My husband, friends, and I have been having a lot of discussions regarding the physical depictions of comic book characters in film, largely in response to the pictures that have come out of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. There have been many complaints about the film version of the character, from the fact that she has ridiculous high heels, to her strikingly Xena-inspired costume… but so much of the discussion has been about her body. And I have to admit, although I automatically have some strong feelings, I’m pretty torn myself.
I heart WW as a character – she’s damn strong and isn’t afraid to show it, fights for good, and minus some origin story issues, generally seems to be unquestioningly comfortable in her own skin. To reflect this very physical character, the better [physical] depictions of her in comics have not been afraid to show she has muscle. Sure, others have drawn her with less definition and mass, but that could potentially be chalked up to a stylistic wand that waves over many comics. Some of my favorite WW art found here shows her as solid, defined, and in some strips, facing many of the body image issues his culture lays upon us (Photoshop, problems with clothing sizes and shopping).
With that in mind, I was very disappointed when I saw the first promo pic of Gal Gadot as WW. The first glance impression is disappointing. She just doesn’t look muscular at all. The heels, which I’m guessing were there to add height and sex appeal (ha!), just elongate and narrow her form even further.
When she was chosen for the role, critics then called out that her body type wasn’t right for the role, but they were assured that she would work to bulk up and be a better fit. While she isn’t supermodel-thin (which she is capable of being), she hasn’t done what was promised. Her current form would probably be okay for other roles, ones that were less strength, more gymnastic (think Catwoman, or Black Widow). But this is Wonder Woman, and you have to be able to believe she could lift a car. And there are so damn many great actresses who can and do pull it off, all the time. See my Badass Ladies series for further proof. We as a culture don’t need more thin-appeal. We don’t have to be afraid of strong.
And yet… There’s a part of me that feels for Gal Gadot. I don’t know what her personal goals going into this were, and I don’t know what her training was like. I know I can only imagine how she is feeling right now. But if she really did do her very best, and wanted to do better… I GET that. This might be really hard for her. I’ve been there, just generally on the too-big rather than too-small end. Just the other day, I was feeling down on myself, because I wasn’t getting as muscular as fast as a part of myself envisioned (stupidly… I mean it’s only been a month of Crossfit, and two-ish of really consistent exercise / strength training). Thank goodness I’m not in film or theater, cuz I can only imagine the shreds of a body I’d be left with, with all the demands on appearance. And different bodies react differently to training, some getting definition really quickly, some a lot more slow-going. Some people’s metabolisms are more forgiving.
To address another question… Is the negative reaction against her appearance body-shaming? It’s not the shame that people live with on a daily basis for their baseline size/shape. This is something outside of her normal that she was working towards. But I guess in the strictest sense it could be, because this is the body she’s living in now.
So I’m torn between feeling betrayed by the depiction of a beloved character, and feeling for an actress who’s human. I have deep deep reservations for when I see it on screen because in the end I am hoping to see MY character, but I will give it a chance. Maybe, while not the ideal, her acting will really bring it to life. Maybe we’ll be blown away. I can only hope.