Shaking the Tree

I was trying to think of some good news to start the year off right, so I popped in my new go-to feel good movie, Wonder Woman.  Then the Golden Lasso of Truth showed me what I needed to know.

Is 2018 going to be The Year of the Woman?  Other years have claimed that title, but the cultural changes and shake-ups of 2017 have certainly provided an amazing amount of fuel to launch a new renaissance of female domination.

What do we have to look forward to in 2018, the year after Wonder Woman conquered the box office? With sex abuse scandals continuing to topple iconic male figures in politics, entertainment and sports, and as Malala continues her transformative efforts to bolster girls’ education around the world?  A lot, actually.

Wonder Woman was a joy from beginning to end—and while not necessarily the best movie of the year, it was a decidedly transformative film in that it broke the long-standing industry belief that a woman couldn’t open a superhero movie.  In the sure hands of director Patty Jenkins and the perfectly cast Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman broke more than a few records and opened up new possibilities in genre gender-bending (and landed Jenkins, for the sequel, the most lucrative deal ever given to a woman).  

This year, we’ll see the retooled Lara Croft (with Alicia Vikander playing a young, more innocent but no less tough tomb raider that Angelina Jolie originally created for the screen).  Natalie Portman leads a team of women explorers into mysterious lands in the sci-fi thriller Annihilation (February). Also in February, director Whitney Cummings gives us The Female Brain, a documentary (based on Louann Brizendine’s bestselling book) about the unique differences of female behavior.  By Christmas, we’ll have our own brand-new Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt).  

Several television shows have either been canceled or are being retooled after the departures/firings of their male leads:  Netflix’s House of Cards, Amazon’s Transparency, and NBC’s Today Show.  CBS cast their new Star Trek: Discovery series with several strong female leads.  Are we finally casting off the empowered brutes and their enablers?  Probably not; there will always be misogynistic men driven to abuse who belittle the women in their orbit, but there is a shift in awareness, in the shame of enabling these Neanderthals, that can have a lasting effect.  Most promising, women aren’t just asking for opportunities in an industry once dominated by men–they’re making them and taking them.

Fed up with a lack of good roles for women, many influential Hollywood actresses have started their own production companies, among them Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon (this is not an entirely new development—in 1919, Mary Pickford was a co-founder of United Artists).  Women directors are making their mark on the cultural landscape, including Ms. Jolie and the recently anointed Greta Gerwig, who helmed the much-praised Lady Bird.   Michelle McLaren has given us some of the most exciting episodes of iconic shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead.  Shonda Rhimes, showrunner of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, is a top Hollywood power player.  You could say they are building upon a well-laid foundation of smart, powerful women including Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Jane Fonda and Oprah.  But new energies are afoot in the cultural landscape.  

Not least of which is the famous Tardis of Dr. Who is now driven by a woman.  Even in the last two seasons, the Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master, gender-bended into a female incarnation (Michelle Gomez). The longest running science fiction show ever, Dr. Who has enjoyed thirteen incarnations from 1962 to 2017, all men.  Now, actress Jodie Whitaker will transform the role forever. Who better (pun intended) to take us into a bold new future of empowerment and equality?


The Wayward Critic reviews movies, television, and culture.  For current reviews and general snark, follow The Wayward Critic on Facebook and Twitter @waywardcritic.  

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