Wonder woman, feminist icon or bodacious fantasy figure?

Updated 10:46 PM EDT, Fri June 2, 2017
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Story highlights

Lewis Beale: The new Wonder Woman movie is out featuring hot looking, kick-butt heroine. This is what feminism looks like in 2017?

He says Jessica Chastain and others are right: Hollywood virtually ignores characterizations of strong, realistic women. That has to change

Editor’s Note: Lewis Beale writes about culture and film for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and other publications. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) —  

Oh, goody. Now that “Wonder Woman” has attained a 93% positive score on rottentomatoes.com and looks like it will become a massive hit, we can look forward to an avalanche of overblown, CGI-driven comic-book movies featuring hot-looking, kick-butt heroines.

This, supposedly, is what feminism looks like in 2017?

Yep, Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, has long been touted as some sort of feminist icon, but in reality she’s just a bodacious fantasy figure created by a man named William Moulton Marston. And whether in her comic book incarnation or her ‘70s TV persona – played by the extremely curvy Lynda Carter – WW has always been able to take care of herself- but also has been a major sex object.

What’s wrong with this picture? Just this. At the recent Cannes Film Festival, Jessica Chastain, a juror, decried the sexism she saw in so many of the nominated movies. And Nicole Kidman pointed out that last year women directed a vanishing few of the year’s top-grossing films. According to a recent study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University, just 7% of 2016’s top-grossing films were directed by women, down 2% from the previous year.

And even though female leads were more visible onscreen in 2015, comprising 29% of the leads in the top 100 movies, the percentage of female characters in speaking roles, both major and minor, was actually down slightly.

What Chastain and Kidman and other women (and many men, like yours truly) would like are films that showcase strong women – either real or fictional, but not comic-book creations basically geared towards a teenage-boy mentality.

Chastain, for example, recently starred in “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” the true story of a Polish woman who hid Jews from the Nazis. Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for portraying author Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.”Julia Roberts won her Oscar for playing environmental crusader Erin Brockovich. Angelina Jolie won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as a complex psychiatric patient in “Girl, Interrupted.” And so on.

It is summer, and Hollywood, no question, is particularly in thrall to comic-book adaptations, sequels, movies based on toys and games and franchise pictures, but we have a problem here that is year-round: the movie industry has practically forgotten, or willfully ignored, great female characters (and directors) who can provide realistic role models for young women.

And with young people flocking to the multiplexes, it’s beyond tragic that the worst kind of female objectification is being uploaded into the minds of another generation – boys AND girls – with few alternative film characterizations to act as an antidote.

03:14 - Source: CNN
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