How ‘Wonder Woman’ Changes the Game for Diversity in Hollywood

Unless your place of residence is located somewhere underneath a large boulder, you’ve probably heard about the massive success of DC’s newest superhero flick, Wonder Woman. Critically acclaimed, the movie has racked up the title of most successful opening weekend for a female-directed movie. Highly anticipated and directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman earned a global opening total of $103.1 million, rising above legendary superhero blockbusters like Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Iron Man (2008), both Thor movies, and even Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

Being a female directed and female fronted film starring Israeli breakout actress, Gal Gadot, as the lead, it was not initially expected to be as much of a smash hit it turned out to be. In fact, for the upcoming addition to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Justice League, which plans to introduce characters like Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash, significant reshoots are currently being taped to include more Wonder Woman screen time amongst her 6 other male co-stars.

But why is the positive reception to a mainly female led film with a POC (person of colour) lead still a surprise in 2017?

Because…not much has changed in terms of opportunities for women and minorities in film. Despite the increased attention and demand for minority-centered media, according to a report from UCLA, people of color still represent a small portion of 12.9% among lead actors of feature films and 2% in broadcast TV shows. Women directors of film are outnumbered by a factor 12 to 1 by men. And yet, Wonder Woman was the DCEU’s saving grace. Rising from the ashes, Wonder Woman has been a major win for the franchise after the failed attempts with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016), both male directed films, with a majority of white, male leads. It has a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the highest scores for a film in the superhero genre, and 1% away from beating DC’s biggest success, The Dark Knight (2008).

In fact, after analyzing statistics from 413 films released between 2014-2016, the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), released a report detailing that:

“at every budget level, a cast that is at least 30% non-white outperforms a release that is not, in opening weekend box office”

And still, female led and minority inclusive media is not given as much financial opportunity in the film industry. However, something is beginning to stir. After recent successes like Wonder Woman and Academy Award-winning films like Moonlight (2016), the audiences are hungering for more diversity and representation in film. Positive changes are being made, however slowly, and now we have films like Black Panther, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Pitch Perfect 3 all of which are big-budget productions that are either female-led or minority inclusive/central.

still from the upcoming ‘Black Panther’

Comprehensively, Hollywood has a little work to do. Trailblazers like Wonder Woman are set to transform the industry and whether film companies are ready for it or not, diversity will change the game.

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