Does a critic's take matter if the work empowers marginalized fans?
As an unabashed comic book nerd and a ride-or-die Wonder Woman fan, there was no doubt I would be seeing “Wonder Woman,” even though I have, at best, tolerated and, at worst, abhorred the DC Universe movie reboots that began with “Man of Steel.”
Almost nothing in the production cycle of “Wonder Woman” encouraged me, including the casting, the shake-up of directors and the controversy over the lead actress' comments about the Gaza Strip. But I was still going to see this film.
Sadly, I didn't enjoy the movie. But even though I have a hard time believing that some of the very real problems with the movie hold up under critical scrutiny, my critique may not even matter. Show me a comic book movie with a female lead in the last 10 years, and I'll show you an endless supply of misunderstood, lone-wolf (mostly white) male heroes with sequels and multiple love interests.
Between the pictures of young girls in Wonder Woman cosplay standing in front of gigantic “Wonder Woman” posters, groups of 70-plus women going to see the film together and social media posts from women who loved the movie and talked of empowerment and representation, it's impossible to ignore the importance of this film.
Even as someone who holds an extremely critical eye to movies, I get it. I don't know how objective I will be upon seeing “Black Panther” next year, as the character is one I have loved and wanted to see on the big screen for years. It is the representation I gravitate towards, and a bad scene here or there will most likely not dull the experience for me.
Netflix recently canceled many shows with people of color in lead roles, most notably “Sense 8” and “The Getdown.” Comic book runs like “Black Panther” and “The Crew” and “Power Man and Iron Fist” are among the recent casualties from Marvel. People may be passionate about these shows or books, but they still found their way to the cutting block. Were any of these works the absolute best thing out when they were canceled? Probably not. But their cultural importance far outweighs the ambition of being a critical darling — to their passionate consumers, anyway.
I remember a friend of mine, who identifies as a woman of color, telling me that she watched USA's “Queen of the South.” I asked if it was any good. “It's cool,” she replied. “I mean, it has a [woman of color] lead, so I'll give it a shot.”
If someone is starving, any food will taste like heaven. When TV networks and movie execs have starved marginalized consumers of characters that look, act and talk like them, the loyalty to those productions will be intense. And often, those consumers will not care about a critic's outside opinion.
“Wonder Woman” crushed the box office and fulfilled the dreams of so many fans that, understandably, this writer's gripes matter very little.