I’ve never read any Wonder Woman comics. All of my knowledge of her character comes from the Justice League TV shows. She says “Great Hera” a lot, has a crush on Batman, and comes slightly before Hawkgirl on the scale of Will Immediately Punch You If You Irritate Him/Her. (This means I identified with Hawkgirl a lot more.)
For the sake of argument, I’m going to establish two classes of heroine: the “melee” heroine and the “ranged attacks” heroine. Melee Heroine will be up close and personal in her fights. She punches and kicks, and gets punched and kicked in return. She might wield a sword. The Ranged Attacks Heroine will use a gun or bow and arrow, and won’t have to toss around guys who weigh twice as much as her.
Wonder Woman is a Melee Heroine.
I’m really tired of Melee Heroines being portrayed by skinny waifs (Zoe Saldana, Kiera Knightley, even Jamie Alexander as Sif). I enjoyed “The Losers” but I did not believe for one second that Zoe Saldana could take out Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a one-on-one brawl.
Now we’re looking at Gal Gadot, former model and Miss Israel, as our new Wonder Woman. I liked her character well enough in “Fast Five” (I haven’t seen “6” yet), but every time she held a gun, I was afraid she was going to break her arm. She’s beautiful and 5’9″ and tiny. (And yes, I know she was in the Israeli military, but then so was every other Israeli youth, because it’s compulsive. Everyone does two years. Not all of them turn into badasses, otherwise the situation in the Middle East would look a lot different.)
Wonder Woman has super strength, so maybe she doesn’t need a muscled build – but all the boys get one, and the girls usually don’t.
If I had to choose between an actress who looked the part and one who could play the part well, sure, I’d pick the latter. Actors gain and lose weight for roles all the time. I have no doubt Gadot will be training for the role, but when was the last time you saw a female character modify her body to the extent of, say, Christian Bale doing “The Machinist” and “The Fighter” in between Batman movies? Women have a harder time gaining muscle mass than men, and when they do, they’re criticized for looking too masculine.
Because they’re not waifs anymore. They’ve shaken off the “male gaze” that expects them to look like all the other skinny action ladies they see in movies, and that bothers some people.
Wonder Woman has always been influenced by the male gaze, but she is never, ever a waif. She is tall and curvy. If we’re lucky, she’s muscular, and she can get away with muscular because she’s Wonder Woman, one of DC’s Big Three, queen of the Justice League, the most recognizable superheroine of all time, and the only female superhero to be in anything by default.
This is what riles me up more than anything. The default is never female. The default is male. In Mass Effect, there’s Shepard and then there’s FemShep. Wonder Woman is one of few examples where it would be weird not to have her in the picture. “The Avengers” could have gotten away with not including Black Widow, but imagine a Justice League movie without Wonder Woman. She has to be there, and that gives her leeway to look however she damn well pleases.
But thanks to the male gaze and media imagery and idealized femininity and other buzzwords, Zach Snyder saw fit to make her look like a waif. A waif who can probably act the part well, but who will probably never physically resemble the body type most people would assign to Wonder Woman.
I hope this works out. I really do. I hope they build an interesting character for her, and give her plenty of screen time, and have her wear a costume that makes sense. I hope Snyder has someone on the writing team to counteract his idea of “empowered female characters” that he’s put on display in everything from “300” to “Sucker Punch.” I hope, if this movie flops, that it’s chalked up to Ben Affleck or Zach Snyder or the continual weakness of Superman narratives and not to Gal Gardot or Wonder Woman.
I hope this works out if for no other reason than if it fails, Hollywood executives will point to it as the new “Catwoman” and yet another reason for them to avoid putting money and effort into a Wonder Woman movie.
So, for the love of Hera – don’t screw this up, Zach Snyder.