That the DC Extended Universe Wonder Woman solo film would deal with sexism was always a given, simply based on the title character’s longstanding history as a feminist icon. The Wonder Woman trailers have already teases some of the awkward humor that arises when Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is first introduced to way of life in the ‘world of men’ circa WWI; be it Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) – the soldier whom Diana rescues upon his crash-landing in her home of Themyscira – passing Diana off as his secretary (a very good one, mind you), or Diana marveling to a supportive Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) about the cumbersome dress that she is expected to wear.
Storytellers such as Captain Marvel co-writer Nicole Perlman have spoken about the unique challenges of crafting a female superhero film in the past, noting that it simply comes with pressures that male superhero movies (be they about Superman or Iron Man) do no carry, by comparison. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins added her own two cents to that larger discussion, when the filmmaker was asked about how her own comic book movie adaptation goes about handling issues related to sexism, within the context of younger Diana’s origin story.
During Screen Rant’s visit to the Wonder Woman editing bay, Jenkins made it clear that she was well-aware of the expectations that come with making a female superhero film, while working on her DCEU installment:
I think we’re in this very interesting time where these issues have been around for a long time, but a lot of different people are saying, ‘Actually, not that much has changed for all of us.’ And so I think it’s a hotbed topic regardless. What I like and want to be a part of is the next wave, which is like where, yes, it’s going to bring up a lot of conversation about it, but the next wave is where we can just start making universal movies about other kinds of people, and not have it be an issue. Just say like, ‘Yes, this is a universal movie about a person wanting to be a hero – this one happens to be a woman.’ And that’s, I think, the real challenge, and so I went forward with that attitude.
Wonder Woman, as mentioned before, takes place primarily in the early 20th century – at a time when most countries didn’t allow women to vote, no less. Much of the humor in the film’s trailers stems directly from Diana being a fish out of water in such a time and place, coming from a place (Themyscira) populated by women of both great intelligence and strength in positions of power. While Jenkins noted as much herself, she again emphasized her vision for Wonder Woman as a universally-accessible superhero story:
It’s interesting and it ends up being funny because this sexism comes to the fore, because she’s walking into 1918 and she’s completely oblivious… she just keeps being completely confused, she would never know about it. And so there ends up being accidental comments about it, but I also went into it not making a movie about a woman at all. I’m making a movie about Wonder Woman, who I love, who to me is one of the great superheroes. And so I just treat her like a universal character. That’s what I think is the next step, is when we can start doing that more and more and the studios have confidence to do that.
Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment reportedly have a number of female character-driven DCEU projects in development to follow Wonder Woman, among them being movies about DC supervillains/anti-heroes (Gotham City Sirens) and DC superheroes alike (Birds of Prey). Between those projects gaining momentum and characters such as Gadot’s Diana Prince and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn being among the most well-received elements of the DCEU to date, there’s fair reason to think that the DCEU’s future may depend on its female citizens more and more, hereon forward. If that proves to be the case, then Jenkins’ hope for more movies that approach their female protagonists like “universal characters” may well be realized, on the DCEU side of things.