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Women Are Strong or Beautiful Per James Cameron's Wonder Woman Remarks

Women Are Strong or Beautiful Per James Cameron's Wonder Woman Remarks

James Cameron

TV's Wonder Woman Lynda Carter slammed Cameron for his narrow views about women and power. 

"King of the world" James Cameron hasn't directed a major hit since 2009's Avatar, but that hasn't stopped him from weighing in on Wonder Woman, calling the film a "step backwards" in terms of depicting female action heroes on the big screen and then doubling down on his statement when Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins shot back at him. It's not clear if Cameron is a hardcore women's rights activist who truly believes Wonder Woman isn't as feminist as his character Sarah Connor, as played by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, or if he's just out there drumming up promotion for the upcoming Terminator reboot that he's writing and producing (but not directing). Either way, he seems to think people care enough about his opinion to continue putting it out in the world. Now his latest round of comments has inspired original TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter to clap back at him on Facebook.

"To James Cameron -STOP dissing WW: You poor soul. Perhaps you do not understand the character. I most certainly do. Like all women-we are more than the sum of our parts," Carter wrote. "Your thuggish jabs at a brilliant director, Patty Jenkins, are ill-advised. This movie was spot on. Gal Gadot was great. I know, Mr. Cameron-because I have embodied this character for more than 40 years. So-STOP IT."

The back-and-forth that culminated with Carter calling the Titanic director out began this summer when, in an interview with The Guardian, Cameron said that the Wonder Woman of Jenkins's mega-blockbuster summer flick, despite what many audience members considered to be Gal Gadot's fierce portrayal, was still presented as an object of desire.

"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," Cameron said before patting himself on the back. "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!"

Reaction to Cameron's daring to call Wonder Woman something less than a feminist icon was fast and furious on social media, and Jenkins spoke out shortly after his comments went viral. The director, whose first feature, Monster, landed Charlize Theron an Oscar, sent out a screed in a series of tweets.

"James Cameron's inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great filmmaker, he is not a woman. Strong women are great. His praise of my film Monster, and our portrayal of a strong yet damaged woman was so appreciated," Jenkins wrote. "But if women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren't free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven't come very far, have we? I believe women can and should be EVERYTHING just like male lead characters should be. There is no right and wrong kind of a powerful woman. And the massive female audience who made the film a hit it is can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress."

While Cameron isn't wrong that Gadot's Wonder Woman is sexual, he missed the point that she also connotes power. And he's also not wrong that Hamilton's Sarah Connor was a feminist icon, although her singular mission to save her son is arguably one of the most deeply stereotypical female tropes in movie history no matter the packaging. The other point Cameron missed was that while Connor's steely veneer may not have appealed to men, she was certainly desired by queer women.

Rather than allowing his Wonder Woman comments to eventually fade away while the internet moved on to something else, this week he dug in and decided to deconstruct Wonder Woman's costume as if audiences who saw the film over and over weren't aware of the clothing. What's more disturbing is that he brought Gadot's background into a discussion that should have merely addressed her in the role of Wonder Woman -- because it appears that in his estimation women can either be beautiful or tough but they can't be both.

"I mean, she was Miss Israel, and she was wearing a kind of bustier costume that was very form-fitting. She's absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. To me, that's not breaking ground. They had Raquel Welch doing stuff like that in the '60s," Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter before once again invoking a character he helped bring to life. "It was all in a context of talking about why Sarah Connor -- what Linda [Hamilton] created in 1991 -- was, if not ahead of its time, at least a breakthrough in its time. I don't think it was really ahead of its time because we're still not [giving women these types of roles]."

But Cameron still wasn't done either praising himself for having helped create the Connor character, promoting the next Terminator installment, or a combination of both.

"Linda [Hamilton] looked great. She just wasn't treated as a sex object. There was nothing sexual about her character. It was about angst, it was about will, it was about determination. She was crazy, she was complicated. ... She wasn't there to be liked or ogled, but she was central, and the audience loved her by the end of the film," Cameron said. "So as much as I applaud Patty [Jenkins] directing the film and Hollywood, uh, 'letting' a woman direct a major action franchise, I didn't think there was anything groundbreaking in Wonder Woman. I thought it was a good film. Period."

While there's really no disputing that Connor was a seminal female action hero in the sci-fi realm, Cameron completely missed the point that strong women can have sex appeal. Those things are not mutually exclusive, as evidenced by Connor, Ripley in the Alien franchise, and Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

And Carter got it right when she wrote that Wonder Woman is more than the sum of her parts.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist