unlike anything she was handed on Glee.
- I love Supergirl almost as much as I love Batgirl, and slightly more than I love Wonder Woman. And everyone should make me happy at all times.
- A good Supergirl movie would set the stage for Wonder Woman nicely. You could do something interesting like just have Wonder Woman show up at the end of the movie to invite Kara Zor-El to hang out at Paradise Island for awhile, setting up the “in medias res” story for Wonder Woman that I outlined above.
Who knows, maybe the powers at DC Comics are reading my blog and some of these ideas will wind up on screen. Probably not. But I can dream.