Breaking Bad's Michelle MacLaren Tops the Shortlist for Directing Wonder Woman
With Warner Bros. seeking out a female director for their upcoming Wonder Woman solo film, acclaimed television director Michelle MacLaren is reportedly at the top of Warner Bros. shortlist, and has been meeting with executives about helming the superhero movie since August.
MacLaren is highly accomplished in both genre fiction and more traditionally high-brow narratives. She was a director and executive producer for Breaking Bad, and has also directed episodes of acclaimed genre favorites Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. (For Walking Dead fans, she directed last season's infamous finale in which Rick (spoiler!) rips a man's throat out with his teeth, which many consider to be one of the best episodes of the series.) The shortlist of directors also includes fellow television veteran Leslie Linka Glatter, who is a director and executive producer on Homeland, and Jennifer Kent, who is gaining prominence after the success of her indie horror film The Babadook.
MacLaren is a great choice of director whose accomplishments stand on their own, although many in the media are focusing too much on the fact that she's a woman. Considering the previous experiences of nearly novice directors Marc Webb, who had only directed romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer before taking on the Spider-Man films, and Gareth Edwards, who had only directed a small-budget indie thriller before directing Godzilla, MacLaren is more than qualified regardless of her gender.
Some of this coverage makes sense, and is essentially Warner Bros's responsibility for making it seem like they were tokenizing female directors, but some of the coverage is outright problematic. The Hollywood Reporter (who also made a sexist gaffe about The Maze Runner), for example, said "There are very few top female directors who would seem suited for [this] project," and basically implied that MacLaren would be a good choice because she would direct a superhero movie "like a man": "MacLaren... has developed a reputation as a muscular director and has drawn comparisons to Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind testosterone-fueled movies ranging from Point Break to The Hurt Locker."
The unfortunate conclusion this leads us to is that choosing a female director specifically for Wonder Woman, although it is progress in many ways, does feel a little like tokenizing. It's difficult to complain, as we need more women directing mainstream, big-budget movies, but a woman would be just as capable of taking on any of the male superhero movies. We shouldn't necessarily be happy that Warner Bros. is specifically seeking a woman for Wonder Woman of all things, but we should be happy that an otherwise perfectly qualified female director is getting a chance to break into the superhero business. As NPR put it, "It's not 'Hey, they might pick her, which is great because she's a woman!' It's more, 'Hey, they might not not pick her because she's a woman, which is great.'"
Wonder Woman is scheduled to be released on June 23, 2017.