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While "Wonder Woman" is a record-breaking box office smash that female movie fans — of all ages — have hailed as powerful and inspiring, filmmaker James Cameron recently dubbed the flick "a step backwards" for women on the big screen.
Now the woman behind the superhero hit, director Patty Jenkins, is taking Cameron to task for his "inability" to get the protagonist's appeal.
In an interview with The Guardian, Cameron said that, “All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over 'Wonder Woman' has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon ... I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards."
As the director and writer of female-driven blockbusters, including "Aliens" and "The Terminator," he pointed to his own work for an example of the right kind of character.
"('Terminator's) Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon," he said. "She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit.”
But Jenkins believes there isn't just one way to tell women's stories.
"James Cameron’s inability to understand what 'Wonder Woman' is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great filmmaker, he is not a woman," she wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. "Strong women are great. His praise of my film 'Monster,' and our portrayal of a strong yet damaged woman was so appreciated. But if women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven’t come very far have we."
With a nod to the fact that male protagonists seem immune to this sort of scrutiny, Jenkins, whose film has now earned more than $800 million worldwide, appreciates that her audience is the ultimate judge of "Wonder Woman."
"I believe women can and should be EVERYTHING just like male lead characters should be," she added. "There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman. And the massive female audience who made the film a hit it is, can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress."