Zoe Saldana's Neytiri wields a dagger while screaming in 'Avatar'
(20th Century Studios)

God, I Wish James Cameron Would Stop Talking About Female Empowerment

James Cameron has made things like Aliens and the Terminator movies, and so he thinks that means he knows what the end-all, be-all for female empowerment is. I don’t know why he wants me to be angry with him all the time, and yet here we are. Recently, he seemed to stop doubling down on his hatred of comic book movies, but then he went right on ahead to say that a character in Avatar: The Way of Water should be more empowering to viewers than Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman because she’s a pregnant warrior.

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In conversation with fellow director Robert Rodriguez for Variety‘s Directors on Directors series, Cameron started to speak about the female empowerment in his new film, and god, do I love when men sit and talk about female empowerment—like we’re supposed to just completely agree with these takes!

“Everybody’s always talking about female empowerment,” Cameron said. “But what is such a big part of a woman’s life that we, as men, don’t experience? And I thought, ‘Well, if you’re really going to go all the way down the rabbit hole of female empowerment, let’s have a female warrior who’s six months pregnant in battle.'”

Okay, first of all: No. I’m sorry, but I don’t care whether or not the heroes that I love are mothers. Yes, one day I want to have kids, but that doesn’t mean I need to see a pregnant Carol Danvers blasting people. I’m good without it. It’s reminiscent of why I hated Age of Ultron, which had Natasha refer to herself as a “monster” because she can’t have kids. Like … why are these male creatives so obsessed with women and pregnancy?!

Cameron went on to talk about why the warrior in his Avatar sequel is better than Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel in his eyes: “It doesn’t happen in our society—probably hasn’t happened for hundreds of years. But I guarantee you, back in the day, women had to fight for survival and protect their children, and it didn’t matter if they were pregnant. And pregnant women are more capable of being a lot more athletic than we, as a culture, acknowledge. I thought, ‘Let’s take the real boundaries off.’ To me, it was the last bastion that you don’t see. Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel—all these other amazing women come up, but they’re not moms and they’re not pregnant while they’re fighting evil.” Cameron added.

A woman does not have to be pregnant to be empowered

Sure, Cameron is saying that we don’t get to see these “powerful” women in media as mothers and, like, okay, then apply that to the male heroes. We don’t see all of your heroes as dads! In fact, in superhero movies they usually ignore that part of the comic book history, so why is it that women have to be empowered by becoming parents and not their male counterparts?

Women are constantly reduced to their ability to bear children. What’s great about heroes like Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman is that they aren’t. They’re superheroes just like their male counterparts, and they’re just as strong. Sure, I love when a superhero ends up being a dad (a personal favorite of mine), but it is rare that it happens, and when it does, you don’t see directors praising it for “empowering” fathers to be better.

Women are constantly being “uplifted,” but somehow it isn’t enough for our own empowerment unless we’re talking about pregnancy and childbearing. Like, Cameron could have just said that he wanted this character to depict a different kind of empowerment for women, and that she represents women who fight for their children. That would’ve been fine. But then he brought Diana Prince and Carol Danvers into it, and that’s where the problem lies.

So, strong women who are, for the most part, stronger than most of the men on their respective superhero teams aren’t empowering enough? They also need to be pregnant? In fact, Gal Gadot was actually pregnant while filming Wonder Woman, and that’s pretty badass if you ask me, but hey, that’s not the same as a pregnant blue woman who barely has any lines in her own movie.

I like Avatar: The Way of Water, but I would not consider it to be a movie about female empowerment outside of the fact that there are more female characters in this one than the last one. James Cameron, next time you can just explain why you wrote this character the way that you did without trying to tell women that this is somehow more empowering—because it really is not.

(featured image: 20th Century Studios)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.