Theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced yesterday that it will hold a women-only screening of Wonder Woman in Austin, Texas to celebrate the feature-length debut of the first female superhero in Warner Bros. DC Universe to get her own movie.
Since the Drafthouse made the announcement, the theater’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments from men about how unfair that is to male fans who want to see the movie. Others have asked whether the Drafthouse plans to hold male-exclusive screenings of superhero movies coming out this year, like Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
An example of the type of comments can be seen below. Polygon has hidden the names of the commenters.
Unfortunately, the reaction isn’t unexpected or surprising, but having a women-only screening of Wonder Woman isn’t just a statement; it’s a celebration of a movie that celebrates an aspect of superhero films most others don’t: women leads.
There are a number of superhero cinematic universes occurring right now, spread out over multiple studios. Sony is trying to build its own Marvel universe with different Spider-Man characters. Warner Bros. and DC are in the middle of building up their Justice League team and Marvel has been the dominant force in superhero films for years. Fox helped give birth to superhero franchise in 2000 with X-Men.
By the end of this year, there will have been more than 60 live-action superhero movies based on Marvel or DC characters released; only a handful are female-led: Catwoman, Elektra, Supergirl and Wonder Woman. That means it wasn’t an ensemble cast (ie Storm in X-Men or Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy), but one female lead who acted as the main character in a movie.
In the next few years, there will be a couple of new female-led, live-action superhero movies released. Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, will be released by Marvel in 2019 and Sony currently has a Silver Sable and Black Cat movie in pre-production. DC and Warner Bros. will also release a Gotham City Sirens movie, focusing on Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Catwoman in 2018, alongside a live-action Batgirl movie from Joss Whedon.
Even with more female-led sueprhero movies on the horizon, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Wonder Woman is a big moment for female fans of comic books who want to see a woman kicking ass for once. I’ve written a number of opinion pieces for Polygon about superhero movies about a variety of topics, but of all the news events that have inspired those articles, this is the one that bums me out the most.
A personal note
I grew up with the later superhero movies. I was eight years old when X-Men came out and, although Halle Berry’s Storm stood out as a memorable, incredible part of that movie, what I remember most is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Professor Charles Xavier. The characters were played brilliantly by both men and their performances deserved praise. Wolverine and Professor X, as it turned out, also seemed to be the most interesting — based on the way the movie was framed. Storm, I would later find out, had an amazing backstory, but it was made blatantly obvious that wasn’t going to be the focus of this movie.
Like so many of my friends — and I’m sure like many of you reading this — I developed an insatiable hunger for superhero movies. I loved the blockbuster feel of each film and, even though the superhero genre has become a little crowded, my most anticipated movies remain those from Marvel or Fox. I have said multiple times on Twitter that Thor: Ragnarok may wind up being my favorite movie of the year and Spider-Man: Homecoming seems like the Spider-Man movie I’ve been waiting for. Nothing is going to detract my excitement for these films.
But I’m not celebrating their release in the same way I’m celebrating Wonder Woman’s. I don’t have a personal connection to the character — I didn’t spend hours poring over her stories in comics as a kid — but when I watch Gal Gadot save Steve Trevor while taking down an army of enemies in the trailers, I get excited. It’s the rare time in superhero movies that I’m seeing a woman not take a backseat to a male character. It’s the rare time that I feel like a woman’s story isn’t being told to supplement a male character’s. It’s the rare time I can look at a heroine on screen and think “I want to be her.”
Gadot has similar feelings. In an interview with ABC, Gadot said there’s more room for other female superheroes and she was glad she would be able to tell a story that young girls could go see and look up to.
“I am so happy to be the one who is going to tell the Wonder Woman story,” Gadot said. “It is such an important story to tell. It is so important for girls and boys to have a female, strong, super hero to look up to. The more the merrier and there is plenty of room for many more women to come and I am very happy to be a part of it.”
When I first heard about the Alamo Drafthouse screening, I didn’t think about the negative reaction it would get. I knew, of course, that people would be upset by the idea of a theater catering to one specific gender and people who identified as such, but that’s not where my mind immediately went. Instead, I thought about my own mother and aunt.
My love of movies came from them, the two most important women in my life. They used to take me out every weekend to go and watch a double feature of something, giving me a bag of popcorn, a small soda and quietly explaining some of the jokes or themes that went over my head. When I was younger, they instilled in me a love for some of the greatest actresses of all time; I was fortunate enough to grow up with Sophia Loren, Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, among so many more. I remember seeing these women commanding a screen, their beauty and passion carrying an entire movie.
I loved these women and I wanted to be these women. On the car ride home, my aunt and mother would talk about how much they loved these actresses and I felt like I bonded with them during those quiet moments, talking about the leading ladies who inspired our sense of fashion, beauty and individuality.
Wonder Woman, I realized, could be that for so many other families; a chance for a young daughter and her mother or other family members to go and watch a beautiful, strong women on screen stand-out from the rest of the men who crowd it.
We live in an era where superhero movies are abundant, but so are the men who lead them. Having a woman stand front and center without apology is rare and it’s something to be celebrated. It’s not that men can’t understand this, it’s just that women finally have a chance to revel in it with one another.
As of writing this, the Drafthouse announced it was bringing the female-only Wonder Woman screenings to other cities because of the high demand in interest from people. If you’re interested in checking this out, more information can be found on the Drafthouse’s website.
Wonder Woman will be released on June 2.