Wonder Woman Arrives

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 25th, 2017

May 25th, 2017. I’ve only been waiting for this day since I was eleven years old. What day exactly is it you might ask? It’s the day that Wonder Woman finally makes it to the big screen. If you’re thinking, “Jacki, the film opens on June 2nd” you would be right, but the opening night in Los Angeles is on May 25th, today, and I will be there. And yes, I am over the moon about that.

Earlier this week I shared something I wrote many years ago about my obsession with Wonder Woman. About how I quit my job at Goldman Sachs to, in part, write a superhero screenplay. Well that did not happen, but it is kind of spooky how much of the narrative for my made up screenplay has manifested itself in real life. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about the history of the film that I will be seeing TONIGHT. And for those of you who are thinking, “What does this have to do with business?”, let me assure you, this film is big business!

Warner Brothers first began development on a Wonder Woman film back in 2001 at the dawn of the superhero boom in cinemas, and since then we’ve had three Spider Mans, two Batmans, two Supermans, and 14 Marvel movies and counting. Hollywood has also managed to make a whopping nine movies featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but no Wonder Woman. Until now. Sure she popped up last year for about 10 minutes to be the only good part of the otherwise dreary Batman vs Superman, but it is not until tonight that she gets her own story. I will finally get to watch my favourite superhero kick ass across the big screen.

I would love nothing more for Wonder Woman’s opening weekend to break records as the largest opening weekend in history, but I’m pretty sure nothing can touch Star Wars at this point, so I’m going to settle for something even better. I want this movie to be the one that puts Hollywood executives on notice that they can no longer ignore the buying power of women. I want women, and men, but especially women to show up en mass and prove to Hollywood (again!) that female fronted content is a lucrative business. I want to remind these executives that we are currently living through a golden age of content creation, with over 400 scripted television shows and counting currently available to viewers, meaning it gets harder and harder every day to convince people to get up off the couch and head to the cinema. According to the MPAA, women make up more than half of moviegoers and buy more than half the tickets, so with their entire business model dependent on wooing customers away from Netflix binge marathons, Hollywood can continue to ignore women at their own peril.

I’ve long been an advocate of shopping your values and using your spending dollars to support the causes and issues most dear to you, and equal representation onscreen happens to be one of mine. The research shows that only 29% of protagonists in 2016 films were women, and only 32% of all speaking parts belonged to women. Yet a quick scroll through the cast list of Wonder Woman reveals the opposite, as the overwhelming majority of its cast members are female, so hopefully this film will help bring 2017’s overall score closer to parity.

However, it’s not just in front of the camera where Wonder Woman is going against the grain in Hollywood. Wonder Woman is a DC property, and DC Entertainment is currently headed by a woman, Diane Nelson, and the film is being directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Girl power! In an industry where only 4% of the top 100 grossing films of 2016 were directed by women, this is a big step in the right direction to have a female director for one of the most high profile releases of the year. Especially considering this is only the second time in history that a female director has been given a budget of over $100 million. Furthermore, early indications online indicate that not only is Wonder Woman the first female fronted superhero film since 2005’s Elektra, but it is also the best female fronted superhero film ever. Some are even calling it the best DCEU film to date.  These early reviews are great news, because Wonder Woman  has a lot riding on its release, and I’m thrilled that she appears to be rising to the pressure.

So what can you do? Support this film. Not only show up on opening night, but pre-buy your tickets and help make its opening weekend numbers as big as possible. I am doing my part by partnering with a friend and fellow Wonder Woman Fan, and effectively buying out a 300+ theater in Salt Lake City on June 1st. Yes, it is possible to do that. If buying out a theater sounds a little extreme, then just buy a ticket, in advance, and invite your friends to do the same. Easy right? Then go do it. Now. Then use the hashtag #WWParty and join the party on TWITTER. Come on people, let’s make the hashtag trend.

To Wonder Women everywhere, this is my call to arms. It’s a call to everyone, but in particular, I’m calling out to women that this is the one to show up for. Even if superheroes aren’t your thing, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you would like to see more women on the big screen and more talented women directors having their shot at $100 million+ budgets.

So how did I get myself to the premiere you might ask? One of my dearest friends made a request of one of her friends who works at DC Comics. She said that her “friend, Jacki, is one of the biggest Wonder Woman fans there is and has been waiting her whole life to see her on the big screen.” True That. I am, and I am so grateful. It is a dream come true.

If you jump over to my personal blog and search for Wonder Woman you will see over 20 posts I have done on the subject over the past 8 years. Yes that is me all dressed up. At this point it should not surprise you that I collect WW memorabilia.

(Un) Hidden Figures – It’s About Time

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 22nd, 2017

I, like many people, watched the Oscars last month, but unlike most people, for me, the Best Picture category was not a two horse race. In my mind, it was already decided long before the ceremony began. With all due respect to La La Land and Moonlight, as far as I’m concerned the best film of last year was Hidden Figures. It may even be one of my favourite films ever, although I’m reserving judgement on that until I see Wonder Woman in June. But for now, Hidden Figures is my pick, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it enough. This film manages to make math and science as exciting and action packed as any recent superhero movie, and it tells a story that was long since overdue for recognition. For those of you who have yet to discover this incredible film, Hidden Figures tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson, three African-American female scientists working for NASA at the height of the space race in the early 1960s.

The story of the race to put a human into space is well known, as are the names of John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin, but as is so often the case, the people behind the scenes rarely receive the recognition they deserve. In particular, women’s contributions are often overlooked entirely, and this practice is egregiously worse for women of color. With all of this in mind, is it unfortunately not surprising that it took so long for the stories of Vaughan, Johnson, and Jackson to be told, but these stories are out there now and audiences are responding. Hidden Figures currently has a 92% critic’s approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it was the highest grossing Best Picture nominee at this year’s Oscars, even surpassing big budget franchise entries such as X-Men Apocalypse, Jason Bourne, and Star Trek Beyond. Can we finally, please, put an end to the question about whether or not films about women can attract audiences?

It would seem, however, that the success of Hidden Figures has extended beyond the scope of the film in an amazing way. After the most recent International Women’s Day, I did a quick scan of the headlines, and I noticed an interesting trend. There was an awful lot of “Women You Don’t Know About But Should” articles, most likely inspired by the popularity of Hidden Figures, and I couldn’t be happier that so many women’s stories are finally coming to the forefront. I hope these stories continue to be told and heard, and that these women will be held up as role models for generations to come. In honour of this past International Women’s Day, here’s a selection of articles about the women you should know. I hope you are all as inspired by these stories as I am.

12 Pioneering Women in Science

13 Female Innovators from the Google Doodle for IWD2017

5 Women Changing the World for the Better

201 Female Artists You Should Remember

18 Women Composers You Should Know

7 Women of Color History Forgot

10 Female Electronic Artists You Should Know

6 Historical Queens You Should Know

12 Women Whose Names You Should Know

10 Female Revolutionaries You Probably Didn’t Learn About in History Class

2017. The Year of Wonder Women.

wwAs published on LinkedIn Influencers on December 31st, 2016.

I believe in the story of Wonder Woman. I always have. Not the literal baby being made from clay story, but the metaphorical one. I believe in a story where a woman is the hero and not the victim. I believe in a story where a woman is strong and not weak. Where a woman can fall in love with a man, but she doesn’t need a man. Where a woman can stand on her own two feet. And above all else, I believe in a story where a woman has superpowers that she uses to help others, and yes, I believe that a woman can help save the world.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Wonder Woman in DC’s All Star Comics #8 in December, 1941. She was introduced as an Amazon warrior who was sent to the world of men to fight against the biggest threat facing the world at that time; the Nazi party in World War II. Since her debut, Wonder Woman has come to stand for justice, progress, equality, and fiercely strong women the world over, and she has inspired me countless times in my life and career. I constantly tell myself to strive to be a superhero, and when times get tough, I ask myself, “What would Wonder Woman do?”

In 1972, the premiere issue of Ms. magazine put Wonder Woman on its cover and boldly proclaimed, “Wonder Woman for President!” Obviously, a fictional character cannot be president of the United States (nor can she be an Ambassador for the United Nations it seems), but I had, however, hoped that when celebrating 75 years of Wonder Woman, I would also be celebrating many other big wins for women in leadership. Additionally, I desperately wanted to see Wonder Woman on the big screen, and three years ago I published a 60 page report to that end. With Spider Man already at three incarnations in just 15 years, I figured it was time for Wonder Woman to get her due.

Incidentally, in 2002, I left my job at Goldman Sachs in no small part because I had an idea for a screenplay about Wonder Woman, and I had decided that I was the one to write it. The narrative was that one woman, no matter what kind of powers she had, could not on her own save the world. Anything she could do alone would always be a drop in the bucket, and she learned this the hard way. Yes, she may have saved one woman from sexual assault, but what about the other 1 in 5 women who were likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetimes? So what my character decided to do was to develop a plan to help all women by focusing on the world’s most powerful and influential people and tap into their own unique superpowers. Her job was to recruit them, take them to an island (think Maui), and run a superhero bootcamp. The ultimate goal? To help get the most awesome, incredible, brilliant, qualified, kind woman possible elected to our world’s highest office: President of the United States of America. What was going to be the main dramatic tension of the film? That our ‘perfect’ candidate would not win, but instead would lose to a man who was going to turn the earth over to alien, and very dark, forces. What you did not know at the beginning of the film was that our female presidential candidate was actually delivered to earth at her birth, and was actually was our Wonder Woman character’s sister. Remember this was 2002. No joke.

I never did write that screenplay, but so many elements of that story have since played out in real life. Beyond the narrative around a possible female president, there is the bigger one about women using their powers for good. My life’s work as a speaker, blogger, and Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions has been about championing for women to use their resources, time, treasure, and talent to not only support women and girls around the world, but to help create a more safe, just, and equitable world in the process. It is only when all of us more fully embrace our power to help and serve others that the dream of a brighter future might finally be realized.

In the meantime, Wonder Woman is FINALLY coming to the big screen in her own film on June 2nd, 2017, and I will be there on opening day for the first possible screening. The trailers that have been released so far show the Wonder Woman that I know and love; a fierce warrior who comes to the world of man to take a stand and fight against injustice. She is strong, capable, and puts those bullet deflecting bracelets to good use on more than one occasion, and makes it abundantly clear that she will do the right thing, even if no one else will.

Young girls need to see more incredible women in positions of leadership. They need to see women who can stand up against injustice. In the absence of a female president, I’ll take a fictional hero who will remind our young girls and daughters that women are powerful agents of change who will not sit idly by. They will march into battle, at times armed only with a shield, bullet-deflecting bracelets, and a lasso of truth, and fight evil in whatever form it may come.

It’s been 75 years since Wonder Woman first entered pop culture, and she’s been an inspiration to millions ever since. In the coming year, I hope she continues to inspire and motivate all of us, and helps to make 2017 the tipping point for women’s leadership, starting with the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. Later, on June 2nd, 2017, I hope you all go out and support this film and what it stands for. And if you are going through difficult times tell yourself to be a superhero, and ask yourself, “What Would Wonder Woman do?”