Wonder Woman, a new movie, is breaking box office records.
It had the biggest opening weekend ever for a female director (Patty Jenkins) and is the highest-grossing comic book superhero movie with a female lead — Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman. As of June 11, 2017, Wonder Woman has grossed $206.3 million in the United States and Canada and $230.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $436.5 million, against a production budget of $149 million.
But feminists are crabby about the movie because of its portrayal of Wonder Woman as a tall, thin, white, “heteronormal” and caring woman.
Writing for the Ms. Magazine Blog on June 5, 2017, Stephanie Abraham gripes:
Why couldn’t Wonder Woman be a woman of color? When it was announced that Gadot would play Wonder Woman, audiences went wild body shaming her for not having large enough breasts. One can only imagine the white supremacy that would have emerged had the announcement said instead that she would be played by a Black woman. […] Also, while the female warriors are strong and ass-kicking, they all have tall, thin body types and they all could be models on a runway. In fact, in a pivotal battle scene, Wonder Woman struts across the battlefield as if on a catwalk. As a result, their physical strength plays second fiddle to their beauty, upholding the notion that in order to access power women must be beautiful in a traditional way. Especially with the body positivity movement gaining steam, the film could have spotlighted female warriors with fat, thick and short body types. While people have said that warriors can’t be fat, some of our best paid male athletes are, particularly linebackers on the football field, and no one doubts their physical strength.
Another problem is that the story’s overt queerness gets sublimated by heteronormativity. Diana comes from a separatist commune of women who have intentionally chosen to live without men. In one of the first scenes between Diana and Steve, she explains that she read 12 volumes of a series on sex that concluded that while men are required for reproduction, when it comes to female pleasure, they’re unnecessary. While a love story develops between them, a requirement in superhero stories, Diana thankfully doesn’t compromise her integrity for him.
In the end, Wonder Woman concludes that “only love can save the world.” While this may be true, I’ve never heard any other superhero say so. Why couldn’t Wonder Woman fight for justice and eliminate bad guys without having to in the end make it about love? Perhaps a more interesting question is: Why don’t male superheroes do the same?
While people argue that women are “feminine” and naturally more inclined to love, this thinking quickly slides into dangerous assumptions like women are more cut out for caring for children and processing feelings. This gender essentialism not only keeps women in the home, it undercuts men’s emotional and creative capabilities. It also reflects the current double standard that women can have it all, but in order to do so we have to work harder than everyone else and carry it all on our shoulders.
If Stephanie Abraham’s pic on the Ms. blog is to be believed, she is thin, white, and blonde — the epitome of WASPness, despite her Jewish last name, and the very opposite of the “short, fat and black” attributes she insists Wonder Woman should have. Hypocrite!