'Breaking Bad' alum Michelle MacLaren in talks to direct DC's 'Wonder Woman'
That has nothing to do with her being a woman.
Director Lexi Alexander has been taking heat this week for some comments she made about the "Wonder Woman" directing job, and I'm amazed at how willing people seem to be to argue with her about something which she's experienced first-hand, something that is fairly accepted wisdom within the entertainment industry, and something that I hope MacLaren is able to avoid completely.
After all, MacLaren has established herself as an exceptional filmmaker with her work on "Breaking Bad," and when you look at the episodes she's directed and the choices she's made, it's apparent she is a gifted and mature storyteller. Again… that's got nothing to do with gender, but for some reason, Warner Bros. decided that they needed to have a woman direct "Wonder Woman," perhaps thinking that it is a progressive notion.
I would argue the opposite is true. If you told me that they had gone with an all-female list of filmmakers for "Justice League" or for "Aquaman," then I'd be convinced that you're talking about a progressive decision. But putting together a list of only women's names for "Wonder Woman" is just as reductive as putting together a list of black filmmakers for "Black Panther," and in both cases, it feels to me like studios hedging their bets on projects that already make them demographically nervous.
After all, Warner Bros. has had plenty of opportunities to make a "Wonder Woman" movie over the years. They've had some very good script drafts in their hands, and every time, the thing that has made them most nervous, the thing that has killed the project every single time, is that Warner Bros. does not seem to particularly like Wonder Woman. Not the real character that they own, anyway. The more faithful the scripts, the more dependent they are on mythological source material and the more they embrace her Amazon nature, and especially the more they lean on a period-set story, the more nervous it appears to make Warner Bros. While they see a need now to get their marquee DC characters up on the big screen as soon as possible, I can't imagine they've suddenly had a completely corporate about-face on the things that have made them nervous about this character in the past.
So when they hire a woman to direct this movie, they are creating a situation in which a failure can be compartmentalized. After all, women don't make money making action films, right? That's the way the world works, right? So if this particular woman makes this particular movie and it doesn't connect, well, then, they did the right thing and gave the film to a woman, and it's not their fault no one goes to see action movies made by women. They tried, and look what happened, and now they can move on having proven their point.
When Lexi Alexander addressed this and said that she wouldn't want the "Wonder Woman" job, what she was saying is that she would hate to be used as a scapegoat instead of being given a job because someone actually thinks she is the best person for the job. I don't see anything wrong with that sentiment, and I think Alexander takes heat for this sort of thing because she actually says these things out loud, whereas most people in the industry keep some of the uglier parts of the way things work to themselves. As a result, one of the things I see happening, especially as the story moves from outlet to outlet in an increasingly-inaccurate game of Internet telephone, is people calling Alexander "crazy," which is a classic power move used to make an outspoken woman seem less authoritative. She's not crazy, for the record. She's just tired of being marginalized when her filmography would keep a guy with the same credits steadily employed. If you truly believe that the margin of error is the same for women directors and men directors, you are not paying attention, and that's the truth.
I don't think MacLaren would take the job if she thought she was being turned into a potential scapegoat. She's a strong filmmaker who has met on a number of projects around town, and I'm hoping that she walked in with a strong vision for how to make "Wonder Woman" work, and that's what got her the gig. I want to see her making features, and if this is the stepping stone, then use it. Please. She could easily turn this into a film of real weight and heft, more than just fluff, and she's such a strong actor's director that I think it would be a real test of Gal Gadot's chops as well. MacLaren's going to push her cast to make something great.
But in order for that to happen, Warner Bros. needs to give her the exact same support and belief that they're giving to Zack Snyder or that they will give to whoever makes "Aquaman" or the next "Green Lantern." They have to treat "Wonder Woman" like it is every bit the action tentpole that the "Batman" films are. If they start this process already worried and treating "Wonder Woman" like it is somehow inherently lesser, then that creates a situation where MacLaren will be working at a disadvantage the entire time, and that's where there is a real lack of parity in this business. Because of who she is, MacLaren will be under a microscope that would not be applied to a guy making this same equivalent jump. Let's watch the way the press treats her versus the way they treated, say, the Russos on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
I want to believe that this choice was made because MacLaren is the talent that her fans already know she is. I want to believe that Warner Bros. made this choice for the right reasons. I want to believe that my industry can start to get this right.
Let's see how long I'm allowed to believe these things. It's up to you, Warner.
"Wonder Woman" is set to arrive in theaters June 23, 2017, but we'll see the character first in "Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice" in March 2016.