James Cameron is promoting the theatrical re-release of his 1991 sci fi classic ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ in 3D which featured Linda Hamilton as a buff, ass-kicking Sarah Conner. Hamilton’s character joined what was then a small club of forceful female action heroes that were far from damsels in distress, which at that point included Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and to a degree Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia and that’s about it. There is no doubt that these female badasses kicked in the door for subsequent female powerhouses, including ‘Wonder Woman’ this summer’s box office champ at $800 million and counting. This also marks the highest grossing film ever directed by a female director, Patty Jenkins.
But Cameron isn’t impressed. While promoting ‘T2:3D’, he said:
“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing. I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie, but to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female.”
Well, the Internet wasn’t having it.
First, one Twitter user rehashed a well-circulated account of Cameron’s approach to designing his scantily-clad female ‘Avatar’ lead Neytiri, played via motion capture by Zoë Saldana:
Is this the same James Cameron who routinely polled his all-male crew to ensure a lady alien was fuckable, or is that a different dickhead? https://t.co/9AXfkVacD0
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) August 24, 2017
Another Twitter user brought up another infamous “rumor” about Cameron’s view of one of his female leads, in this case Kate Winslet, star of ‘Titanic’:
The James Cameron who made fun of his Titanic star by calling her “Kate Weighs-a-Lot”? That James Cameron? https://t.co/puCLt3jIHu
— Mrs.BearJew (@andizeisler) August 24, 2017
Honestly, at no point in ‘Wonder Woman’ is Gal Gadot’s Diana sexualized. In fact, she spends a large chunk of the movie covered with either a large overcoat or cloak. Gadot can’t help it that she’s beautiful, nor should anyone have to apologize for their appearance either way. His comment that “Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon,” sounds almost like a backhanded compliment/swipe toward Hamilton, his ex-wife. The two were married for two years and it doesn’t sound like they were very happy years.
James Cameron: “Wonder Woman objectified it’s lead & was a step backwards from Sarah Connor.”
Linda Hamilton: pic.twitter.com/jUeaNjOVpd
— Cher (@thecherness) August 24, 2017
These weren’t the only people to take offense to Cameron’s jab.
I don’t entirely agree with James Cameron’s WONDER WOMAN remarks, but I shall defend unto death my right not to give a crap.
— Scott Mendelson (@ScottMendelson) August 24, 2017
No James Cameron. Just No.
This is EXTREMELY disappointing to hear from 1 of my fav filmmakers.
Equally as disappointing as AVATAR. https://t.co/SuRQKV93Is
— Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) August 24, 2017
Now, Jenkins herself has leaped to her own defense:
— Patty Jenkins (@PattyJenks) August 25, 2017
Cameron’s assertion is that Sarah Conner is more admirable because she is hard, grizzled and beaten down than Wonder Woman, who is idealistic, optimistic… even slightly naïve. Diana is clearly established as coming from a Utopian society where war and atrocity are the stuff of legends. Yet she faces man’s inhumanity against man and rises to face insurmountable odds, knowing that she may not have a chance but is willing to try nonetheless.
His assertion that she is “an objectified icon” stems from the fact that Gal Gadot is beautiful. Bruce Willis (in his prime, mind you) spent the first ‘Die Hard’ in a ripped dirty tank top or flat out shirtless. EVERY Marvel movie makes sure to squeeze in at least one scene of one of the Chrises (Evans, Hemsworth, Pratt) shirtless. Ben Affleck even filmed a fully nude shower scene for ‘Batman V Superman’, which unfortunately got cut. It’s not like these guys, or Harrison Ford, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Daniel Craig, Jason Statham, Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds (even with a jacked up face) etc. are hard to look at.
The only reason this is even a discussion is that there just aren’t very many female action heroes so anytime one pops up and especially if she’s successful, it’s a novelty.
Sure certain characters, like Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and to a degree Selene from ‘Underworld’ (Kate Beckinsale, with her skintight leather catsuits) are sexualized. On the opposite end of the spectrum are characters like Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who are gritty, tough and stripped of any sexualization. In between fall characters as diverse as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Alice from ‘Resident Evil’ (Milla Jovovich), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Tauriel from ‘The Hobbit’ (Evangeline Lilly), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and even Lt.Uhura and Gamora, both played by Neytiri herself, Zoë Saldana.
Like Jenkins herself stated “There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman.” Male heroes run the gamut from Superman to Indiana Jones to… hell, Optimus Prime. Male characters can be pure as snow or drunkards who have to peel themselves off the floor. In true double standard fashion, the same doesn’t yet apply to females.
But what do you think? Is Cameron correct that ‘Wonder Woman’ is “an objectified icon?” Should she have been more flawed?