When news broke this week that Cathy Yan will likely direct a Harley Quinn-centric spinoff within the DC Extended Universe, it started to feel like the comic book and film behemoth had finally found its “thing”—and that thing, apparently, is giving women a voice.
Since Man of Steel landed with a relative thud in 2013, DC has been playing catch-up with the Marvel machine—not like it’s a competition or anything (but it is). As Warner Bros. has dumped superheroes into Avengers-like ensembles and retroactively laid out their origin stories, the shadow of Marvel’s success has loomed over it all. Which means that, in a weird way, DC has had to model the Marvel approach while still making its brand distinct.
Initially, the popular narrative was that DC, unlike Marvel, would distinguish its movies by making them dark and serious and macho and Zack Snyder-y and full of brooding, tormented men who are sad about their moms. But that…did not succeed. (I’m sorry, fanbros. I really am.)
You know what did succeed, though? Wonder Woman. And now it seems like Warner has taken the hint and actually hired some women to make superhero movies about women.
Now, the business of filmmaking is obscenely complicated, so who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. But it’s easy to imagine a big whiteboard hanging in a conference room in the Warner offices that currently looks something like this:
THINGS WE CAN BE THAT MARVEL IS NOT
Dark Gritty Hypermasculine Twisted
And now that they’ve reached the bottom of the list, they’re doubling down. We’ve got Ava DuVernay helming The New Gods, Patty Jenkins coming back for Wonder Woman 2, and Christina Hodson writing both the aforementioned Harley Quinn movie as well as Batgirl.
Putting great female characters on screen is one thing, but getting women behind the camera (and behind the keyboard of a computer running Final Draft) is what it takes to actually bring a fresh perspective to an otherwise lackluster and occasionally kinda sexist franchise. Although Marvel is certainly inching towards inclusiveness, DC will have beaten them to the punch on this one. For once.
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