The Wonder Woman movie ― the first female-led superhero film in more than a decade and the first to be directed by a woman ― had an amazing opening weekend. It took home $103.1 million in the domestic box office, shooting it into the top 16 domestic openings for superhero films and becoming the biggest ever opening weekend for a woman director.
The film was by no means perfect, but among the more condescending and negative reviews, a pattern emerged: They were nearly all written by male critics. Of course, many male critics praised the film, and a few women who reviewed the movie were not enamored by it. However, a handful of male critics wrote reviews that reeked of sexism, implying that a woman-led superhero movie must be “cooler” and better than the entire genre it belongs to as opposed to being a part of it. Apparently, even women superheroes are held to a different standard.
On Vulture, critic David Edelstein wrote a review of the film that largely focused on Gal Gadot’s various stages of hotness. It literally opens with the following sentence:
The only grace note in the generally clunky Wonder Woman is its star, the five-foot-ten-inch Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, who is somehow the perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness.
Yes, Gadot is beautiful, but is a review of the film the place where that observation should take the forefront? This first sentence is especially grating when you consider the rest of the review, from Edelstein’s comment that Gadot “looks fabulous in her suffragette outfit with little specs” to this eye-roll inducing Beckett reference: “I didn’t miss Lynda Carter’s buxom, apple-cheeked pinup, though. It was worth waiting for Gadot.”
Edelstein only continues to gush about Gadot from there. But his most condescending assessment is his statement that positive reviews of the film must be “grading on a big curve” ― a comment made even more bizarre when you consider that “Wonder Woman” beat out “Thor,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,”and “Iron Man” at the box office.
While other male reviewers managed to comment on more than just Gadot’s good looks, The Guardian’s Steve Rose and National Review’s Armond White, both seemed to insist that “Wonder Woman” could be a good movie if it was held to a higher standard than other superhero fare.
Rose wrote that Wonder Woman had been “reduced to [a] weaponised Smurfette.” He takes issue with the film’s campiness and Gadot’s not-full-of-enough emotion “brow-furrowing,” ultimately admitting that he is upset that the film didn’t surpass its male-dominated counterparts:
I know: “It’s only a comic-book movie.” And on the level of big-budget trash, Wonder Woman is great fun. But there were hopes for something more.
Rose has taken issue with DC’s other films, but his glowing review of “Captain America,” another superhero film that was wildly loved by fans, only critique of star Chris Evans was calling his coiffure a “90s-boyband hairstyle.”
Another review that was exceptionally cringeworthy came from National Review. White criticizes Gadot’s Diana for her flirtation with one of the male characters in the film, alleging that the interactions “reduces Diana’s personal, historical, mythological complexity.” This is a particularly strange assessment to make when Superman had Lois Lane, Spider-Man had Mary-Jane, Iron Man had Pepper Pots, and Batman had Rachel and no one seemed to criticize those relationships impact on the male character’s “historical, mythological complexity.”
In no part of White’s review does he talk of the film’s ability to touch on sacrifice, forgiveness, love and strength. In fact, he blatantly ignores her character’s agency. (Though White did write one of the only negative reviews of “Get Out,” so perhaps he just has poor taste.)
White also calls director Patty Jenkins a “politically correct token” in his review, writing that the film was “made under cultural pressure” and comparing her with “Justice League” director Zack Snyder ― a man.
On Twitter user sums up the frustration of reading a comment like the aforementioned one:
Also notable is the fact that these reviews ignored the power of representation, something that many women who have seen the film have commented on. “Wonder Woman” is certainly not perfect, but it is historic. It’s a huge oversight to ignore that for women, watching another woman save the world and take out the bad guys is a new and monumental experience. Men can treat “Wonder Woman” with condescension all they want, but the fact remains that the film is a landmark in the superhero film canon.
Correction: We originally indicated that “Wonder Woman” topped “Man Of Steel” at the box office during opening weekend. It did not ― “Man Of Steel” made $116 million opening weekend. Language has also been changed to reflect that “Wonder Woman” is not the first superhero film with a woman in the lead role, but is the first in quite a while.