CBM: You’ve mentioned in the past that your version of Wonder Woman would be the anti-50 Shades of Grey. Would you expound upon that?
Max Landis: I’m just a little sick of the “women need men to tell them how to be heroes/important to the story” thing. Fifty Shades of Grey played with a lot of dominance/self-shaming/S&M stuff. That can definitely be sexy, and fun, and compelling, but it did it in this cipher-y, disengaged way that’s infuriating.
Then you have movies like Sucker Punch, Sin City, or Kick-Ass, that have these ‘bad ass’ female characters. But they’re SO fetish-ized in such a kind of subtly demeaning and ugly way or not subtly at all. The women in Sucker Punch were all headcases getting molested and their badass-dom was an imaginary fantasy. The “badass” women in Sin City were all hookers and strippers. The “badass” in Kick-Ass is a swearing-little-kid/schoolgirl fantasy archetype. I just don’t think women need that. There have been so many great female heroes in fiction, I can’t figure out when it became so reductive.”
A lot of the female characters out there are frustratingly “every-woman,” moving from scenario to scenario, not on their own narrative drive but in-pursuit-of or even directly in-obedience-to a man. I’m sick of “the man” being the plot. That’s why I liked Hunger Games a little more. Although, I had my problems there, too. They all feel…I don’t know, “woman-y.” They’re crafted to a specific audience in a way that’s kind of snarky and makes me nervous.
You look at the hero of the Harry Potter series, Hermione Granger. She’s a [frick]ing fantastic character. She’s smart, vulnerable, and better equipped to be the protagonist than Harry. Ultimately, they really do great justice to her in both the books and the films. She’s not a sidekick in any way. If you’d called those books the Hermione Granger series, and made them about her, what do you lose? The Dursleys? I mean you’d only have to change the narrative focus by a nudge. That’s brilliant writing, and that’s a great character.
I think I just want a Wonder Woman movie to be like that. There was a fan film made that was all 300-y. A couple of my friends made it. Actually, it was pretty cool. But do we really need it to be that way? Isn’t the fun of superheroes in film grounding them a little? I guess when I said I wanted it to be the anti-50 Shades I meant I want it to be about a female character who’s consistently forced to make her own decisions, isn’t “clumsy” or “awkward,” and really only becomes vulnerable when the shit hits the biggest fan.