James Cameron and Patty Jenkins on Strong Female Roles

It seems this month that I have been discussing a lot about James Cameron. Not just my comments about his million planned Avatar sequels, T2-3D re-release and talking about his films on my other podcast, Extended Play Movie Podcast. But, after all that, it seems that he is more of a jerk than I previously believed. Now, he is a great filmmaker but he is a bit behind the times. Especially in regard to Wonder Woman.

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided.” Cameron said in an interview with The Guardian. “She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

Of course, he was asked the follow-up question as to why Hollywood can’t depict “truly” powerful women. “I don’t – I don’t know,” he began. “There are many women in power in Hollywood and they do get to guide and shape what films get made. I think – no, I can’t account for it. Because how many times do I have to demonstrate the same thing over again? I feel like I’m shouting in a wind tunnel!”

So, by Cameron’s own statement (which will probably be retracted later on), a powerful woman must not be beautiful. Strong women have to be “troubled” in the case of Sarah Conner a “terrible mother” and earn the respect of the audience. Why don’t male stars have to be this way? How many times in romantic comedies we are rooting for the immature lothario that believes bedding women is the most important thing. Even if they make the smallest move on the respectability scale, the audience roots for them.

While Cameron may have written some of the best strongest women, to this point, he is not an authority of a powerful woman. Because, again, we would be putting out faith in female characters, or female depiction in Hollywood, in a man. Since the story went viral, Patty Jenkins had a very diplomatic and candid response to Cameron:

That last sound you heard was the mic dropping. When you believe that an egomaniac and ruthless director should be the epitome of what a strong female is, then we have truly lost sight of what Wonder Woman has gained. Simply due to the fact that she is beautiful, she is not a true feminist icon but if we recast the character as a man – it would be touted as a traditional hero’s journey.

A woman trying to escape something is not the only requirement to make her strong. Wonder Woman had her own sense of duty but when the world tried to overcome her with our sense of “reality”, she overcame that and found her own truth. With that, she rose up and experienced victory and pain. That is what makes her strong. I think someone needs to get into the 21st century, Mr. Cameron. While your movies take place in the future, maybe your ideology of female icons should join us there as well.

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