Comics

Women Kicking Butt Are…Crazy?: Yet More Hurdles For a Wonder Woman Movie

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A recent USA TODAY article by Brian Truitt said what feminists, allies, and people with brains have been saying for years: it’s time for a female-led superhero movie. Truitt offers a few suggestions for possible subjects, talks about the increasing demand for a Wonder Woman or Black Widow movie, and lists a few reasons why Hollywood is so scared to take a chance on female-driven superhero films. They especially focus on the long anticipated yet can’t get off the ground Wonder Woman movie. If you’ve ever read a blog entry about this subject, you’ve pretty much already read this article.

But here’s what really stuck out to me. Truitt interviews Jeff Bock, a senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, who had this to say about a potential female-led superhero movie, specifically a Wonder Woman adaptation:

“We have a lot of bruising dudes who can strap on some spandex and it’s very believable that they can just plow through 100 people. With women, it’s a lot different,” Bock says.

“Angelina Jolie has the body, the makeup, the energy to believe that she’s just crazy enough to kick all of these people’s (butts). Uma Thurman, throw her in, too. It’s just very rare for a female to be able to kick butt on all of these different levels — you have to be a good actress as well.”

Hold on. At least some Hollywood execs think the majority of talented actresses out there aren’t able to “kick butt” and aren’t “crazy” enough to play Wonder Woman or many other female superheroes? Wait, they want an actress to seem “crazy” in the first place? Just to play a character who yes, beats up a lot of men, women, and monsters, but is also a diplomat and activist?

Wonder Woman: Diplomat

Is this the portrait of “crazy”?

It’s not like Wonder Woman challenges these random monsters because she’s a psychopath or just likes the violence. She embraces violence when necessary, but she doesn’t seek it out for the thrill. She genuinely fights to make the world a better place and to protect those who can’t yet protect themselves. She confronts villains because she is uniquely positioned to, and she uses her strength to lead others to find their own.

But what’s really disturbing here is that for an actress to be considered the butt-kicking equivalent of a bland, grizzled male action hero, she must at least seem “crazy” and have to “kick butt on all of these different levels.” She can’t be a woman who fights to protect, or fights because it’s the right thing to do, like many other popular male superhero movie franchises. She needs to be a “little crazy, too.” And that touch of “insanity” is supposed to be projected on the female hero, even though male heroes like Captain America, Superman, and Spider-Man can be modest, wholesome, and just doing it for “the good of humanity.”

And wait, how are they even defining “crazy” here? Is it crazy for a woman to want to fight bad guys in the service of protecting others? But it’s not crazy for nerdy high school student Peter Parker to face down a giant humanoid lizard for the same end? We can have diversity in male heroes and accept they rationally make choices about defending people, but women need to be just a little bit kooky?

Not only is this a bizarre, harmful line of thinking, but it once again creates excuses for women not to be represented within the superhero film genre. Yet again, women are held to ridiculous requirements that their male counterparts are not. And by twisting the characterization of Wonder Woman to some standard that, we’re told, most actresses cannot meet, another hurdle is placed in a Wonder Woman movie’s path. But this time the blame can be deflected from Hollywood and back on women and female characters. They just aren’t “crazy” enough.

Writer, knitter, firebrand. Likes superheroes, cats, and changing the world.

8 Comments

  1. Michelle

    September 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Ugh, yes, thank you! I’ve been reaching for what to say about that article for a few days now, but you nailed it. I’m so sick of women being told something is wrong with them because they do the same things men do. It all goes back to Victorian cases of hysteria and that sort of nonsense.

    And for my other comment, I will default to the attached Batman panel.

    • Kelly

      September 2, 2013 at 7:18 PM

      Oh man, Devin Grayson’s Gotham Knights run! Good stuff!

      Yes! Something is wrong with them — or SHOULD be wrong with them? Usually “crazy” (in all its undefined glory) is used against women, but here women just aren’t “crazy” enough. Wow, talk about an impossible standard.

  2. Rachel

    September 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    The insinuation where a woman has to be a good actress whereas her male counterparts don’t is really bugging me. Okay, cool, women have to have standards. Except it’s still just another way of blockading progress.

    • Kelly

      September 2, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      Exactly! And this idea that men naturally look heroic or intimidating (whichever way you want to put it) but only certain, RARE women with a set of certain characteristics (whatever “crazy” means) can do the same.

  3. Lan

    September 3, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    “With women, it’s a lot different” — I’m not entirely sure why this is. I can’t even see the logic behind it, even before considering the “crazy” thing.

    And now that I’m thinking of it, the badass women being considered “crazy” is something I’ve seen in comics and discussions before. You might see comments like: “he’s so badass” vs “this bitch is crazy” when the characters did the exact same thing.

    Take any Batman comic and read it as though Bruce is a woman, or read a Wonder Woman comic as though Diana is a man. Sounds like a fun experiment.

    • Kelly

      September 3, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      I think this was an exercise in the Gender Through Comic Books course! Imagine reading a superhero comic with the gender reversed and see what happens. Or maybe it’s an exercise we both imagined just now. Either way, I definitely think we know what would happen.

      Really good point about “he’s badass” vs “this bitch is crazy”! I’m going to start watching for this in responses. There really is a glorification of the “crazy killer loner woman” who is usually out for revenge.

      It’s crazy (ha ha) how “crazy” is used as a weapon against women time and again. “Crazy bitches.” “Crazy girlfriends.” “They get crazy around that time of the month.” etc etc. But then here NOT being “crazy” enough is a weapon, too. What, are all the women “too sane”??

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