Do female-driven superhero movies need female directors?


Women superheroes are slowly but surely showing up on the big screen, however the choice of directors is getting a lot of attention.

Girl power is about to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe by storm as female superhero and supervillain projects are lined up over the next few years. They’re all in various states of preproduction but the main films – Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Gotham Sirens, and Batgirl – all have directors assigned to them. However, of those four movies, only one is being directed by a woman, while one will have a male and female director working together, and the other two will both have male directors. At the end of the day, does it matter if women direct women superhero movies?

Having directors is an important first step. After all, it has taken us this far to get a female-driven superhero movie. Wonder Woman is the first to arrive in theaters. The big test will be to see if Wonder Woman appeals to both a male and female audience. Box office numbers will be analyzed to see how Diana Prince stands up against Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. No matter what happens, Wonder Woman will be held up to her male contemporaries to see how she performs in theaters, and this could impact sequels and future female-driven movies in the DC Extended Universe.

When it comes to choice of directors, Wonder Woman has Patty Jenkins, Gotham Sirens has David Ayer, Batgirl has Joss Whedon, and now we learn that Captain Marvel will have co-directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. The Captain Marvel co-directors are interesting because Marvel was looking for a female director, but they never floated the idea of co-directors. Perhaps stealing a page from the woman-helmed Wonder Woman, Marvel said it was important that the director of their first female superhero film was a woman, but they hired a man and a woman.

That means that of the four biggest female superhero films on the docket, only one – Wonder Woman – has a female director working on the film by herself.

This probably wouldn’t be worth noting if not for the fact that Marvel was adamant that they wanted the female voice in Captain Marvel. The studio’s first female superhero movie has a lot riding on it; Captain Marvel ties into many of the upcoming films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so this film needs to be perfect. That’s not an issue at all. Quality is important. The problem is the optics of the decision to have co-directors.

Marvel is sending a mixed message here: Either Captain Marvel is so big they need co-directors, or they aren’t comfortable putting such an important story in the hands of one female director. (Author’s note: It pains me to write this because I want to believe that Marvel made the decision on directors based on the scope of the movie, but their decision given how much they emphasized a female director has me scratching my head)

If there were more female superhero movies in existence, it might be easier to dismiss the lack of female directors working on female superhero movies. There has never been a requirement that a female director must direct a female superhero film. It wouldn’t be a big deal to have both men and women working on female superhero movies at all. However, these four movies represent the start of an era for female-driven superhero movies. Wonder Woman is like a giant science experiment to how audiences respond, and the results will no doubt shape the future of the other movies in the pipeline. And let it also be noted that it’s not like there are a ton of female superhero and supervillain movies in the pipeline.

I have a bigger goal when it comes to superhero movies. I hope that Patty Jenkins does such an amazing job that she starts directing other DC movies that don’t necessarily have female leads. Ultimately, that’s how it should work, right? There should be just as many women directors working on superhero movies as there are men working on superheroine movies. Having female directors is just as inspirational for young women filmmakers as the characters in the movie.

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The bottom line is that the most important thing right now is that female-driven superhero movies are being made. It’s time to show that the girls can keep up with the boys. Moving forward, though, we need to see more women involved in the process.