Patty Jenkins Calls Out James Cameron's 'Inability to Understand What Wonder Woman Is'

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Yesterday, The Guardian published an interview with director James Cameron in which he said that Patty Jenkins’ take on Wonder Woman was an “objectified icon” and that the widespread critical acclaim for the character’s film has been “misguided.” Late last night, Jenkins took to Twitter with the perfect response.

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Rather than spelling out her thoughts as a thread of tweets, Jenkins posted a screenshot of a very brief, thoughtful breakdown of the inherently sexist critiques Cameron leveled at her film. As successful a filmmaker Cameron may be, Jenkins wrote, his “unsurprising” inability to think of Wonder Woman as a strong female character is rooted in the simple fact that he isn’t a woman. Jenkins also very explicitly pointed out why it’s so problematic to cling to the idea that women can only be strong when they’re depicted as being “hard, tough, and troubled.”

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In his interview with The Guardian, Cameron reasoned that Wonder Woman was a “step backwards” in large part because she was depicted as being both beautiful and strong. Cameron held up Terminator’s Sarah Connor (a character of his own creation) as a better example of a strong character who “earned the respect of the audience through pure grit.”

One of the oddest things about Cameron’s comments is his seemingly having forgotten that during the course of her movie, Wonder Woman singlehandedly takes down multiple squads of armed soldiers using only her sword and shield before slaying the god of war. What’s more, her entire story arc is literally about making the toughest decision of her life—leaving her family and friends behind in paradise—so that she can save a world that neither understands nor respects her.

If that isn’t “pure grit,” then I have no idea what is.

io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

Patty Jenkins seems to cut to the heart of the matter with her insistence that women “can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress.” We can argue all day about what empowerment ought to look like (or whether it’s a valuable litmus test in the first place) but there is no denying that Wonder Woman resonated with the audience this summer in a way that few other films did.

Meanwhile, you can’t exactly blame James Cameron for thinking that the buzz around Wonder Woman is a belated and convenient response to women working in genre film. This is a guy who has spent his career collaborating with Gale Anne Hurd, Kathryn Bigelow, Linda Hamilton, and other talented women who haven’t even divorced him. He has seen women create characters and films that are at least as daring as Wonder Woman without the same level of fanfare and recognition. It’s just too bad that he ignited a pointless online slap-fight, in which he appears to have been owned, albeit graciously, instead of using WW’s success as a chance to promote the artists (other than James Cameron) who he thinks we should give another look.