Movie goers across the nation have been flocking to theaters this summer to watch DC Comic’s newest superhero movie – but there’s something different this time. This time, young girls are filling the seats of the theater in anticipation (some even dressed in costume), excited to witness the first ever, female-led superhero movie.
Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot as the titular character and directed by Patty Jenkins, has grossed over $400 million in North American box office sales since premiering in theaters on June 2nd. Critics and audiences everywhere are raving about the first superhero movie that features a female as the leading character, but one question still stands to be asked: Why did this take so long?
Since franchising their iconic characters into movies in 2008, DC Comics and Marvel combined have created a total of 19 male-led superhero movies and one female-led. And while no one is arguing the cinematic quality of The Dark Knight trilogy, the importance of female-led superhero movies should not be underestimated.
Here’s why Wonder Woman is important.
1. Girls need a STRONG female role model.
Too often, girls are taught that the most important thing they can be is pretty. There is an alarming lack of strong female role models in the media that aren’t entirely characterized by their physical features, and it influences youth. The gender gap in youth participation in sports is, though decreasing, still there. In fact, by the age of 14, girls are twice as likely to drop out of sports than boys. While the country has made significant strides (such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally-funded educational programs), there is still no state in the country that has equal participation between genders in high school sports. From intense fighting on the forefront of war to unyielding courage and perseverance, Wonder Woman is teaching young girls that being strong is more important than being pretty (although Gadot does a pretty nice job of being both).
2. Girls need a SMART female role model.
The dishwasher. Windshield wipers. Disposable diapers. Underwater telescopes. Fire escapes. All of these are inventions created by women. So why do women make up half of the college-educated workforce in the United States, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce? Encouragement for girls in math and science fields after elementary education is lacking, so much so that the number of girls in engineering and computer science programs is comparably lower than the number of boys. In the film, the knowledge of the Amazons is unmatched, a fact that is proven when Wonder Woman is the only person in a room filled with a political war council that can read Sumerian and decipher essential enemy knowledge. When she stood up and said “Surely someone else in this room knew that” to a room full of dumbstruck men, every girl who has ever remained silent when they knew the answer felt a surge of pride and satisfaction.
3. Strong, smart GIRLS grow up to be strong, smart WOMEN.
The number of women-owned businesses in the United States increased more than 45 percent between 2007 and 2016, meaning it grew five times the rate of the national average. Companies like TrizCom PR, a Certified Woman Owned Business Corporation, are paving the way for young girls everywhere. In fact, the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America is African American women. Kids watch. Kids listen. Kids do. Movies like Wonder Woman – that feature a central female character whose accomplishments are reflective of her abilities, not her love interests’ – teach kids that a woman can be just as much of a hero as a man can.
So, thank you Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros., DC Comics and everyone involved in the creation of Wonder Woman for giving girls their own superhero. It’s about time.