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Mayapinion: All I Want For Christmas is a Wonder Woman With Muscles

December 6, 2013

Mayapinion: All I Want For Christmas is a Wonder Woman With Muscles
by Maya Reddy

December 4, 2013 marks the first time since 1979 that a live action Wonder Woman has been cast. With one month to go till production begins, Man of Steel 2, the sequel to Zac Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot, has found another special guest star, Wonder Woman. It was announced today that relatively unknown Israeli actress, Gal Gadot will be wielding the lasso of truth in 2015. The casting of Gal Gadot raises an interesting question regarding the hypersexualization of leading women in film and television, especially in the action and science fiction genres: are we giving young women the role model they need by casting a rail-thin, muscle-less Wonder Woman?

The character of Wonder Woman, despite her years of controversial costume changes, is a character that embodies female empowerment. Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince (her alter-ego), fights alongside the best of the DC Universes’ male heroes and is just as, if not even more, effective in stopping crime and evil as her male counterparts. She is a strong female character who has traditionally been represented as such in the DC comics universe, as well as in the 1970s TV show starring Lynda Carter. 

So it only makes sense for a contemporary telling of Wonder Woman to adhere to the previous representations and portray Wonder Woman as the realistic strong female character that she is. After all, Wonder Woman was originally described in Wonder Woman #105 as “beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury”.

Wonder Woman is an Amazonian warrior princess - she grew up in a culture where women reign supreme, an idea of feminine power that has devastatingly become subordinate to a western obsession with a particular definition of beauty. In a culture where blogs praise unhealthy eating habits, a time where film and television are increasingly becoming more predictable in their themes and utilization of gender roles, and in a culture where the classic (super)hero narrative dominates the box office - it is time for young girls to have a female superhero admire. This hero should represent female empowerment as Wonder Woman originally embodied it - empowerment that is based on something far deeper than physical appearance. Wonder Woman should demonstrate that being a hero is not inherently tied with popular ideas of beauty that hinge on women being skinny and flawless. By casting someone that looks like Gal Gadot - a 5’9”, size 0, 110 pound woman - Warner Brothers sends the message that in order to be a hero, one must look like Gadot. Skeletal and sexy. Instead of taking the chance to create a meaningful and strong role model for young women, WB is perpetuating the tradition of the hypersexualization of leading female roles that originate from the straight-male perspective of most mainstream action and sci-fi movies.

This is not to say I have anything against Ms. Gadot, but I do feel strongly against the way in which Wonder Woman will be presented in the upcoming movie. Wonder Woman is a character that presents the unique opportunity to bring forth a larger discussion about women’s rights, and be as much of a role model for young women as the boy scout Superman has been for young boys for 50 years (happy anniversary boy scout!). Moreover, portraying Wonder Woman as a tough as nails gal who is strong and is not ashamed of her muscles and strength could help encourage women to think about their bodies in a more healthy way, and hopefully decrease the negative body image that is so prevalent for women in culture today.

Wonder Woman is a badass. And being a badass does not have to mean you have won a beauty contest. It means that you are not afraid to stand up for what is right, to protect what you love, and to be proud of yourself and confident in your own skin. I want a Wonder Woman like that. I want a Wonder Woman who I would want my daughter to look up to. I want a Wonder Woman who women can be proud of.

We love strong female characters, and now with the likes of Katniss Everdeen and Tris (from the upcoming Divergent), they are finally getting their due, but it is not enough. I believe that the best way for Wonder Woman to be presented is in a television drama, not unlike Arrow or the soon to be introduced Flash. There Diana would have ample time to be developed as a hero, and would be a strong female hero that is visible every week on cable TV (CW are you listening to me?). The inclusion of Wonder Woman in the cadre of superhero movies that have been arriving in the past few years also poses the chance to attain gender equity in film. So why can’t we have a Wonder Woman that is beautiful and strong, and empowers young women today. Is it too much to ask for some muscles on my superheroes?

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