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Three men wrote Wonder Woman, and that's a problem

With Wonder Woman due out next summer, the Warner Bros. PR machine is kicking into high gear to promote the film. As part of its San Diego Comic-Con ramp up, the studio revealed the exciting plot synopsis: an epic Wonder Woman origin story set during World War I. But it’s the writing team behind that story that’s making headlines. Three men — DC Films co-chief Geoff Johns, screenwriter Allan Heinberg, and DC Extended Universe architect Zack Snyder — wrote for the film. Not one woman was named as being a part of the writing process.

Why were no women involved in the screenwriting process?

That only men penned both the story and script is a big disappointment. That might be de rigueur for most Hollywood films, but Wonder Woman is different. Warner Bros. is attempting to launch a massive cinematic universe on the shoulders of DC Comics’ iconic characters, while also being mindful of calls for diversity in front of and behind the camera. Wonder Woman happens to be the first superhero movie in years to feature a woman in the title role. That’s an important milestone in this particular moment in film history. That a woman didn’t have a hand in telling her story puts a black mark on that otherwise noteworthy achievement.

Here’s the film’s synopsis:

Wonder Woman hits movie theaters around the world next summer when Gal Gadot returns as the title character in the epic action adventure from director Patty Jenkins. Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.

That’s a promising story, as it blends her comic book origins seamlessly into what was hinted at in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And to be fair to the talent behind the scenes, the screenwriters ought to know what they’re doing. Johns and Heinberg both worked on the script, and they’ve each written Wonder Woman stories before for DC Comics. Johns, who’s already DC’s chief creative officer, was brought on earlier this year to oversee the entire DC movie slate largely because of his talent. Heinberg, meanwhile, has already written for a number of popular TV shows, including Sex and the City and Scandal, and was executive producer for The CW’s aborted Wonder Woman project. And even though Snyder has so far been roundly mocked for Batman v Superman’s less-than-stellar reception, there’s still something to be said for how his take on Wonder Woman managed to come out of that film largely unscathed.

Michelle MacLaren was involved in shaping the original script

This group has every chance in the world to turn out a great Wonder Woman film. But that doesn’t mean women couldn’t have been involved in writing the story. Before she stepped down from the director’s chair due to creative differences, Michelle MacLaren was involved in shaping the original script written by Jason Fuchs. And even though that didn’t pan out, it’s not as though she’s the only woman working in Hollywood who could have contributed. Gail Simone, for instance, had the longest run on the character of any female comic book writer, and wrote the story for the 2009 animated Wonder Woman film. Her input could have been invaluable, even if the studio called on her to simply look at the treatment.

Wonder Woman

It’s important to note here that next year’s Wonder Woman doesn’t lack for women with influence behind the camera. Director Patty Jenkins is at the helm. Deborah Snyder and Rebecca Roven are both onboard as producer and executive producer, respectively. A veritable murderer’s row of talented women have worked in casting, production design, art direction, and music for the film. But that’s still not enough. At a time when equality is so lacking in Hollywood, every push toward leveling the playing field matters. When a film’s story is about a powerful woman surrounded by powerful women, that story demands some input from at least one person who knows what it’s like to be a woman. That kind of contribution could have only added to the film.

Women were integral to Wonder Woman's story from the very beginning

Wonder Woman is arguably the most important female character in comics today. She was created in 1941 by Williams Moulton Marston, the inventor of the polygraph. "Fine," you might say, "but Marston was a man." But Marston would never have created her without the influence of his wife, Elizabeth, and their partner, Olive Byrne. Women were integral to Wonder Woman’s story from the very beginning. And so it absolutely should be at the movies.

Update 12:50pm ET: The article above has been updated to clarify Patty Jenkins' role as director.


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