I recently came across the new Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) trailer and it took me back to the 2017 film, where Gal Gardot first graced our screens as the lead in the superhero franchise. But it wasn’t the action-packed cinematography or the powerful female storyline that stole my attention, it was the criticism Gardot received following the film’s release, and it got me thinking about the ways female sexuality is policed in the world of entertainment.
Avatar director, James Cameron called out the film for being anything but groundbreaking and accused Gardot’s character of being overly sexualised. Male superheroes often parade around in skin-tight suits, but it is Wonder Woman that seems to be the problem. It’s amazing how a woman’s own body can be used as a weapon against her, especially when women are brought up in a world of contradicting notions when it comes to our anatomy and sexuality. How often have you heard the term, ‘our bodies are a temple’ yet they are also a source of sexual desire, utilised against us in the form of shame.
Wonder Woman film director, Patty Jenkins, was quick to respond to Cameron’s comments, tweeting, “[his] inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great film-maker, he is not a woman.” And rightly so.
The idea that women should be able to express their sexual agency without fear of ridicule and criticism, is triggering to many; for reasons I myself cannot comprehend. Female objectification is ever-present in film and TV, typically permeated by the male gaze. Why doesn’t this evoke the same backlash or response? Because unfortunately, this has become the norm. As viewers, we have become accustomed to women being depicted in this way. Women who attempt to take back this power and utilise it to their advantage are inevitably faced with repercussions. The censure of such agencies is irrational and deep-rooted in sexism.
Take Cardi B and Megan thee Stallion’s latest song ‘WAP’. The feminist masterpiece (though the latter may disagree) is bursting with unapologetic female sexual liberation. But in true social media fashion, like a crazed mob during a Black Friday sale, the words ‘disgusting’, ‘trashy’ and ‘tasteless’ were thrown all over the place in an attempt to defame the women for simply expressing and rapping about their sexual anatomy and desires. However, where is the same energy for male rappers and singers who equally do the same? It seems the backlash isn’t applicable to them.
A woman actively enjoying and owning her sexuality is ludicrous apparently – as though it is a new phenomenon – but that won’t stop the trailblazers. Netflix series, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ (2003) wonderfully executed and depicted female sexuality of all orientations and provided us with unprecedented themes and storylines.- a massive triumph for modern-day film and TV. Even in the age-old time of ‘Sex and the City’, which served as a revolutionary example of unregrettable female power and sexual liberation.
A lesson to be learnt here in this warped reality of female liberation and desire; there is nothing radical or taboo about a woman being confident in her sexuality and if she wants to showcase this to the world, without fear of condemnation, so be it.