The Celluloid Glass Ceiling: How Patty Jenkins Became Our New Super Heroine

Last weekend, Warner’s Wonder Woman broke a box office record. It’s the first film directed by a woman to crack $100 million at the box office. It also revealed a long suppressed, dirty secret of Hollywood; the celluloid boardroom is just as sexist a the rest of corporate America. And it took a film about a strong woman directed by a strong woman to show us that.

Last year, only 7% of the 250 highest-grossing films were directed by women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. That number has fallen 2% over the past two decades. Even though women consistently take home directing prizes in prestigious festivals like Sundance for art-house films, they’re largely boxed out of the most lucrative genres.

I don’t think Patty was raised by Amazons or wears body armor (except maybe in the boardroom) but she had to overcome a lot of obstacles to make this film happen, including replacing another director (Michelle Maclaren) to make the first major superheroine movie in over a decade. The last attempts were Catwoman and Elektra: both films were directed by men, got poor reviews, flopped at the box office and convinced studios for several years that female superhero movies just “don’t work.”

Ironically, Patty nailed it by not shying away from Wonder Woman’s (played by Gal Gadot) fragile, “more feminine” side. The film opens with our young heroine, Diana, true to the legend as a girl being raised by women on a remote Greek island. The notion of a young, fearless girl being trained by strong-willed mother figures is a powerful, irresistible trope that has long languished in Hollywood’s overtly sexist “princess mentality.” The notion that a superhero can only recognize her superpower from a male dominated myth, is refreshingly obliterated by the first ten minutes of the film.

When the young Diana finds herself in the middle of World War I, confused and fragile, I marveled at how far we’ve come from the TV cartoon icon of the 1970’s. Diana doesn’t look tough and voluptuous the way Lynda Carter did; she looks tough, and lost. By avoiding all the distracting modern gadgets that fuel modern superhero movies, and placing it in a backdrop of history’s most bloody and pointless war, we see a real woman, who must use more wits than magic to overcome a fear many women have: that their power and drive will undermine a real, romantic relationship.

The casting of Godot was brilliant and is true to form for Jenkins as she’s adept at turning incredibly beautiful women into real human beings (She directed Monster, starring Charlize Theron). Godot isn’t really beautiful until she gets knocked down and punched in the face. Then she becomes the kind of woman who baffles and enthralls her love interest.

For her achievement, Sally Jenkins stands alone, but I don’t think this film could’ve gotten a green light were it not for our begrudging acceptance that gender roles are complex, too complex for your typical “Blockbuster.”

Hollywood, despite all it’s liberal progress needs to realize that sex and gender are still worlds apart and exploring this divide will make future “superhero movies” into films about real women who realize their extraordinary power comes from within.

Understanding the Hollywood Sexual Assault Meltdown.

Well, it’s official–The “Casting Couch” is on fire and Hollywood’s in an unprecedented meltdown over sexual assaults by movie moguls, actors, writers, and directors. Why now? is the question most astute observers are asking; Babylon has been Babylon from the beginning–the alluring lights of Tinseltown have attracted starry-eyed wannabes before actors could speak on camera much less complain about being sexually abused by those in power.

While there have always been a few strong enough to complain, never have some many come forward and said ENOUGH. What caused the dam to break? Historians often point to a few seminal events that trigger a catastrophe–World War I was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand; The riots in Los Angles in 1992, were triggered with the vicious beating of Rodney King. But, while pivotal movements are often attributed to a single catalyst, it’s rarely that easy to explain. And make no mistake, throughout Hollywood’s long list of excess and indiscretion there is only one event that comes close to the destruction we are now witnessing; that is, the blacklisting of actors, writers, and producers that happened during the search for members of the Communist Party in the 1950’s.

Joe McCarthy, a Senator from Wisconsin was the catalyst to those events we refer to as a Witch Hunt. He was a demagogue; a liar who fanned the flames of foreign aggression with such recklessness that all the historians agreed we’d never see the likes of him again.

That was until Donald Trump. Like it or not we don’t just look to a President for sound economic polices and assurance that we will be protected from threats foreign and domestic. The President casts a long, moral shadow over what we truly believe this country stands for. And like it or not, the POTUS is now being referred to as the PGIC (Pussy-grabber-in-chief). His degrading comments about women are the final straw in a long history of sexual dominance most men struggle with. But please remind yourself as we navigate through the most troubling times since ordinary people turned on each other and were forced to name friends and co-workers as members of the Communist party–Joe McCarthy didn’t create the “Red Scare” that allowed us to blacklist honest citizens. We did.

Donald Trump didn’t create the culture of misogyny and abuse that has been rampant at production studios for years. We did. The only way we can survive the aftermath of sexual abuse against women isn’t just stopping the Donald. The only way we will be free of sexual oppression is by taking a good, hard look in the mirror and facing our own depravity.

Joe McCarthy, U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin.

FAQ for Stephendavidhurley.com

How can you call Cease & Desist a Christian book? It’s filled with sex and violence.

First, I never set out to write a “Christian” work. I wanted to write a novel that would address the concerns about sexuality and violence that young people have in a real-life setting that many Christian fiction writers miss. I teach, and many of my students feel a disconnect with Christian literature because it renders a morally strident world that they feel is unattainable. I love Christians and I love my church. I believe Christian fiction is poised to make the cross-over into the secular world–a crossover that many traditional publishers have long awaited–provided we address young people in the real world that is filled with fears of date-rape and bullying; violence as entertainment; mental illness, and the sexualized of teens.

If you write realistic Christian fiction, please send a shout-out to our blog, so we can praise your work.