James Cameron Doesn’t Get To Decide What’s Feminist Enough

Recently, the Guardian interviewed James Cameron about strong women and strong female characters.  During the interview he said this about the recent Wonder Woman film:

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. 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. 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!”

Because of course the only way someone can be a “strong character” is by toting guns and blowing up aliens and robots.  Having strength isn’t always about physical ability.  Female characters need to be more than, as my husband says “male characters with boobs.”   Strength does not always equate to being a “troubled, terrible mother.”  Sometimes being a “good” mother takes more strength, sacrifice and courage.

In response to James Cameron’s comments, Patty Jenkins, the female Wonder Woman director that completely kicked butt, replied:

I’m a female, and I watched both films, and I enjoyed Wonder Woman much more.  I’m not saying that Ripley or Connor weren’t strong female characters.  But, there are different types of strength.

As for the lack of “grit.”  She charged across a battlefield to free a village from Nazis.  Then she charged back into poison smoke to try and save them again.  That would count as “grit” in my book.  She watched the person she loved die, and couldn’t stop it, and continued on.  She left all she knew, her family, to do the right thing.  Caring isn’t weakness.  Being beautiful doesn’t make a female less strong.  Actually, Gal Gadot seems like an amazingly strong, beautiful and caring woman outside of her Wonder Woman persona.

Speaking of “grit”a female director made an amazing female led superhero movie.  The fact they got to make this movie at all was a cause for celebration.  Hollywood keeps pushing male character “superhero” films but female characters are relegated to “supporting characters” or “ensemble characters.”  We’ve seen this time and time again, even in merchandising.    Not only did she get the job done, it was one of the best performing superhero origin movies to date.  This film was about strong females, from a director getting it through, to the actors portraying the Amazons.  If you look into them they all have impressive physically challenging backgrounds.  Each one demonstrating the “grit” that Cameron claims to  appreciate, in their real lives.  Everything about this film screams strength and “grit.”

I do get what James Cameron is implying.   Wonder Woman has been an objectified female character in the comics, as have a lot of scantily clad female characters.  But beautiful male characters with super powers are the exact same thing.   I think why the film did well is because she is beautiful and powerful, but she’s also real and kind, and strong.

In the end it just felt like he’s jealous of how well Wonder Woman performed.  He sees himself as the “champion” of strong female characters in Hollywood(because we women need a champion to show us how to be strong.)  He even uses “his” characters as examples of how strong women should be.  But both ways are valid.  Like real women, there are many ways to be “strong.”  As a woman, and a female creator, I never doubted Diana’s strength, resilience, kindness , and courage. I found her inspiring.  I think Mr. Cameron went too far with his comments.  I found them more “two steps back” than I found the film.   For a guy that’s been through 5 wives, I don’t think he truly “gets” women the way he thinks he does.

[Sources:  The Guardian, io9]

 

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