Sunday, April 19, 2015

It would be Sexist if the Wonder Woman movie didn't have a Love Interest

I've seen a few people on Social Media complain, on Feminist grounds, that they hate how it seems the Wonder Woman film will have a "male lead/love interest".

They're worried about issues of female characters continually being defined by their relationships with men.  Yes, if the Wonder Wonder movie doesn't pass the Bechel Test it'll be a big problem, but she can do that while having a male love interest just as male leads having a female love interest doesn't get in the way of them broing down with their bros talking about bro stuff.

They're concerned about the stereotype that a film needs romance to appeal to women.  But they're forgetting counter to that is a perception that romance is an obstacle to appealing to men, that in all those male Superheroes films your typical bro is fast forwarding through all the lovey dovey scenes to get to the action.  I feel like removing romance from WW would send the message that they needed to do so to make a female lead Superhero film acceptable to male viewers.  Stereotypes about what Men are supposed to like and be interested in are just as important for Feminism to tare down.

And there are a loud minority of haters out there encouraging that, constantly hating on the female leads in Superhero films and TV shows, whining about Melodrama not realizing there would be no Superhero genre without Melodrama.  This is an opportunity to expose them for the misogynists they are when they don't complain about Steve being written the same way, or if their complaints about him are different.

I'm a cizhet guy who likes Romance in the fiction I watch/read/listen to.  And some of my favorite ships are in the Superheros genre.  Now I'm usually a Femslash shipper, but there are Het pairing I like, like Eren and Mikasa, or Time Drake and Darla Aquista, or Link and Malon.  Or to get closer to the WW corner of the genre, Donna Troy and Terry Long.  Now I like the idea of a Lesbian (to me Lesbian includes Bi and Pansexual Women) Wonder Woman, but I think her introduction needs to include her default Love Interest, just as you wouldn't start a Superman saga without Lois Lane, and I'd be very upset if someone ever tried.

I want the Wonder Woman film to be treated the same as every Superhero film, that's how to make it work, not by doing things different simply because you think you have to do them different for a Woman.  Every successful Superhero film has included to varying degrees of plot relevance the love life of it's titular Hero.  To have Wonder Woman's movie be the first in the genre without Romance you risk possibly sending the message that a Woman can't handle juggling her love life with Super-heroics as well as a Man can.

Even Batman, who's comics are generally the least dependent on Romance of any major DC character, has still had a Love Interest in all 7 of his movies, and ironically the one where his Love Interest is the least prominent is Batman And Robin.  There is no correlation there but it's kinda funny to me.

If you want to change the status quo of Romance always needing to be in a Superhero film, fine, but do it with a Male hero.  It is definitely a problem to me that some people think a male lead Superhero films needs a Love Interest in order to not be a Sausage Fest (unless it's a Superhero Team then the Smurfette Principle works), as if there is no other way a Woman could be important in a Man's life. I'd like to see a Batman film where Leslie Tompkins or a Batgirl or Oracle provide the film it's needed femininity, preferably all three (I'm actually not fond of Leslie, but she is important to the Batman mythos).  Winter Solider has made some progress in that direction, Steve Roger's love life is indeed part of the film, but the female lead is Black Widow and they're not written to be romantically linked.

Wonder Woman will finally be as big as Superman and Batman are when Steve Trevor is a household name just as much as Lois Lane and Selina Kyle are.

I am concerned about how the latest announcement about them looking for a "male lead/love interest" doesn't name the character, as if who Wonder Woman's male love interest is should be some kind of mystery.  I suppose it is to non Comic readers but most who follow these kinds of announcements are not casual fans.  If they're proclaiming Steve not an interesting character and instead inventing someone new, then that is really bothersome.  Steve Trevor has been portrayed inconsistently in Comics history and that can create problems for a writer, but frankly so has Catwoman and even Lois Lane who in the 50s and 60s was not the character we know and love now.

To me making Steve Trevor interesting is easy, make him like Steve Rogers if he had been born with a more normal physic.  Or like a male Peggy Carter.  Or maybe the MCU's Bucky Barns is who he's most similar to, the gist of what makes those 3 characters work is kinda the same, same with Sam Wilson.  You know what, Steve Trevor is a character where I'd be Ok with them changing his Ethnicity.  The gist is, Steve is a solider and/or agent, he does what he thinks is right, he's never intentionally misogynist but he has some of those pervasive gender issues most men have and knowing Diana helps him become self aware of those to overcome them.

People are concerned that using Steve as the audience surrogate for the male viewers would detract from Diana being the star, only if a bad writer writes it.  The Audience surrogate should never be the lead character in a Superhero film whatever the gender dynamics are.. Etta Candy should be the other audience surrogate.  They should be Wonder Woman's Lois and Jimmy.

But people are legitimately concerned a female Superhero movie won't handle the love interest the same way.  I've seen people complain that the Steve/Diana dynamic in the 2009 animated movie was pretty much the opposite of what it should be.  I think they're right to an extent, I had many problems with that film, but at first I couldn't put my finger on what I didn't like about Steve.

But I also suspect it's bound to be perceived different even if it isn't.  A female character's love interest being very important to her is viewed as undermining her independence somehow. But the male heroes always seem to place their girlfriend high on their priority list.  Same with a woman going to her male love interest for advice or inspiration, or that character helping serve as her conscience, even though the female love interests constantly serve that function for male heroes.

Maybe there is a risk Hollywood would handle Romance in WW in a fundamentally different way.  But ignoring it altogether would be far more fundamentally different.

Pretty Little Liars is the most Feminist show on TV right now, many won't give it the credit it deserves because of the Chanel it's on, and how it's been marketed at times.  But read Heather Hogan's recaps or listen to the Bros Watch PLL Too podcast.  All 4 leads on that show have love interests, 3 of whom are straight, and they have no trouble handling them in a way that does not detract from the 4 liars having Agency and being strong lead characters.  Spencer Hasting is the modern Sherlock Holmes to me, and Troian is the spitting image of Donna Troy.

This blog post is me trying to express better what I said in an earlier Tumblr post.

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