12:00 pm EDT, June 30, 2017

‘Wonder Woman’ and the importance of the female gaze

Wonder Woman highlights the appeal and importance of having a movie that offers a female perspective rather than catering to the male gaze.

As a female fan of superhero films, I’ve had to make a lot of concessions over the years when it comes to female comic book characters. Yes, there have been female characters in superhero films, but they have often been saddled with one-note or vaguely sexist storylines, had to constantly be saved by the male heroes, functioned as little more than eye-candy — or been some awful combination of these three.

When it was announced that a Wonder Woman film was in the works, I was ecstatic — but also filled with a certain amount of trepidation. I wondered what concessions I would have to make this time – whether it would have to do with character or storyline or costuming.

While — as I’ve written beforeWonder Woman certainly has areas it can improve on for the sequel, this film shows just how important it is to have women telling a woman’s story.

And not just in the major ways of its characterization and story and theme, but in the minor details, too — in its advertising, costuming, and cinematography.

Female superheroes are more than a nice body

Female superheroes movie posters

Wonder Woman‘s movie poster campaign leapt over the very low bar for female superheroes by not having her stand in the boobs and butt pose favored by other superhero franchises. From the very beginning, the advertising centered around who Wonder Woman was as a character and not how good she looked in spandex.

This emphasis carried over into the movie itself, giving us fleshed out, nuanced female characters and Amazonian warriors who wore outfits that drew inspiration from armor rather than sexy underwear.

This recent twitter thread from costume designer Amanda Weaver sums it up best:

(I’ve highlighted just a small part of her analysis, but you should do yourself a favor and read the entire tweet thread.)

Diana is not just a beautiful woman who happens to be a badass warrior. She is a badass warrior, a loving daughter and a noble protector who just also happens to be really beautiful.

Her outfit, though more stylized and attractive than your average armor, is meant to highlight her strength and her power, not the size of her boobs.

This same focus extends to the cinematography. When Diana sheds her coat and begins her climb up the ladder and out into No Man’s Land, there is ample opportunity for the camera to sexualize the moment. It’s all too easy to imagine a movie in which the camera slowly pans over Diana’s body in a way that is meant to arouse rather than inspire.

Instead, the focus was again kept on Diana’s symbols of strength and courage – her golden lasso, her bracers, her shield. When she emerges from the trenches of No Man’s Land, it is not as a sex symbol — it is as a symbol of hope and power.

The next frontier: Wonder Woman with pants

Wonder Woman wearing pants

Of course, this is not to say that there is nothing that the sequel can do to improve the way it outfits its lead. While Diana’s outfit is not gratuitous, it’s still short and tight to the point of being rather impractical.

To buck this trend of impractical outfits for female superheroes, I’d love to see Wonder Woman outfitted in pants for the upcoming sequel. While the skirt and strapless top is definitely iconic, having Diana in something more practical and subdued would put Wonder Woman on equal footing with many of her male counterparts.

After all, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine didn’t walk around in yellow spandex, nor will Jason Momoa don a bright orange top for the upcoming Aquaman film. The fact that the sequel will take place in present day America gives the movie the perfect opportunity to give Diana an outfit that would match her surroundings.

And while Wonder Woman in pants has always been met with an irritatingly loud negative outcry from the comic book community, I’m fairly certain that many viewers — myself included — would relish the opportunity to see Wonder Woman kick ass while wearing pants and flat shoes.

What do you think of the costuming in ‘Wonder Woman’?

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