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.
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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