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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why Wonder Woman Makes Me Wonder

If you, like me, spent your childhood in the 1970’s, the title of this piece alone should have gotten the old “Wonder Woman” theme song stuck in your head.  All the world is waiting for you…and the wonders you can do. Make a hawk a dove; stop a war with love. Make a liar tell the truth!  I don’t know about that other stuff, but she DEFINITELY had the ability to make a liar tell the truth with her golden lasso.  I loved that show and thought Lynda Carter was as gorgeous and badass as women came, perfectly suited to the role.  

But I grew up in an era of out-of-shape superheroes; for example, Adam West did not exactly look ripped in that Batman costume.  Michael Keaton in the same role was all suit, so to speak.  Remember what a vast “improvement” Christopher Reeve represented over George Reeves in the role of Superman?  Christopher Reeve was handsome and in great shape, but in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” Henry Cavill’s Superman is…well, SUPER-human looking.  He is sculpted and frankly the most true to the original comic version as any actor who has played him yet.  Which is why I am wondering about Wonder Woman?  Why is it that this kick ass goddess has perfect hair and boobs but no visible muscle?  Are they afraid it would make her less “feminine” (AKA sexual)?

I did a little research (AKA “googled”) this topic and found a discussion thread that made my heart sink.  The debate over whether or not Wonder Woman should be more muscular in this new film featured the following comments:  males are the muscular ones in comics; women are the slender curvy ones.  both genders at the height of their attractiveness”; “If Batman and Superman have to have huge pecks and biceps why can't we get a Wonder Woman with big tits and an ass?” Hoo-boy.  But the most dismissive comment I saw opined that the ONLY reason people were even talking about this was “because feminism or something like that”.   

The one person who had an actual photo of himself instead of an avatar on the thread (hmmm…) offered this bit of wisdom about the character as written:  she is “a battle hardened warrior who trains rigorously on a daily basis”.  I know absolutely nothing about Gal Gadot, the actress playing Wonder Woman, except how she looks.  And she DEFINITELY does NOT look like that.  She looks more like a thumb-war champion, if you catch my drift.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  And I should talk, btw.
I will have to admit at this point that I am not, nor have I ever been, much of a comic book person.  However, I did grow up watching “Batman”, “Wonder Woman” and “The Super Friends”, so I am not entirely immune to the thrall of super hero legend.  In this spirit, before I go ahead and say what OBVIOUSLY needs to be said here, I am going to tell you what little-girl-me thought about the “out-of-shape” champions she grew up with:  what made them heroic (and ultimately triumphant) was their good intentions.  Corny, I know. 

But I think the beating heart of the appeal of such characters is exactly that…they use their super powers to help the weak, the less fortunate, and the victimized.  I never questioned their physiques.  Batman knew how to outsmart his rivals and Superman and Wonder Woman were genetically superior beings, immune from human weaknesses…such as the need for muscles to have strength.  I’m saying this because I “get” the rationale behind casting another Madison Avenue typical beauty in the role.  However…

This is 2016, people.  And the character AS WRITTEN is a trained warrior.  And her Superman co-star is about as cut as you can be without qualifying as a professional body-builder.  And this mismatch is troubling.  This mismatch concerns me.  Because muscular women, professional athletes even, are often criticized for being “fat”.  Google search that and see the endless parade of articles. 

I think this represents a two-fold problem: 1) yes, we have all been brainwashed by Madison Avenue about what the ideal female form should be (essentially:  anorexic, but with boobs) and 2) muscular women are being targeted for going against the norm.  These naughty rule breakers want us to accept a female shape that is not weak, helpless and in need of a brawny masculine savior.  They want us to comprehend that women can be just as strong as men…and in many cases, even stronger.  They wants us to understand that fierce can be feminine.  And this is apparently a message that we are not yet comfortable hearing.  And casting a dainty looking Wonder Woman is definitely part of the problem.
I don’t want to pick on Gal Gadot for being too skinny.  I want to pick on the Hollywood machine that consistently lets us down when it comes to diversity of ALL KINDS.  Hollywood, like the out-of-shape superheroes of yore, used to be nothing more than a whimsical fantasy fulfiller.  But as it has grown and its reach and subject matter have continued to expand, it has also taken on the tacit responsibility of representing all of us, not just the Marilyn Monroe’s and Clark Gables of the world. 

Which brings me back to Wonder Woman.  Who is the audience for a movie that features such a character?  I’m no marketing genius, but I am guessing it is 1) fans of the comic book and 2) young people.  And I’m no psychologist, but I’m assuming fans of the comic book are going to want to see their heroine accurately portrayed, and young people might benefit from seeing such a character represented as what she actually is:  a warrior.  With my apologies to Gal Gadot, who may very well do a fine job:  there was somebody better for the part.  Probably a lot of somebodies.  We need to be having these kinds of discussions about why Hollywood didn’t think a muscular actress was a commercial choice.  How many viewers (dollars) did they think they stood to gain by casting a model-type instead?

I have already stated my intention to boycott “Independence Day 2” because the casting geniuses decided Mae Whitman wasn’t hot enough to play HERSELF as an adult.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-postkennedy/mae-whitman-is-hot-why-it-doesnt-matter_b_7203934.html)  I will not be going to see “Batman V. Superman” either.  Because Hollywood won’t listen to our voices until we back them up with our actions.  We need to stand up for women in all shapes and sizes (because feminism or something like that) and we need to stand up for people of all races (because white Oscars or something like that). Doing this means standing up for ourselves, even the Madison Avenue models of the world. 

Time for Hollywood to be subjected to the lasso of truth; are they casting the best person for the role?  Or the one they have deemed most “bangable”?   Strong women are sexy women.  Time to stop judging (and casting) based on outdated sexual standards.   We all have a story, we all have a voice and we are all valid.  And that is a wonder to behold.


 

2 comments:

  1. I like this, and I agree with your sentiments that if we act with our wallets, Hollywood would have to stop casting "bangable" and make the right choices.

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  2. I went to war with several strong, well-muscled women. They were quite beautiful in addition to being highly capable soldiers. You are absolutely right that we need to support honest representations of our female heroes. Muscles do NOT distract from a woman's beauty. If anything, muscles make a woman much hotter to me. We need to let Hollywood know that too.

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