The mess that is Joss Whedon’s original ‘Wonder Woman’ screenplay

You may have heard that Indie Ground Films recently leaked a version of the screenplay Joss Whedon was writing for Wonder Woman back when he was its in-development writer and director about ten years ago. Today, I will provide a quick (and quite angry) rundown of it so you don’t have to put yourself through the pain of reading it!

DISCLAIMER: If you are a diehard fan of Whedon, this might not be the post for you.

Because aside from some shockingly bad writing, it is the most sexist thing I have ever read.

It was written in 2006, so I’m sure you can draw any arguments you want or need to from the fact that 11 years have passed. But really, development for a live action Wonder Woman film began in 1996. If this was typical of the material they had to work with, I’m not surprised it took 21 years to get released.

So without further ado, Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman:

[All quotes are taken from the August 2006 Wonder Woman screenplay written by Joss Whedon, released by Indie Ground Films.]

  • It’s actually about Steve.

There’s no getting around the fact that Steve is clearly the protagonist and hero of this film, not Diana. It opens with a few title cards explaining the Amazons’ origins (rather than the good half an hour dedicated to Diana’s early life, training, and the history and beliefs she is taught that we get in the Jenkins/Heinberg film), then cuts straight to Steve crashing his plane.

Diana is not even seen until page 5. We then get a long description of a woman who is the epitome of the straight male fantasy. In 2006, a writer is being paid to use words like “curvaceous,” and “waterfalls” as a verb. Don’t get me started on the age-old ‘woman as something “natural and wild.”‘ We’re not animals that you need to tame, mate! It’s particularly infuriating when you remember that Steve was described in one sentence: “Maybe 30, kind, determined eyes in a workingman’s face.”

Diana is generously granted her first line on page 6. She steps into the plane…what words introduce the mighty Wonder Woman? “It’s hollow.” Yeah, she’s not the hero here.

  • Steve is – there’s no other word for it – a dick.

Gone is the generally nice bloke of the Jenkins/Heinberg film who listens to Diana, and never interrupts her or puts her down, and respects her combat experience and takes her orders. In its place is a waste of skin.

Consider that it takes six pages for Diana to get one line; less than a page after that the Waste of Skin is dismissing her observations and questions with sarcastic witticisms put downs. This is typical behaviour.

  • They ‘fall in love’ instantly.

“Mesmerised.” “Sensuously” touching each others’ faces. Moments after they’ve met and after he’s been really rude to her twice.

After knowing him for, at most, a few hours, Diana claims her eyes are “clear. Maybe for the first time.” And there’s no reason for it! HE’S VILE!

Their whole relationship in this screenplay absolutely reeks of a trope explained best in this video: the ‘born sexy yesterday’ trope. Especially worrying is the fact that it comes closest to the colonial origins of this trope.

  • The Waste of Skin says, “Nnnyeaaybe…” Which is just bad writing.
  • The way the Waste of Skin is treated by the Amazons smacks of ‘look what happens when women get too much power! They’ll enslave all the men!”

During all this he gives Diana a speech:

“Has there ever been a day you didn’t get what you wanted? Have you ever been hungry? Been cold? Worked twenty hour days underground for no pay, been spat on, stepped on, shot at –“

Please imagine watching this. Watching a shiny, all-American, Hollywood male actor say this to a woman.

  • The Waste of Skin continues to prove how little his life is worth to any reasonable person:

He guilt-trips Diana by criticising her for apparently making his death about her, which is something she never even does.

He tells her “‘Let’s keep in touch’ is American for get the hell out of my face.”

He calls her a “bored debutante.”

He throws a pear at her – not jokingly, really as a way to try and hurt her.

He condescendingly refers to her as “princess” multiple times.

  • All Diana’s conversations with her gal pal end up returning to the fact that all the Amazons want to sleep with the Waste of Skin. Because there’s no men! How will women cope! …Well, in the way the Jenkins/Heinberg film points out, thank you very much.
  • No reason is given for Diana’s decision to leave Themyscira.
  • Diana fights her mother in a trial of combat for the Waste of Skin’s life.

I’ll repeat that.

Diana fights her own mother. With swords. In a caged arena. For the sake of the Waste of Skin.

Her mother – her mother – hits her in the face with the hilt of her sword. And you think that’s the worst thing that can happen in this scene.

Then her mother – I’m sorry, but her mother? – hits her shoulder with the blade of the sword. It shatters, but Hippolyte still hits her hard enough with a blade that she leaves her daughter “screaming in pain.”

  • A conversation with a warlord about bribes is set up before Diana’s introduced to the humans, just so someone can make a prostitute joke about her. But it’s alright! Because it’s the other female character who makes the prostitute joke! Phew! Sure sidestepped that misogyny.
  • This line: “Who the hell shoots an unarmed, tasty looking girl?”

One: what kind of way is that to describe an attractive woman?

Two: does the fact that she’s attractive make it worse that she’s been shot?

  • Diana does the stereotypical awkward ‘is he single?’ questioning.
  • Another prostitute joke about Diana!
  • The Waste of Skin gives this speech:

“I think you’ve got delusions and grandeur and some actual grandeur, which is confusing. I don’t like confusing. I hate the fact that I’m so attracted to you, just touching you is overwhelming and I keep hoping you’ll turn around so I can see more of you naked.”

Diana finds this charming, for some reason, and “tries not to show her smile.”

  • Another joke about Diana’s outfit.
  • This joke:

“Two thin supermodel types come up to him —

GRIFFIN

Go eat something! Go to Arby’s, get some protein, you frighten me.”

  • A girl’s referred to as a “skank.”
  • I’m getting so tired of how much dialogue is devoted to hammering home the contrived romance between Diana and the Waste of Skin. Even Bacchus has a page worth of dialogue on the subject.
  • When Diana is allowed to take charge in a scene involving her and the Waste of Skin, his line is, “Oh, I hate this a lot.”
  • When Diana calls the Waste of Skin out on his apathy and refusal to listen to a word she says despite the fact they’ve just been shot at because she’s right, he says this:

“What’s wrong with me? By the way, Diana, how was your day? Anything special happen?”

And that’s enough of a compelling argument to shut her up?

  • Then he gives the longest speech in the film about how Diana isn’t a hero…

…how she’s so privileged (again – imagine watching a shiny all-American Hollywood male actor say that to a woman), and what a hero really is

…and what a hero really is sounds suspiciously like what the story’s set him up as.

  • Then comes the point where I wanted to throw my laptop across the room.

To save the Waste of Skin’s life, after he’s said everything designed to hurt her, she consents to give up her power, to be bound to the baddie’s will.

She gets on her knees.

She says “I submit.”

She ends up in chains.

Furious doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Especially not when the baddie starts touching her “invasively.”

  • “Strife just got the most powerful woman in the world to kneel before him.” The Waste of Skin’s response? “He didn’t get her to kneel. I did.”

Now who’s making someone’s impending death all about them, huh?

  • While feverish, a guy grabs a prone Diana, pulls her top away to look down it, and only doesn’t assault her because he doesn’t want to get ill too.

Nah, instead he just tosses her in a ditch. “Like a plague dog.”

  • It turns out all the women who insulted her were actually her mother “watching her all this time.”
  • The Waste of Skin saves the day by becoming a youtuber. (OK, I’m being a bit sarcastic there. I had lost all patience by this point.)
  • Diana only becomes a superhero when she gets an outfit upgrade.

No, seriously. It says, “Diana is a superhero now.”

  • It ends with a ‘lesbians are hot’ joke.

God, I wish I was making that up.

This is a superhero film. At most, it would be a 12. You consider everything in this list. And I haven’t even complained about how many times “whore” or “stupid bitch” are used, usually to describe Diana.

But special mention has to go to the first instance, where she starts to defend herself and the Waste of Skin tells her to “shut up.”

We dodged one hell of a bullet here.

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