This post was co-authored by Deborah Tudor & Eileen Meehan
We are looking beyond our case study of Star Trek and National Amusements toward another segment of U.S movie production, the superhero movie. Here again we have media operations that are sometimes referred to as if they were independent -- DC Comic and Warner Bros Studio, both owned by Time Warner -- and a female executive -- DC's president Diane Nelson.
One consistently popular DC character that seems doomed to development hell is Wonder Woman. Despite the various WW projects announced in the past few years, the only one to be produced was a 2009 DC Animations/Warner Bros. film that went straight to Blu-Ray. We ask why?
DC Comics President Diane Nelson said that Wonder Woman is “tricky’, too “iconic” and lacking a single, clear origin story, which is incorrect, as any reader of DC comics knows. Nelson cites her “mythological” origin, an Amazon princess, as an obstacle for viewers. That didn’t stop the producers of the Thor movies. The fact that she is identified with fighting the Nazis during WWII means she’s too historically-bound. That didn't stop Captain America from getting a franchise.
Studios consider women superhero films risky and tricky. Media commentators point to “reasonable” fears by studios that female-centered super hero films will fail, remembering Supergirl (1984) and Catwoman (2004). The current success of Hunger Games hasn’t punctured that belief. Yet failed male superhero films are not considered a barrier to further production. Remember Green Lantern?
If not movies, what about TV? David E. Kelley’s recent attempt to jump start a Wonder Woman series failed to get picked up. In the absence of Wonder Woman on the big screen or television, fans have filled the gap with productions. Currently, one of the most popular is Rainfall TV’s short trailer. It shows Wonder Woman fighting bad guys in our world and battling monsters with her sisters on Paradise Island.
Studio personnel's arguments point to an enduring cultural phenomenon: women are considered difficult to represent as autonomous characters. This stems from ideological notions that women are enigmas, and a tradition of . “What do women want?”, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”, and countless “I don’t understand women today” blogs and articles online. The biggest obstacle to a Wonder Woman film is the inability of our culture to see women clearly.