It’s a common perception that superhero stuff is meant for male consumption, not just by the audience but by the creators as well. With so many movies and TV shows focusing on superheroes being directed by men, there are only a few that are directed by women. James Cameron, who holds three films out of five on the list of highest-grossing films of all time, revealed that he loved Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman (2017) despite being critical of it at the time, but he believes that Jenkins’ work is one of the stepping stones for women to have more opportunities directing superhero movies.
In an interview with TIME, Cameron weighed in on the discussion of women directing male characters. “It was necessary to have a female director own a major action movie,” he said. “[Al]though Kathryn Bigelow had been doing that for a while.” He praises Bigelow, his ex-wife, for directing films like Point Break, which explore the depths of male relationships. Bigelow was the first female director to win an Oscar for The Hurt Locker in 2010, beating Cameron for Best Picture.
“She would have turned down any superhero movie she was offered if it was a female lead. And that’s the healthier perspective, I think, personally,” he justified. “Why not have women direct male characters? Have a woman direct Batman. Now, you’re talking.”
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Cameron also revealed that he made space for a woman to direct a scene in his most recent movie, Avatar: The Way of Water. Sigourney Weaver, who played Kiri and Dr. Grace Augustine, directed her double Alicia Vela-Bailey in scenes where both characters appear. “I said, 'Okay, I don't want to direct Alicia, I want [Sigourney] to direct Alicia,'" Cameron recalled. “I wanted you guys to sort of go off and create a relationship of trust, where the things you couldn't physically do, you could tell Alicia how to do it for you. And so I said, 'Okay, that director role, I assign to you,' so that Alicia would do how you saw Kiri acting and moving, and so on.”
Women’s directing involvement is not only practiced in superhero scenes, but in the overall state of Hollywood, female directors are always nowhere to be seen. According to the Celluloid Ceiling report, women's employment in the top-grossing films of 2022 remains shockingly low, with 24% of the top 250 grossing films' directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers being women, a 1% decrease from 2021. These records have barely changed in the previous 25 years.
Aside from Jenkins' Wonder Woman, some notable superhero works from female directors are Captain Marvel (2019) by Anna Boden, Cate Shortland’s Black Widow (2021), Birds of Prey (2020) directed by Cathy Yan, and Chloe Zhao’s Eternals (2021).
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Avatar: The Way of Water and Titanic are currently showing in theaters.