“I’m shocked. Absolutely shocked. Kind of beyond words, actually.”
This is Patty Jenkins’ immediate reaction upon hearing that in 2018, there are still 32 states across the country where LGBTQ people can be fired from their jobs, evicted, or denied service in a public space like a hospital or a hotel simply because of who they are.
“I would never have believed that in 2018….wow,” she exasperates. “I think I maybe could have wrapped my head around a couple being the case, but certainly not something like this.” To hear this reaction to the unfortunate continued prevalence of discrimination in our society is one thing, but hearing it from one of the premier filmmakers in the world right now is quite another.
Patty Jenkins has her pick of projects and loads of critical and commercial success behind her, following last year’s release of her film Wonder Woman, a long-gestating project that became the top grossing superhero origin story of all time, making over $820 million at the worldwide box office and in the process becoming a cultural milestone that shifted the paradigm on the power, influence, and ability of women across the world.
Since 2003, Jenkins has been racking up success after success in Hollywood following the release of her debut film, Monster, about the life of Florida serial killer Aileen Wuornos; the movie brought Charlize Theron an Academy Award as Best Actress and won Patty the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Since then, she has worked in both film and television, helming episodes of Arrested Development and The Killing, winning a Directors Guild of America award for the latter. It was Monster, in fact, that began to strengthen her bond with the LGBTQ community.
“When we were making the film, I visited a lot of LGBTQ clubs and hangouts,” she says. “From reading Aileen’s personal letters, it was clear that the LGBTQ community were the only people who ever showed her any kindness after all the years of abuse she had suffered starting from a very, very young age.” More than a decade later, following the 2016 mass shooting tragedy at Orlando nightclub Pulse, Jenkins wrote the forward to the graphic novel Love is Love, a compilation of artwork and comics from various writers and artists in honor of the victims; the book is now in its fifth printing, and all proceeds benefit the Pulse Victims Memorial Fund.
“Marc Andreyko, [Love is Love editor and artist] was putting all of these people together, and he reached out to me since he knew I was working on Wonder Woman and asked if I would write this piece. I wanted to pay tribute, but I also wanted to make it clear that we cannot let tragedy define us, we cannot let ourselves be pulled into darkness — we have to keep being the best versions of ourselves that we can.”
When it comes to the movement for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination, the topic of President Trump’s policy banning transgender service members from serving in the military surfaces. Trump’s anti-transgender military ban was passed by the President’s executive order in August, but thanks to our legal partners at NCLR, GLAD, Lambda Legal, ACLU, SPARTA, the Transgender American Veteran Association, Outserve-SLDN, and more, the ban is currently stayed by multiple courts due to the question of its constitutionality.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the military is a bit behind, and in the world we’re in right now…that’s a whole other issue,” Jenkins says. “But now that there are transgender people enlisting and living their full truth, that is what’s so incredible.”
“For so many years, in the 80s and 90s, we thought we were so progressive,” she continues. “But we’re seeing now that we weren’t as far as we thought. There is still so much to learn, for all of us, but me personally as well. I didn’t think I knew any transgender people, but in the last few years as the visibility has increased, I’ve seen people come out to live in their truth, and really, people being open about themselves should be a non-issue, period.”
“I wanted to pay tribute, but I also wanted to make it clear that we cannot let tragedy define us, we cannot let ourselves be pulled into darkness — we have to keep being the best versions of ourselves that we can.” – Patty Jenkins on authoring foreword for ‘Love is Love’ anthology
Anyone who’s seen one of Jenkins’ projects is aware that among her many gifts, she is a talented storyteller, focusing always on the importance of a character’s narrative, rather than extraneous set pieces or special effects. This commitment to storytelling is a central focus of the LGBTQ movement, including the work of Freedom For All Americans.
“For me, all stories are universal,” she explains. “There is someone out there who has experienced exactly what you have, even if you think you’re the only one. Opening up and sharing our experiences with the world is so freeing — not just for us, but to the people who those experiences touch and connect with.”
Patty further goes on to explain that storytelling helps to even further dispel myths and break down stereotypes — something that LGBTQ people are all too familiar with.
“It’s similar to how people were saying, ‘A woman can’t direct a superhero film. No one will go see a film about a female superhero.’ Not true — I mean, now we know, clearly not true,” she laughs. “When you decide to be the one who steps forward and says, ‘You’re wrong, and I’m going to show you,’ the power that gives you is just incredible, and it makes the way a little easier for the people who follow behind.”
Of course, Wonder Woman herself has become a beloved figure nationwide, but in the LGBTQ community in particular. Why? Patty doesn’t hesitate:
“Because she’s the hero for all the underdogs out there. She is the definition of ‘otherness’ — she comes from a place no one knows of or has seen, she is unfamiliar with the ways of our world, and she has to make her way while remaining true to who she is as a person and doing the best she can for herself and others.”
“Wonder Woman is the hero for all the underdogs out there. She chooses love. Always remember, no matter what is put in front of her, at the end of the day, she chooses to believe in love. And that’s revolutionary.” – Patty Jenkins on ‘Wonder Woman’ and her connection to LGBTQ equality
Patty Jenkins understands the heart of Wonder Woman better than anyone – and part of that is that she knows her most admirable character traits, the ones that inspire others to fight against their own struggles, whether personal or on a larger scale. Jenkins knows that these struggles resonate especially deeply for LGBTQ people.
“She chooses love,” Jenkins says. “Always remember, no matter what is put in front of her, at the end of the day, she chooses to believe in love. And that’s revolutionary.”
Patty Jenkins is currently in pre-production on the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, and will soon direct the pilot of the TNT Network limited series One Day She’ll Darken. Our thanks to Cassandra Brewer at PMK-BNC and Tony Barbera at Warner Bros. for their assistance in this piece.