“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” -- Junot Diaz
It's frustrating that we've arrived at an age where superhero movies dominate the box office, and yet Hollywood is still afraid to put a female superhero front and center in her own movie. The closest we've come in recent years has been with Wonder Woman, arguably the most recognizable female superhero worldwide, but even her iconic pop-culture status hasn't helped get a movie or a TV show off the ground. If you asked a Hollywood executive about the lack of female superheroes, they'd probably tell you it's complicated and we're getting there, but the real truth is that they just don't think female superheroes can be as successful as their male counterparts at the box office and the toy store. And in order for their minds to change, they need more proof. They need additional evidence that points to a female-lead superhero movie as being a wise business decision.
But it's a catch-22, right? You can't get your proof unless you actually make one. That's probably why everyone's eyes are on franchises like The Hunger Games and the upcoming Divergent, hoping these female-lead franchises will change minds and help push us toward a time where female-lead superhero movies compete against the boys for box office domination. And if anyone can help make that a reality, it'll be Avengers director and Marvel hero Joss Whedon. In a new interview with The Daily Beast, Whedon says he's pretty angry about the lack of female superheroes, and he's doing what he can to change that.
"I was raised by a hard-core feminist," Whedon said on why he's so fond of heroines. "I was also much smaller than my brothers and bullied a lot, so I identify with the feeling of helplessness."
On why he thinks there aren't more female superhero stories, Whedon blames Hollywood's attachment to the past. "Toymakers will tell you they won’t sell enough, and movie people will point to the two terrible superheroine movies that were made and say, 'You see? It can’t be done.' It’s stupid, and I’m hoping The Hunger Games will lead to a paradigm shift. It’s frustrating to me that I don’t see anybody developing one of these movies. It actually pisses me off. My daughter watched The Avengers and was like, 'My favorite characters were the Black Widow and Maria Hill,' and I thought, Yeah, of course they were. I read a beautiful thing Junot Diaz wrote: “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
That's a great quote, and it's true. The more we deny people what fulfills them, the angrier and more detached they'll become. Hollywood needs to stop looking at numbers and start investing in smart, creative storytellers who know what they're doing.
Like Whedon, who, when he's done working on The Avengers 2, says he'd love to tackle a very different project next. "I miss the blank page. I’d love to do a ballet, but I’m still thinking about how to stage it. And back to the female-hero thing, I’m not going to let nobody do it. It doesn’t have to be me, but it could be."
Be our hero Joss!