With last night’s release of the new Wonder Woman trailer at the Kid’s Choice Awards, there has been the usual — for DC fans — outpouring of mixed reactions. Fans of the DC Extended Universe (or DCEU) are overwhelmingly elated, but there are still — still! — outsiders who have yet to be convinced, and have made it very, very clear.
Almost symbolic of the “anti” crowd is Collider executive producer John Campea. Campea is something of a boogeyman figure in the DCEU fanbase — he first came on our raider in 2013, when Gal Gadot was first cast as Wonder Woman. He seemed offended that his personal friend, Thor’s Jaime Alexander, missed out on the role in favor of a woman he called a “glorified underwear model.” Since then, he’s been at the forefront of what seems, often, like a trend of obsessive anti-hype.
Wonder Woman isn’t the only DCEU film coming out that’s faced negative press lately. Overwhelmingly, genre press outlets like We Got This Covered, Comicbook.com, and ComicBookResources have reacted to shakeups in The Flash and The Batman with what are essentially doomsday prophecies.
Put simply, it’s clickbait. Before The Batman‘s new director had even signed with the project, it was being reported first that he’d been tapped for the film, and then that he’d left the project. Those of us without the time to sit down and source-check every headline on our Twitter feeds were treated to a two week span of confused, slightly nervous negativity.
We’ve actually reached the point where if an article doesn’t come from an industry powerhouse like The Hollywood Reporter or Deadline, I don’t trust the headline if it doesn’t have named primary sources. This isn’t like political journalism, where a Deep Throat is sometimes necessary to get information out there. If it hasn’t been officially announced, there’s no reason to act like any given news item is actual fact. Personally, I’m tired of unsourced, negatively-inclined clickbait journalism, because it’s everywhere.
For me, in fact, it’s even acted as a reason not to click. Clickbait doesn’t work on me anymore if it’s negative, because I see so much of it from day to day. A positive headline about the DCEU actually gets my attention more than a negative one.
And even then, positive headlines may come attached to articles with a negative slant of what I like to call the “can-X-save-the-DCEU?” bias. For example, take this article from a few months ago, which was ostensibly about a new behind-the-scenes picture from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where a We Got This Covered writer let their bias show.
“Despite emerging from a mountain of hype, Batman V Superman will write its name in the history books as a misfire. A relatively good box office haul of $800 million wasn’t enough to inspire much confidence at Warner Bros.”
Quite frankly, the picture had nothing to do with this paragraph, which was obviously there to eat up minimum word count, and had no evidence to back up the assertions that the film — which, full disclosure, I think is the best superhero flicks of all time — was a “misfire,” or that Warner Bros. lacked confidence in it. In fact, if you look at the box office grosses of every superhero film of the modern shared-universe style, Batman v Superman grosses more than all but the top four Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings, and every single X-Men movie.
So, by this writer’s logic, every superhero movie has to break a billion dollars at the box office in order to be a box office success, or it will inspire a lack of confidence in its studio.
This is the narrative that Wonder Woman will face as it reaches theaters in June. It’s the popular opinion to make light of the DCEU’s successes — like Suicide Squad’s academy award, or the fact that it took the franchise three movies to break $2 billion, where the Marvel Cinematic Universe took five movies to break the same benchmark — and focus on any flaws or setbacks that might be happening behind the curtain.
And I worry that that narrative is going to hurt the film’s critical and commercial success. Historically, female-led superhero films have failed to profit much, in part because of industry misogyny, a general lack of quality in previous films, and a narrative that superheroes, culturally, are a boy’s domain, and girls aren’t welcome. My fear is that with this narrative surrounding Wonder Woman and the DCEU, we’ll see more negative reviews, or reviews phrased more negatively, for clickbait value. My fear is that people will heed those reviews, cutting into Wonder Woman’s box office pull. And my fear is that any “underperformance” by Wonder Woman will reinforce that narrative of women-led superhero movies being unprofitable and badly made, and god knows when we’ll see the next one if that happens.
So, my takeaway for this is: if you care about women in superhero movies, don’t go into Wonder Woman expecting to hate it. If you want to see Captain Marvel hit theaters while Brie Larson’s still able to play her, go see Wonder Woman.
And hey, even if you just want to catch a superhero movie that’s different — Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, and company are sure to deliver.
[Feature Image by Warner Bros. Entertainment]