By Alyssa Rosenberg

Wonder Woman has pulled in US$816 million ($1.12 billion) at the international box office this summer.

And on Monday the news broke that director Patty Jenkins would get paid for the sequel accordingly: She will reportedly make about US$8m for writing, directing and producing the movie.

This is no real surprise: Joss Whedon, who directed Marvel's The Avengers, has been frank about the fact that he got a much richer deal to direct its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Advertisement

The shocker - and a testament to the potency of Hollywood sexism - would have been if Jenkins hadn't levelled up for the Wonder Woman sequel.

This is delightful news for Jenkins but moments such as this shouldn't be considered the end of the struggle for pay equity, or for equity of opportunity in a business that loves to promote a few women or people of colour at a time as long as those changes don't imperil the established order. Instead, we should use them to set new baselines and ask hard questions of Hollywood.

The first benchmark that's useful to extract from Jenkins' Wonder Woman contract is monetary: Her deal apparently makes her the highest-paid female director ever and sets a new mark that other women will be able to use in comparable situations.

One measure of whether Jenkins' contract is a force for change in Hollywood is whether another female director is able to sign a similar deal or whether Jenkins will end up alone on that pinnacle.

Of course, we should also be careful not to over-interpret this baseline, either. If Kathryn Bigelow or Ava DuVernay decides to take the minimum weekly salary of US$18,676, as guaranteed by the Directors Guild of America contract, in order to make a movie come in under budget, that doesn't make them sellouts to feminism or mean their production companies are being unfair.

Patty Jenkins. Photo / AP
Patty Jenkins. Photo / AP

Instead, the test is whether female directors in the same situation as Jenkins - directing a sequel to an extremely popular movie - get paid the same.

A secondary measure is whether salaries for first-time female and non-white directors of blockbusters keep pace with those of their white male counterparts.

The second measurement to keep an eye on is whether Jenkins' deal gives her a meaningful amount of creative freedom, keeping in mind that she's working in a highly regimented franchise system.

And finally, the real test for whether big franchise deals for innovative directors is a good thing for the industry is what they do next. Since directing The Avengers, Whedon has directed a low-budget adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and is rumoured to have something called "Untitled Joss Whedon/WWII Horror Project" in the works. But otherwise, he has been largely sucked into the world of superheroics.

Unless Jenkins decides this is what she wants to do fulltime, I would consider Jenkins' Wonder Woman deal a failure if it means that she spends the rest of her career directing franchise movies.

In an ideal world, the relationship would go both ways. Franchises like Marvel, DC and Star Wars would get an infusion of energy and personality from promising directors with distinctive visions.

And in turn, those directors would get a lot of attention and the credential of having directed a huge, logistically complex movie in a challenging corporate environment that ought to make it easier for them to get their original projects funded.

Otherwise, the exchange looks a little bit vampiric: Talented directors get paid large sums of money to essentially take themselves off the original movie market.

I'm excited for Jenkins to get paid because she deserves it, and because I want to see what she does with that money and reputation. Wonder Woman was fun, but it's not the true revolution that Hollywood needs.