The Wonder Woman Double Standard That No One Is Talking About

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.
I think we can all agree that Wonder Woman has crushed expectations.
The film made over $100.5 million domestically (and $223 million worldwide) in its first weekend in theaters, making it the highest grossing domestic film by a female director. It has a rating of 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, earned glowing reviews from critics and fans alike, and inspired little girls all over the world to embrace their inner superhero. I'd call that a major win.
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But all this begs the question: Why were those expectations so low in the first place? In the months leading up to the premiere of Wonder Woman, questions were raised about director Patty Jenkins' ability to shoulder such a weighty franchise. The National Review's Armond White, for example, wrote that "Jenkins is not an action director; clearly, she was hired only as a politically correct token."
Others were less explicit. The Hollywood Reporter called Jenkins "a big gamble for Warner Bros," citing, among other factors, her lack of experience. The director only had one big-screen feature under her belt, 2003's Oscar-winning Monster starring Charlize Theron, which cost only $8 million to make. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, had a budget of $149 million.
Similar concerns were raised about Jenkins' predecessor, Michelle MacLaren, who was originally supposed to direct the film. Although Warner Bros. cited "creative differences" as the official reason for her departure, Variety reported in April 2015 that executives had become worried about MacLaren's competence in directing such a large-scale project, given the fact that her experience lay mainly in directing prestige TV episodes of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, among others.
Add to that the suspicious lack of marketing surrounding the film, a move many interpreted as the studio lowering expectations to minimize potential fallout should it fail at the box office, and we have the makings of a glaring double standard.
In 2016, only 7 percent of the 250 top-grossing films were directed by women, according to San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. This was a 2 percent decline from 2015. And while, Jenkins' success may pave the way for more women to direct big-ticket franchises, it's unacceptable that they should have to jump through more hoops even after they've been tapped to run a project. Aside from Jenkins, only a handful of female directors have ever been given the responsibility of a huge blockbuster with only one film on their resume. Sam Taylor-Johnson, for one, went from directing Nowhere Boy, a low-budget film about young John Lennon, to helming the first installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise.
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On the flip side, plenty of men have made the jump from indies to big-budget blockbusters, with little objections raised. Ahead are just a few examples.
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Marc Webb

Indie Feature: 500 Days of Summer (2009)

Next Project: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Like Jenkins, Webb had only directed one feature-length film, an indie with a budget of less than $8 million, before being tapped to direct the $230 million The Amazing Spider-Man. At the time, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, said: “At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world. The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker’s life. We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter’s shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man’s adventure. We believe Marc Webb is the perfect choice to bring us on that journey.”
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James Gunn

Indie Feature: Slither (2006)

Next Project: Guardians of The Galaxy (2013)

Who doesn't love Baby Groot? James Gunn actually directed a few indie films between Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy (and also worked as a screenwriter on a number of movies), but the former was his biggest budget film (at $12 million) before taking on the $232 million dollar Marvel behemoth starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper.
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Gareth Edwards

Indie Feature: Monsters (2010)

Next Project: Godzilla (2015)

Third Project: Star Wars: Rogue One (2016)

Garreth Edwards went straight from directing a film with a $500,000 budget (!) to Godzilla, a film with a budget of $160 million. From there, Edwards went on to direct the first spinoff in the Star Wars franchise, starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, and Riz Ahmed. The budget for that one? $265 million.
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Josh Trank

Indie Feature: Chronicle (2012)

Next Project: Fantastic Four (2015)

Trank's first film, a well received teen sci-fi thriller starring Dane Dehaan and Michael B. Jordon, cost only $12 million to make. His second was the highly anticipated Fantastic Four reboot starring Miles Teller. Yes, the one that has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

At the time of the film's release, Trank tweeted (and then promptly deleted): “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve recieved [sic] great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”
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Colin Trevorrow

Indie Feature: Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Next Project: Jurassic World (2016)

In an interview with SlashFilm, Treverrow said that he never even had to pitch to direct the $150 million reboot of the classic franchise, nor did he read a script, despite only having ever directed one film. Rather, he got the job after Brad Pitt recommended him, saying "he kind of reminds me of me."

"We talked for about two hours and then they flew me to L.A. a couple days later and Steven and I talked for a couple of hours and then he gave me Jurassic Park because it was a very strange week," Treverrow said. "You know, I don’t know exactly why he made that choice."
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Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Indie Feature: The Kinds Of Summer (2013)

Next Project: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Jordan Vogt-Roberts' $1.4 million coming of age movie premiered to rave reviews at Sundance. In 2014, he directed the You're The Worst pilot for FX, and three more episodes in the show's acclaimed first season before getting tapped to direct the King Kong origin story, starring Tom Hiddleston and Michael Keaton, and with a budget of $185 million.

As Vulture pointed out in an interview with Vogt-Roberts earlier this year, this transition from indies to blockbusters was a conscious move on the director's part. “After Kings of Summer, I came to realize that when you make an indie, it almost doesn’t matter how good it is," Vogt-Roberts said. "My friends had movies far better than mine, things like Fruitvale Station and Short Term 12, that were coming out the same year — you watch this thing that you love enter into the world, and it’s almost impossible to break through the clutter and the noise of pop culture,” Vogt-Roberts told Vulture recently. “So I was like, I want to make a big movie, because I want people to see the movie I make.
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