The Triumph of ‘Wonder Woman’

The Triumph of Wonder Woman

The box office has made its ruling, and the verdict is clear. You can’t keep a wonderful woman down.

“Wonder Woman,” which opened this weekend, is a mammoth hit, meeting the most optimistic expectations and setting up its director, Patty Jenkins, for a place in the record books. It’s on track to earn between $90 and $105 million domestically by Monday morning, according to industry projections. That’s the best debut ever for a movie directed by a woman.

My colleague Maureen Dowd explored this stark gender disparity in a cover story for The Times’s magazine in late 2015, noting that in the previous two years, “women were only 1.9 percent of the directors for the 100 top-grossing films.”

“Excluding their art-house divisions, the six major studios released only three movies last year with a female director,” Dowd added, referring to 2014.

And since then? According to The Hollywood Reporter, women represented 9 percent of the directors of the 250 top-grossing movies domestically in 2015 and just 7 percent last year.

“Wonder Woman” is an important challenge to that unconscionable imbalance. It’s an equally important step toward more big-screen portrayals of female characters as strong, independent leaders. There’s been some improvement on that front, perhaps best exemplified by “The Hunger Games” franchise, but in the realm of superheroes, women have continued to lag far behind, as I noted in a column in late 2013 about how often a “Wonder Woman” movie had been contemplated, how long the wait for it was turning out to be, and how determined Hollywood was to mint new male superheroes in the meantime.

The producer, director and writer Ryan Murphy is championing female directors through a resolve to give at least 50 percent of the directing jobs on his television series — which include “American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story” and “Feud ”— to women, people of color or L.G.B.T. people. The first season of “Feud,” which explored the relationship between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, wasn’t simply fantastic; it was one of the sharpest, most painful examinations ever of how brutally and reductively so many women are treated as they grow older, particularly in Hollywood. The lineup of Sunday-night television that “Feud” was a part of also included “Girls,” “Big Little Lies” and more: a trove of meaty, juicy roles for actresses of all ages.

Sofia Coppola just won the best director prize at Cannes, for her movie “The Beguiled,” becoming only the second woman to nab that award. It’s ridiculous that there have only been two. But two is a whole lot better than one.

And now here’s “Wonder Woman,” proving that magical bracelets can have the same power — both on the battlefield and at the box office — as a flashy codpiece. She’s fresher than any “Batman” of late and fiercer than any “Superman” of recent vintage, but she’s lonely. May her sorority expand, and fast.

Read the full New York Times article here.