Gal Gadot Cast As Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman! Hollywood perpetuates body double standards! Complaints about female casting are mostly based on their body! SURPRISE!
CONTROVERSY! RUN ABOUT AND SHOUT INTERNET PEOPLES FOR HOLLYWOOD HAS WROUGHT ANOTHER DEMOGRAPHICAL INSULT AKIN TO A POISONED SHIV! ALIENATION! PANIC! BETRAYAL! DESECRA…
You know what, nuts to it, I can’t keep this up.
Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman.
There it is, the latest mild Geek-storm that has risen up internationally to snarl and nip at somewhere in the region of what I imagine to be Hollywood’s knees. Seeing as Hollywood is going to pay about as much attention to this protest as Queen Elizabeth II would to the daily plight of plankton, I’m going to take it upon myself to pick up on an intriguing issue that has flown out of the comedy dustcloud fistfight and is currently attempting to get tagged back in to break things up.
For those that don’t know, Gal Gadot is an Israeli actress/supermodel who, until now, has been most famous for her role as Gisele Harrabo in The Fast and the Furious film franchise and for winning the Miss Israel title in 2004. She auditioned for and was subsequently cast in a majorly iconic role in geek and feminist culture, an achievement which SHOULD only be applauded and awaited with open minds.
This is in fact what has happened:
— Garrett Becker (@GarrettWBecker) December 4, 2013
GarrettWBecker posted on Twitter: ‘Does Gal Gadot have large enough breasts to play Wonder Woman? That’s a valid question?! #LookatHer #BodyImageinMedia.’
haz_elnino wrote: ‘The only thing I’m worried about Gal Gadot getting cast as Wonder Woman is that she’s too skinny, like anorexic skinny. Time to gain weight.’
While BhuSidhu said: ‘Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman. I love that chick, although she might be too skinny for the role.’
Freepaperclips added: ‘So, I’m not the type to say this normally, but Gal Gadot is going to have to bulk up, if DC plans on showing Wonder Woman. She’s skinny…’
Maribbons posted: ‘I don’t like that Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonderwoman. She’s so skinny and Wonderwoman in my eyes is curvy and strong.’
You can interpret this is a few ways. Hollywood perpetually lusting after ‘thin and thinner’, people being prejudiced against that body type due to the media, inappropriate casting… This may take a while kiddos, there is a lot to wade through.
While the first quote above is a particularly viperous and damaging one, the ones listed below it are, despite being entirely body focused, actually reasonably phrased concerns which are articulated politely. Hell one of them even expresses their ‘love’ of the actress which is compromised in this case by concerns about her physical suitability for the role. And therein is the MAHUSSIVE issue that is bubbling away under the geek nation butthurt.
Wonder Woman’s initial depictions in the early comics showed her to be an athletic yet curvy build with appropriate layering of musculature. The character (even if the art did not continue to reflect it, I’m looking at you Escher Girls!) has generally been shown as a positive, assertive and capable woman. (Bob Chipman did a very interesting ‘Big Picture’ article on the origins of Wonder Woman that you should definitely check out; Movie Bob is a lovely man). Gal Gadot’s body type – although there is nothing wrong with it – is not the same as our comic book Amazonian Princess and only specialist diets and training regimens could sculpt her body otherwise. Let’s also not forget that Gal was part of the Israeli Army at one stage. She is plenty tough enough to make it happen and therein may lie the saving grace of this entire argument.
Director Zac Snyder has given the following statement: “Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role. We look forward to audiences discovering Gal in the first feature film incarnation of this beloved character.”
While it is setting a good example to place the focus entirely on character and ability, how far you choose to believe Mr Snyder, writer of such compelling female characters as… um… well… none, is up to you.
So herein lies the first problem. Physicality vs. talent.
How much should physical characteristics impact on casting decisions?
Ludicrously incongruent casting has been rife for years, with Grease being a prime example with a pack of 20 somethings playing high school students.
Above all, actors have to be believable in a role. Casting David Tennant as the lead in a film entitled ‘The Life and Times of Macho Man Randy Savage’ just isn’t going to work. It wouldn’t work because you wouldn’t believe that his character capable of attaining and functioning in that roles. David looks like he may have issues carrying several crates of beer let alone throwing a 300lb slab of profusely sweating, lycra clad muscle through a table.
With her current physicality I would not believe, despite the fact that she is a superhero and naturally possesses super human strength, that Gal Gadot could not accomplish the feats of strength and agility that Wonder Woman does. To use ‘Natural Superhuman Strength’ as an excuse for physical unsuitability is lazy, insulting and (poking my head above the parapet here) is something I don’t think would ever happen with iconic male superhero characters such as Superman or Thor. (Just imagine it, our very own Simon Pegg as Thor, crackin’).
A media heavily influenced by the ‘Male Gaze’ (ask Laura Mulvey) has paradoxically created an arena whereby men are more constrained by their bodies than women. If a role should call for physical strength (e.g. the role of a US Marine) you are guaranteed musclebound jarheads ahoy-hoy for the men with no logical room for anyone with a less enhanced physique and… very slight women with less defined musculature performing the same function. The point I’m trying to make is that (please do correct me if I’m wrong) a woman can play any role, regardless of physical suitability, if she is coded ‘attractive’ or ‘desirable’.
But it doesn’t have to be like that! Aliens (1986) was fantastic for relevant and congruent casting. Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez was a marine through and through and looked like she could perform as adequately in her vocation as her male counterparts; this was especially reflected in her physique. Ripley, a warrant officer turned cargo loader, does not have the same level of physical conditioning but is nevertheless capable for what her profession demands.
Lena Headey is a fine actress with bucket loads of presence, grace and beauty, but I have to admit my eyebrow was raised when she was selected to become Sarah Connor. Heady is of a very slight build (some even went as far as calling her emaciated) and did not seem to have the amount of toned and defined muscle mass that people had been looking for in their Sci Fi heroine previously played by Linda Hamilton (some feminist websites went a tad rabid at this point).
However, Headey has the presence and power to carry that role despite her physical differences. She has been quoted as saying “The film had the luxury of more money and more time. If they were gonna give me a month, and a trainer every day, and a chef, then it would be fantastic… It’s a TV show, for God’s sake!”
And since taking on the role, she has received nothing but praise. While I disagreed with her initial casting for physical differences, I can acknowledge that her performance was spot on. But is acceptance of this is something we should adopt so readily just because a couple of times, quelle surprise, a well-known and talented actress put in a very good performance and consequently the product was a success?
Worryingly enough, the question we have to ask ourselves is: does Hollywood truly favour the most slender builds over suitable body types or are we being paranoid? Are they really proliferating this idea of desirability that many women feel the need to attain whether it is their natural body shape or not?
At the end of this article I would LOVE for someone to contact me with a film in which a female lead or protagonist is plus size and is not a comedy or the comic relief in an otherwise serious flick. Apart from ‘Precious’. But honestly, I don’t think there will be as many as I would hope.
As for the equality angle, Caitlin Moran is right. The question we should ask is: ‘Is this happening to the boys?’
Physically contradictory casting? No.
Talent/character based contradictory casting? Yes. Ish. Let’s not delve too deeply into the ‘BatFleck’ scandal here, but if we look at it in relation to female casting we can see a slightly worrying trend with regard to the female form in media.
Such outrages mainly occur with comic book characters because of their precious nostalgic nature to what has been until recently a marginalized social demographic. People have been raised by the morality tales of these paper-based prophets and these iconic figures have very well-defined characters and looks as they are hero archetypes portrayed in a principally visual medium as a product (let’s not be forgetting that).
HOWEVER! The Batfleck controversy, over-reactions and petitions aside, was based on acting ability and type casting. It took me a little while to wade through the creche that is the ‘Anti Ben Affleck as Batman’ petitioners to ascertain their reasons for opposing the man with such vigour and venom. (There was a lot of NO, DON’T LIKE IT , HE SMELLS OF POO AND I DON’T LIKE HIM, trust me). The complains were about acting ability and suitability for the character. Physicality didn’t really come into it (apart from a few nasty remarks about his chin).
Complaints surrounding female casting are nearly always based on their body. See also: Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, that was another big one, especially for feminists.
While I think this is overall a negative and consistent focus on the purely physical aspect of an actress (something we don’t so much need to step away from but relieve it of its drink and ask it to leave the party), it is a justifiable argument for feminists to challenge the portrayal of women in film and TV.
I want to believe that Gal was cast for the right combination of reasons NOT because she was skinny and pretty (once again calling upon what limited faith we have in Zac Snyder) but the track record with regard to the media at large and the question of the female form and desirability doesn’t fill me with hope. This argument is a paradox. If it is argued that the focus should not be purely on an actresses physicality we cannot then raise issue with incongruent physical casting when there is no issue with regard to talent and ability. We can change a lot about our bodies; hair colour, eye colour, weight etc. so the alteration of body to fit a physical brief is far simpler than it once was. If you think about it another way, marathon runners alter their bodies for physically strenuous events because they need to fulfil a certain level of fitness in order to get the job done. The main hope in this case study if you will is that change occurs.
We should campaign for realistically written, believable and compelling female characters played by actresses who can suitably represent them in every aspect of who the character is, not just one or the other. With so many actresses out there, we shouldn’t have to sacrifice acting skill for physical credibility, or vice versa.
Overall we need to start re-examining and rejecting contrivances that purely serve to reinforce and perpetuate prescriptive gender stereotypes against all principles of reason. And we need to apply this with consistency in how and why actors and actresses find work. This is far from a clear-cut debate and I sincerely hope that this article has raised more questions than provided answers.
Is Gal Gadot an amazing pick for Wonder Woman? That remains to be seen; we can’t say until we see the film. I will be happy, nay, delighted if when the time comes around we see Gal Gadot portray Wonder Woman in every aspect of the character, physical, emotional and mental. There will be cause for more rant however if she remains as slender as she is now and we are expected to believe that she can throw cars at people.
I freely admit that she wouldn’t have sprung to my mind first because I don’t know her as an actress but first and foremost because of the way she looks, (sorry Gal!) but best of luck to her. It is an incredible achievement and an intimidating honour to be asked to portray the most iconic female superheroes and role models of the comic book industry. I, for one, hope she surprises all the sceptics, delights all her stalwart fans and most of all, thoroughly enjoys it.