What's up with…the ladies in comics movies

Despite the embarrassing cinema outings for female superheaters such as Catwoman, Elektra and Aeon Flux, hope springs eternal that someone someday will make a movie about a heroic female that isn’t utterly cringeworthy. Of course, TV is a lot more heroic woman friendly, so it’s there that we find Wonder Woman — whose movie version stalled long ago — currently trying to find a home.

The story goes like this: David E. Kelley, the famed TV producer behind such shows as Boston Legal and the “groundbreaking female dramedy” Ally McBeal, was tasked by the WB to develop a Wonder Woman pilot. He wrote that pilot. It was passed around all the networks and no one picked it up. Sad face. But then, SURPRISE, NBC decided they would put it on this fall! Happy face!

Rebooting Wonder Woman is a task that has vexed many a man and woman in the comics, let alone TV. The Lynda Carter original was ’70s campy, a take that no one would take seriously any more. No, you need to have some kind of faith and belief in the background and motivation of your hero for audiences to do the same.

Kelley’s pilot script is now making the rounds in Hollywood — it’s apparently very easy to come by, so if anyone wants to send it our way, we won’t object — but from all reports it is…sort of like Ally McBeal with bracelets:

Pages 8-14: The first of many lengthy heart-to-hearts between Diana and her press secretary, Myndi [sic], that’s meant to play as though the two are long-lost sisters who gab about boys in between high-powered meetings. Here, there’s the additional opportunity for gratuitous skin, as Diana takes a long, hot shower before she opens up about long-lost love Steve Trevor, now a lawyer in the Justice Department. (Wait, really?) Despite the alleged feminist undertones, Kelley uses the scene as an opportunity to dissect Diana’s love life and engage in some stereotypical banter about much-needed makeovers (alter ego Diana Prince is rather mousy because she has brown eyes, apparently, and doesn’t style her hair well) and Myndi asks her how the women of Themyscira have babies. No surprise that war hero Steve Trevor has been redesigned as a lawyer here. You didn’t really think Kelley would do a show without a single member of the legal profession in the mix, did you?


The rest of this report is equally dire with ice cream sleepovers, Wonder Woman’s three identities, Beyoncé songs, and Diana swooning for Steve Trevor like a lovesick teen.

If you want a more comic-book knowledgable review, Sue from DC Women Kicking Ass also had a peek and was unimpressed:

If this were a show about a generic female crime fighter, it wouldn’t be bad. But it’s not. It’s about Wonder Woman and what Kelley has done, despite the character’s love of flying, is to bring her down to earth and not in a good way. He underplays her origin, reduces her scope and waters down her motivation. Wonder Woman is a bigger than life character who should inspire awe. And there are moments where he writes her that way but for the most part it just feels like Diana Themyscira is a wonderful woman but hardly a Wonder.


Remember, it’s just a pilot script — there will be much tinkering between now and when the show debuts as the leaves drift to ground. Maybe Kelley will break his leg or have a lizard bite off his toe or something.

As for casting…that is all still up in the air.

§ However Wonder Woman is not the only woman in a superhero movie we’re hearing a lot about of late. There’s Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot which, we’re told, will not include Lois Lane. If Lois was going to be another 22 year old ingenue like Kate Bosworth, maybe it’s just as well. But even in that version Lois was a smart, capable professional who brought a lot to the mythos. We’ll miss you, you maniac.

You can do Superman without Lois but you still need a character with tits to play opposite Henry Cavill. And so, Variety tells us, there are three actresses up for the leading lady role:

alice eve What's up with...the ladies in comics movies

Alice Eve

LA+Premiere+Newline+Fracture+Arrivals+ UZAds8NnhQl What's up with...the ladies in comics movies

Rosamund Pike

diane kruger What's up with...the ladies in comics movies

and Diane Kruger.

It’s a blond then. Not Lana Lang?

§ Further meanwhile, we turn to the Avengers film, which is being written and directed by Joss Whedon, the man who loved to write strong women (who once took on Wonder Woman, even.) If there is one writer you can depend on to try to pass the Bechdel Test, it’s Whedon, but in AVENGERS thus far we have only Scarlet Johannson as the Black Widow. But Whedon hinted he’d sneak in another girl and now Samuel L. Jackson, who is playing Nick Fury, has confirmed:

“I gotta screen test like five actresses on Friday. They have this new character who I guess is like my sidekick, or something that’s like with me all the time. So, they’re auditioning girls for it.”


But who…who??? The Hollywood Reporter to the rescue, with a short list consisting of

morena baccarin What's up with...the ladies in comics movies

Morena Baccarin (“V”)

jessica lucas What's up with...the ladies in comics movies

Jessica Lucas (“Melrose Place”)
cobie smulders What's up with...the ladies in comics movies
Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”) and reportedly Whedon’s choice for Wonder Woman back in the day.

mary elizabeth winstead What's up with...the ladies in comics movies
and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim, The Thing)

So…it’s a brunette, then. Baccarin is said to be the front runner, but these kinds of rumors are often unreliable, so just hold on to your hats.

No one knows who this character will be, but will she and the Black Widow do more than just scowl at each other, as the Black Widow did with Pepper Potts in IRON MAN 2? Or will they…talk? We’re counting on you, Joss!

Comments

  1. If Baccarin is the front runner, my money is on a Maria Hill role. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Hill

  2. Comixace That’s a lot of spunky brunettes for the SLJ sidekick role. I’m guessing Maria Hill (Avengers/Iron Man).

  3. @John
    As someone who has seen and loved Superman and Superman II and read the Kelley script,I feel completely confident in saying you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    And your stringing together various moments through 60 years of comics to try and degrade Wonder Woman is a game that can be equally played with Batman and Superman. So really, what’s your point?

  4. Allen Rubinstein says:

    I once was told about a female friend of a friend who’s rule for watching movies was:

    1) It had to have at least two women in it.

    2) They had to talk about something besides men.

  5. Justin Fairfax says:

    Well, yes, Maria Hill–but back in the (old) day, Nick’s constant female companion was Countess Valentina Allegro De Fontaine, who was even in that David Hasselhoff Fury TV thingy. Whichever character it turns out to be, they might also be eventually recruited to be in that NICK FURY movie that Samuel J’s contracted for!

  6. @John, when you use some incredibly misogynistic language how do you expect anyone to take you seriously? It’s quite sad.

  7. Jack Fear says:

    @Allen Rubinstein: That two-part criteria is the very same “Bechdel test” mentioned in the article. It was popularized, if not originated, by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her strip DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR.

  8. @Allen Rubinstein and Jack Fear: There’s even a website that tracks if movies pass the Bechdel test or not: http://bechdeltest.com/

    As for the article, the first time I saw Morena Baccarin in an ad for “V,” I immediately thought “With that haircut, she looks just like Maria Hill” so yeah, I’d say she’s a great choice. As for the Wonder Woman TV show, I haven’t read the script, but I can imagine a slightly irreverent, “single female superhero, workin’ for her client, wearing sexy miniskirts and bein’ self-reliant” take on WW *could* work. I would certainly give it a shot.

  9. Sadly, this script sounds like it might be from Lame-ville.

    “We could cap every episode with Etta Candy putting Diana over her knee, spanking her with a hairbrush (as Diana shrugs and winks). All in good fun of course. All this when she isn’t fighting sea monsters for the UN. NBC would be fools not to greenlight that!”

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Wonder Woman fight sea monsters. As for Etta spanking her, I’m sure that’ll surface in one of those comic-porn films eventually.

  10. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Hey, there’s always Heroic Trio. That even had Wonder Woman in it.

    I have this weird feeling Mila Kunis ends up playing Lois Lane, although I’d love to stare at Rosamund Pike Imax-sized.

    I can’t imagine the Avengers not-superhero female part having 10 lines, even if they give her two of Clark Gregg’s.

    I don’t understand why a Wonder Woman movie or episodic film-like TV show drawing on at least some traditional elements of the character is so difficult for all of these fine writers to do. Then again, I want Dancing Wonder Tot.

    Also, if I were making a DC superhero property into anything, I’d really want GL to do well to avoid the extra scrutiny that will come if it doesn’t.

  11. John, where exactly is the hypocrisy you’re talking about? I don’t see it.

    I don’t recall Reeve swooning over Kidder (or, as I bet you meant to say, Superman swooning over Lois, as we’re talking about the characters, not the actors, right?). And it seemed to me he turned back the world as much for himself as for Lois (he didn’t want to live without her). I don’t see how any of that is the same as the stuff that produced the “eye rolling.”

    In fact, I don’t think the complaint was so much that those sorts of things were in the script, but that those seemed to be the focus, rather than WW’s superheroic qualities.

  12. (John apparently sees any two people kiss and files it all under “that girly stuff”, regardless of how it’s handled.)

    re: Superheroines on TV. The show’s starting to bore me I’m afraid, but “No Ordinary Family” includes a super woman that unfortunately doesn’t seem to get the focus as much as her husband does, but otherwise doesn’t suck.

  13. Glenn Simpson says:

    I think that No Ordinary Family has the same general ratio of Current Story This Week vs. Ongoing Subplot. It just so happens that Dad stars in Current Story This Week and Mom stars in Ongoing Subplot.

    That said, I’m sitting here thingking about how interesting it would have been if Mom was the police artist who goes out and fights crime and Dad was the scientist looking for the source of their powers.

  14. badpenny says:

    “And it seemed to me he turned back the world as much for himself as for Lois (he didn’t want to live without her).”

    I’m not sure what the distinction is but okay. Yes. That’s right. He didn’t want to live without Lois. He didn’t want Lois to die. He turned the world back so Lois would live again. Because he loved Lois. He wasn’t dating a variety of people and then interrupted his date to go save Lois. He loved Lois. Picking up the thread here? He didn’t turn the world backwards for his love of HBO or fast food or Lana Lang. It was for Lois. And while Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor aren’t as popular a couple as Lois and Clark, they’re a longstanding comic book couple. They’re comic book history.

    But there is a vocal minority, a “specific few” who suddenly think Diana’s equally monogamous feelings for Trevor is some kind of affront to womankind. It’s not about how Kelley portrays Diana and Steve. It has nothing to do with that at all. They think Diana swooning over Steve = loss of “female empowerment”. Yet if Clark played the field instead of being dedicated to Lois, this same group would freak the hell out. This is the same specific few who claim to be against double standards, but only if it‘s against “their team“. And it really is a “specific few” who think this way. It isn’t the majority of comic book fans or even the majority of Wonder Woman fans. it’s a tiny, militant sect who yell sexism even when they can‘t find it. Yell fire, we‘ll look for the matches later.

    I’d call the attempts to shape WW to represent the limited view they have of their kind insidious or subtle, but it’s much too obvious, pathetic, amateurish and blatantly ridiculous to be that. These are after all the same entities who vilify people like Paul Levitz and Trina Robbins for completely innocuous and completely, factually correct comments that go against this “specific few’s” revisionist comic history. The facts stated by people like Levitz and Robbins drive these “specific few” into hysterics. They have no facts, credibility or evidence of any sort, or any valid knowledge of comic book history to back up their often ludicrous, unintelligible criticisms and claims, so they falsely and rather sickeningly label such comments sexist. They then bounce these charges around on their fellow cohorts blogs and make enough noise that others mistakenly think these charges valid.

    I’m sure that people like Levitz and Robbins don’t lose a second of sleep over these ridiculous people. I personally find it amusing to point their incoherent inconsistencies out to them and to burst their bubble of hypocrisy. It pleases me to know that they will never be a majority. They are “quite sad”.

    John

  15. I’m sorry, but how on Earth were “Elektra” and “Aeon Flux” embarassing? Maybe not the greatest movies ever made, but certainly not embarassing.

  16. John,
    I’m not getting the gist of your original complaint. Is it that you’re taking issue with DCWKA saying that the script doesn’t empower women? I’m lost.

  17. If Morena Baccarin is in the Avengers movie, I will go and see it just for her sake if nothing else. RAWR!

  18. persistent says:

    @gene

    “I’m not getting the gist of your original complaint.”

    Sorry Gene. Let me try to clarify. Get rid of (or minimize) Steve Trevor and you’re an enlightened, progressive beacon of womanhood.

    Get rid of (or minimize) Lois, and you’re a sexist misogynist.

    Not “hey, that’s showing a lack of respect for comic history” but sexist. Where I come from (Earth) that’s hypocrisy. And don’t take my word for it. For evidence of this, look no further than Sue’s own site. When she’s not labeling differing opinions on the subject as out and out sexist, she’s agreeing with the acolytes that are…

    http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/3104414763/noloislane#disqus_thread

    The battle lines in that (or any) discussion over there are clearly drawn solely along gender lines. What? You don’t mind that Lois isn’t the female lead in the next movie? Sexist! What? You don’t think Superman needs Lois to define him? Sexist! What? You don’t care if Steve Trevor isn’t in the WW TV show? Yeah, me either. I think Diana should date more. It’s hilarious. Consequently, I don’t mind being called sexist and misogynist by dcwka because I know I’m helping her out. Because when she puts that label on me I know it’s the one time in her short and perpetually irrelevant career she’s made that claim with any shred of honesty, intelligence, integrity and credibility. But that’s what I do, I help people.

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