While we’re having a lot of lovely discourse on here about how Joss Whedon writes heroines and how people in general write heroines based on the leaked WW script, I’ like to actually address another part of the problem: how you write the dudes in the story. Because the guys will inevitably interact with the heroine and therefore their writing has an effect on how the film views her.
“Feminist Fantasy” is a term I sometimes see used to describe fantasy/sci fi/supernatural stories that have powerful female characters. Thing is, feminist fantasy, much like feminist theory, evolves as time goes on. What would still be acceptable as FF back in the 90s may come across as cliche or even regressive today because opinions change as time goes on. And that’s a huge part of why the leak WW script rubs people the wrong way, especially how the guys act and how they impact Diana’s role.
The idea of “prove the boys wrong” is one that has been done to death since my childhood. It’s a typical plot or subplot. Girl wants to do X thing, boys say she can’t since she’s a girl, girl proves boys wrong, boys learn their lesson. Here’s the thing: that is no longer feminist fantasy. Because that is real life for so many women, having to constantly prove themselves to men over and over and still be looked over next time due to being a woman and have to do it all over again. Feminist Fantasy has moved into the realm of Fury Road and Wonder Woman 2017–where the woman never has to “prove” anything, at least not to the men on her side. She’s accepted as a capable human without a whole arc proving herself such.
Max never questions Furiosa or even the wives because they are women. The times he does argue or question are purely logistical and have nothing to do with belittling them or asserting his preconceived superiority as a man–he’s usually just checking the plan. While Capable does comfort Nux, it’s Nux who proves himself to the wives by getting the rig rolling again. While Nux learns to see them as people, the onus is not on the wives and other women to make that happen. Steve only offers the barest concern for Diana being a woman, mostly just related to how she dresses in London. Other than that his main issue is the Ares thing which he does not ever use to declare Diana naive and in fact it’s noted in-universe that she may even have a point before Ares shows up. He doesn’t just humor her about Ares, its treated more as a conclusion he disagrees with but can’t prove wrong so they simply operate based on their differing conclusions (Diana’s of “Ludendorf is Ares” and Steve’s of “idc if he is or not we’ve got to stop the chemicals”) until the Ares question becomes unavoidable. The other men similarly don’t belittle Diana or creep on her, the most we get is Sameer’s “
both frightened… and aroused
” joke when she beats a guy up and Sameer jokingly commenting on wanting to see her island.
How the men act is important compared to the WW 06 script, because the 06 script is much more regressive. Both the heroic and villainous men act like creeps and belittle Diana, sexualize Diana, lecture Diana. Essentially, guys treating Diana badly is a thing both the bad guys and the good guys do and she just has to deal with it. Which is just shit, from a feminist perspective. The idea that the guys who are heroes are going to treat women as badly (or even just almost as badly) as the bad guys and the only difference is the heroic guys are the ones who change their minds when she “proves herself” is really, really old. It’s simultaneously discouraging to women and insulting to men by saying that all men are pigs and women just have to deal with that, and it’s the “strong” women who do and change the mind of the “good” men…who are still going to be pigs but maybe less so towards you since you proved yourself. The idea of a guy who’s not a pig is not a thing.
Feminist Fantasy has moved beyond that. Feminist Fantasy is no longer where women are able to constantly prove men wrong–it’s when they don’t have to prove men wrong before being taken seriously as people. Because that shows a future, a past, a world where a woman can simply be accepted as a potential expert, or a warrior, or whatever else the character is doing without having to “prove” it to any man in the vicinity because that still places the men as having power over her. It’s not that they can’t prove men wrong–some still will sometimes and all of them could if directly challenged to–it’s that they don’t have to. Guys who are on their side simply accept that yeah, a woman can be that badass while guys who aren’t on their side, well the opinions those guys have a) don’t matter as much and b) because they’re the bad guys, she’s more focused on stopping their plans than proving her worth to them.
Women having to “prove” ourselves more than men before being taken seriously is not aspirational fantasy anymore–it’s where we are, more often than not. The fantasy is that we only have to prove ourselves to the same degree as any man written in the same situation would, and be treated equally to them. We already know the real world is not there yet (see every “Rey is a Mary-Sue compared to Luke and Anakin” argument ever) but the idea that escapist fiction can’t be a bit ahead of the curve on that should be eyeroll inducing at this point.