Variety dropped the news yesterday – “Fast and Furious” star and Israeli model Gal Gadot will be playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” movie. She’ll join Ben Affleck’s Batman, potentially a new Lex Luthor, likely a Brainiac or Joker, and possibly even Henry Cavill’s Superman if they have time to fit him in. Expect Martian Manhunter to show up after the credits, possibly played by Benicio Del Toro in a fright wig.
The internets aren’t exactly foaming-at-the-mouth over the news, not in the way they launched hate rockets at Ben Affleck being cast as the Bat. There is definitely a general buzz of “huh?” going around, but it’s fairly mild, for a few reasons.
One – Wonder Woman, despite her status as a feminist icon, doesn’t have even close to the cultural cache that Batman does. Two – her role has been described as a cameo, even being billed as “Diana Prince,” Wonder Woman’s civilian identity, meaning we probably won’t be seeing any lassos or bracers in this go around. Three – she’s a chick, and the popular wisdom is that female superheroes don’t matter as much as male heroes. Their comics don’t sell as well, for one – keeping a female hero as the lead of a monthly title appears to be some kind of Herculean task, akin to swabbing the Aegean Stables or making Andy Dick likable. Add to that the usual demographic for superheroes, and female heroines often get the short shrift, when they’re not being killed off to give pathos to a male hero.
Last time I tried to calm you down about Ben Affleck. I thought I’d go for balance, and this time I’m going to explain the reasons you should be pissed off about Wonder Woman. Grab your blood pressure medication, because shit gonna get aggro UP IN HERE.
Who is She?
Allow a quick disclaimer: this article is not meant to degrade the lovely Gal Gadot. She’s not Zack Snyder, she’s not a producer, and she’s not the casting director – she tried out for a sweet gig and got it, and she’d be a silly Sally not to take the role of a lifetime. All snark is directed to those in charge of the decision, and the thinking behind it. Just thought I’d clear that up.
Gal Gadot was formerly an Israeli model, won the Miss Israel title, and even competed in the Miss Universe pageant. She’s appeared in a few TV shows and small roles (Knight and Day) here and there, but she’s most famous for playing “Gisele,” one of the Fast and Furious automobile jockeys, who is always pilfering motor vehicles and being like, “Man, I’m so angry about that race” or something – alright, I don’t watch a lot of Fast and Furious. I ADMIT IT, OKAY.
Needless to say, she’s a relatively inexperienced actor, a relatively experienced model, and she will be the first person to portray a live-action Wonder Woman on film. Is going with an unknown a bad idea? Not at all. Is going with this unknown a bad idea? Well . . .
Who This Wonder Woman Chick, Anyway?
Wonder Woman, for those not in the know, is the Princess of Thymiscira and warrior leader of the Amazons. She’s got super strength, flight, and durability, plus a suite of magical weapons given to her by the gods. A magic sword (sharp enough to cut Superman – and it has), a magic shield, an indestructable/inescapable lasso, a pair of deflecting bracers, a tiara, legs for days, etc. She’s basically Thor with boobs, and is just as badass.
Her ass-kicking credentials are also well-established. She is the best fighter on an island of magnficent fighters, and is woman enough to keep an all-female warrior society in check. That’s no small feat – imagine a sorority full of women with axes and superpowers, and having to keep that shit under control. Wonder Woman has gone toe-to-toe with Superman on numerous occasions – not only does her power level put her in swinging distance of the Man of Steel, but her training as a fighter far surpasses Superman’s “punch it until it breaks” style of combat. She’s also a lot meaner than Superman – as a soldier, she doesn’t shy away from killing. Add to that her magical weapons and her tactics as a general, and Wonder Woman is genuinely terrifying.
Superman has kryptonite, magic, radiation, and boyscout morality as his weaknesses. Green Lantern has the color yellow, fear, and a ring in constant need of recharge. Batman and Green Arrow have breakable bones, weakness to bullets and stabbing things, mortality, etc. Wonder Woman has . . . nothing. Literally nothing, she has no weaknesses. Even Batman, fanboy favorite and perennial destroyer of everyone, has been soundly thrashed by the Amazon plenty of times. He’s even said it himself, after defeating the entire Justice League except for Wonder Woman, Batman said something along the lines of, “You have nothing I can exploit, and you’re way stronger than me, so, well, shit.” She then proceeded to beat his ass.
Gal Gadot Looks Nothing Like Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is dangerous, a strong leader, and an imposing woman. She stands proudly in DC’s holy Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman trinity, and her status as an icon of feminism is well documented. Here’s Gal Gadot:
Let’s get into the real meat of it – Gal Gadot, other than having dark hair and a generally humanoid shape, looks nothing like Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is 6′ tall. Gadot is 5’9 – Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are going to tower over her. Gadot’s roughly 76 pounds, and almost every picture of her shows visible bone and ligaments at every joint. IMDB even lists her trademark as “slender frame.” I’m not even fucking kidding – that’s really true. I’ve heard people say “oh, she’ll hit the gym, it’ll be fine,” and I have no doubt that they’re going to work her like a mule and cram eggs down her throat like she’s Cool Hand Luke – but guess what? Christopher Mintz-Plasse can chug liquid beef steak and hit the gym three times a day for the next ten years, and he isn’t going to look like Henry Cavill. Basically, bodywise, she’s a non-starter.
Gadot’s face is too soft, too pretty – Wonder Woman is chiseled, statuesque, like a carved marble bust you might find on a plinth in Athens. As a waifish model, Gadot conveys none of the presence required. Wonder Woman is someone you follow into battle, not down a runway.
Also, for those saying “Oh, she did her two year service in the Israeli military,” I’m saying “meh.” Listen, the Israeli military force is without a doubt one of the most badass armies on the planet. No question. That doesn’t mean her army training (which was ten years ago) makes her a badass specifically, especially considering she never saw combat, and is the rough weight of a labrador. Listen, when I was in karate as a kid, Rajiv was always one belt higher than me, which means he lead the class. However, he was also two feet shorter than me and I could have dunked him like a basketball, so training does not a warrior make.
Body Shaming, Party of None
The internet, being the ever-mercurial beast that is, has already started the mental gymnastics required to be offended by everything. A reaction to the reaction has sprung up, claiming that Gal Gadot detractors are engaging in “body shaming.” They say that making fun of someone for being too thin is just as bad as making fun of someone for being too fat. First off, let me say this: no it fucking isn’t. As someone’s who’s been both thin and fat (which I am currently), allow me to disabuse that notion right quick – being fat blows. Being skinny gets you model contracts. Fat people have to worry about taint sweat – yeah, that’s right. We literally devote a section of our brains to making sure we’re not getting too swampy, and go take care of it in private. Yes. That’s a very real thing skinny people don’t even think about. Stairs make us sad. There are jobs we just can’t take. Fat people get injured more easily – all that weight slamming down on joints, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Fat people die earlier, fat people are considered lazy – I won’t even get started on how difficult all these things become when you’re an overweight GIRL. There are more gay black men on television then there are fat girls. Yeah. Your job as a chubby girl is to go live in a closet and disappear, as far as mainstream media is concerned.
The second part of the “body shaming” thing is this: she’s an actress. Her body is extremely important in projecting the required feelings to the audience – this isn’t a job at Applebees were talking about. If she cannot project strength, authority, and danger, then she has no business playing Wonder Woman. It might be PC to hire a parapalegic actor as Batman, but he wouldn’t be able to do the job. Superman could be played by a Rottweiler-Terrier mix, sure, but that shit ain’t gonna work. A skinny under-30 model cannot play Wonder Woman effectively, I don’t care how much pilates she does. Here’s actually a quick rule of thumb for casting directors everywhere: unless the superhero role is Spider-Man, an X-Man, or a sidekick, do not hire anyone under 30. For Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman, extend that to age 35.
Then Why Did They Cast Her, Smarty-Pants?
Why was Gal Gadot cast? Well, I wasn’t in the room for the audition, so I can’t say. Zack Snyder, the director of the flick, says this: “Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful female characters of all time.”
Okay, Zack, good start, good start. He then went on to say that Gal Gadot “has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role.” The only way that sentence makes sense if she has actual MAGICAL QUALITIES like being able to fly, deflect bullets with her wrists, and throw tanks. Her film experience is low, so they didn’t cast away from body type because of her amazing acting abilities. They didn’t cast her for her Wonder Woman-perfect looks, either, so what the hell, guys? Pick one at least – looks, or acting ability. You can’t just throw your hands up and be like, “Fuck it, close enough. Bring in the money trucks.”
Here’s my theory, if you’ll allow me one: they don’t even realize they fucked up. This is the Hollywood casting process, as far as females go, and it has been this way for at least forty years: “Is she thin? Does she have big boobs? Does she have a pretty face? Okay, she’s in.” Are there exceptions to this? Obviously – the Kathy Bateses, Meryl Streeps, and Betty Whites of the world have plenty of roles, but they are all also PHENOMENAL actresses. It’s impossible not to recognize them. But barring incredible skill, studio execs just want to put a hot ass in tight clothes and call it done.
For the most part, somehow, this strategy seems to work. We’ve been taught (by them, basically), that a strong female character is pretty and thin, or, a sexpot. Even Buffy, one of my favorite heroines in fiction, is like 5’3 and 100 pounds. Black Widow as played by Scarlett Johansen is curvier than those girls, but she’s a sexpot. You can pretty much go through any movie, and bop the strong chicks into either category. Why? Because, for some reason, studios think (or guys think) that a women can be strong, but she can’t be intimidating. A twig isn’t intimidating, because she’s a twig. A sexpot isn’t intimidating, because we’re allowed to lust for her, to treat her as an ass and a pair of tits – she fits into the sexual dynamic without making us uncomfortable.
What happens to strong female characters who aren’t twigs or sexpots? They die. TVTropes calls it Vasquez Always Dies, named after the least feminine, most badass female marine in the movie Aliens that, well, dies first. Michelle Rodriguez is practically the patron saint of these type of characters – they aren’t sexual, they aren’t feminine, but they are incredible asskickers, so they die. Vasquezes don’t even last as long as the non-combat, more feminine chicks – those chicks usually survive the whole movie!
So the Hollywood casting playbook reads like this: There are two types of actresses to cast in a strong role that has to survive the movie – twigs, and sexpots. Wonder Woman is neither, and even they knew making Wonder Woman too va-va-voom would draw ire from women. So they looked at their other option: twig. A twig is feminist, right, because she’s not here because she’s a lust machine? Right?! FEMINISM!
Of course, Wonder Woman is unique in that she’s an actual athletic woman, with muscles, and stature. The only movie role that ever even comes close to fitting that mold is Ripley from Alien, played by Sigourney Weaver.
Ripley is tall, physically imposing, not particularly sexy, has no love interests, isn’t defined by a man, survives the movies (mostly), and beats twelve shades of ass. That’s, um, one. That’s one. A single example in the entire stretch of cinematic history. Now, another one probably just jumped into your mind, and I’m going to ask you to keep it to yourself for the sake of my argument. Alright? We cool? Thanks.
You might say “Sif!” from Thor, and yes, she is badass, physically threatening, doesn’t die, and isn’t really sexed out. However, she also isn’t a main character, and she also isn’t allowed to be a love interest of Thor, likely because of all those intimidating things. In the comics, and the mythology, Sif is Thor’s wife. In the movies? Basically she’s relegated to the fourth member of the Warrior’s Three. Expect her to die horribly in Thor 3 – you heard it here, first.
Why Is She Even In the Movie?
That’s the best question. In an already overstuffed flick, why include another superhero, especially one with such a crazy backstory? Who knows. I’d chock it up to fear, DC and Warner Brother’s fear specifically – Marvel is beating them like a dusty rug made from the woven hair of ginger stepchildren. Marvel has had the market share in comics for a long while, and they’re mostly phenomenal movies and threaded universe are carving that same share out of the film industry, too. So now DC is rushing, trying to put together an Avengers-style mega movie as fast as they can, without the benefit of all the character-establishing movies that Marvel provided beforehand.
I’ve always advocated that Wonder Woman just star in her own movie – they’ve tried multiple times to start one up, but it always ends with a comment from a producer like: “Wonder Woman is really hard to do, and I’m totes scared guys.” They’ve said that like three times now, when a movie doesn’t come together.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s Thor, with boobs. Do a Thor movie, with boobs. Fish out of water, check, ancient mythology in modern times, check, magic weapons, check. Use the script, make it Greekier, and do a Control-F and Replace all the names. It would still be amazing.
Also cast someone who looks like they wouldn’t tumble under the weight of an empty martini glass. That would help, too.
I recommend a time machine and Lucy Lawless. Go.