Wonder Woman Rant Redux – muscle, space and physical feminism

Six years ago I wrote the post Wonder Woman—a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses which remains my most popular post ever. *sigh* (because while I’ll always throw in pop culture material regarding physical feminism and all, that’s not the precise focus of my blog even if story is and these are our stories) And as it started getting hits again recently, likely due to people looking for things regarding the new movie, I figured I should add a review to the movie.  But  as I had not made any commentary regarding Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman when Batman v. Superman came out, have been pretty actively avoiding doing so, really, I realized I really need to get the physical feminism issues of this out of the way so I can review Wonder Woman without discussing this aspect.

But first, please let me note that I am really excited about Wonder Woman, it’s way past time to finally have a stand-alone superhero movie for a female character!   To boot, it’s also important that it is being directed by a woman!  Be nice if there were more women in the background, it sucks to “take what we get” but hopefully it’s a step. IF it succeeds. And there is evidence that it is not meant to, that it is being under promoted and it is being released at a bad time in regards to established competition.  

If we want more this movie must succeed strongly!  Pleas go see it, multiple times if you can!  Yeah, use capitalism to our advantage, by the Dr. Pepper! (don’t like Dr. Pepper…yeah, me either, but the cans are what might be worth the purchase)  Buy T-shirts!  Uh, but we have to have our limits, please, PLEASE do NOT buy the fucking diet bars!  Talk and post about the movie!

Let’s make this a huge success and at the same time demand more!  More! More female superhero stand-alone movies!  More female led superhero TV shows! More female directors of both! More female writers of both! More female producers of both! More female show runners!   Also more diversity over all…. women of color, trans-women!

And yes…..More muscle!  

Can someone point me to the original source?!  I found this tons of places via Google but have failed to find the origin.

Part of not writing about this for the past three or four years is just other things going on, but also not wanting to get into the accusations of body-shaming Gal Gadot.  So let’s get a few things clear here:

  1. I in no way wish to body-shame Gadot. This isn’t about her really, she just landed in the middle of an ongoing issue, especially as she never sought out the role. It is about the choice by Zack Snyder, and anyone else involved in casting, to actually pursue her for the role for it despite the fact it was for a character currently shown as largely muscled. This is on the casting not her. I am sorry if her feelings have been hurt, but also see #3 here.I am also sorry she got attacked for her breast size, which is in no way an issue for me. (however, in her defending that someone should inform her that the cutting off a breast thing was likely propaganda created by forcing the Iranian *ha-maz-an “one fighting together” into similar sounding Greek term which conveniently made it sound horrid to Greek women who might want to become one. Certainly, there is no way it would help women draw a bow, quite the opposite, and certainly no evidence that the Sauro-Sarmatian female warriors who probably were sometimes called this did so, especially as they were expected to marry and have children when they gained adulthood [sound familiar?  yes, Amazons were likely among the war bands I am studying, of course] 2,500 year-old Alt-Facts are no more true than modern ones) Yes, perhaps WW is often shown with outrageously large breasts but as they are irrelevant to her ability as a fighter I really do not consider it important. Muscles matter, however.
  2. Discussion of the bodies of actors playing superheroes is not focused only on women, but has
    long been going on with men. The attacks on both Michael Keaton and George Clooney when they were cast as Batman were really before the internet took off and may be forgotten by many and since overshadowed by the, not unrelated, snarking on the rubber batsuits. This is a rather extensive post exploring Batman’s physique, including the actors from Adam West up through Christian Bale from Gotham Alleys. Ben Affleck’s and Henry Cavill’s muscle mass has been up for discussion on the interwebs as well, never mind that they got more upgraded muscle suits to help them out (difficult with bare harms and shoulders of WW’s costume, of course).
  3. Despite the usual cries (from privileged people regardless of the issue) that there should be no “oppression Olympics” oppression is not equal. Some forms of oppression are worse than others. And within particular form of oppression there is definitely a difference, that’s actually the very nature of oppression.  Yes, being “skinny-shamed” or even “societal-ideal-body-shamed” might hurt the individual’s feelings and that is real for them, it is not the same as a largely muscled woman who is
    shamed for “looking like a man” and who is (as is relevant to this issue) unable to get a job in film or TV because they are too muscular, which happens, and that is, honestly, not the same as someone being fat-shamed by being denied all sorts of jobs, being forced to buy an extra seat or not be able to fly at all to not being able to get appropriate healthcare and sometimes dying from that.As thin actresses are favored and get jobs all the time, bitching that muscular actress are left out of a role essentially designed for them is not thin-shaming, it is discussing muscle-shaming. On the other hand, almost all the defensiveness about “thin-shaming”in this situation is really thinly (no pun intended) disguised fat- or muscle-shaming the latter of which is displayed here.In a nutshell, it is simply not thin-shaming to demand that other types of women’s bodies be seen in movies especially when the character is already established as having a body that does not meet the societal ideal.
  4. As a continuation of the above, there is more going on here than one woman’s body shape. It’s the whole damn message that, again, the Women’s Health piece drives home, that women are supposed to be thin and only thin. There is a very narrow (yeah, pun is intended here) range of acceptable body types in the media, especially in any sort of leading role. There is a constant message that women must take up as little space as possible.This was notable to me in watching Batman v. Superman, right down to the first encounter between Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Gadot’s Diana Prince when he towered over her intimidatingly (while Affleck is 6’4″ and Gadot is 5’10”, canon Batman is 6’2″ and the modern canon (we’ll get to this) WW is 6’0″ which is not as notable a difference, and height is easily managed in film so this could

    have played far differently. Again, while already very muscular, both Affleck and Cavill are made almost absurdly large with their suits and in the way they are featured, while Gadot appears diminutive, even while doing “large things.”

    This size disparity is, of course, also found in the comic at times, but is, frighteningly, perhaps mostly geared towards kids as in  Justice League Action.  The message given to girls by always portraying female heroes as a always being able to be strong but thin remains a message to not take up space, to fit a societal ideal that most of us do not and which girls and women harm themselves daily to try to achieve. While also being strong? Can this message be denied here at all when there is a damn tie-in to a weight loss product?

  5. This has been one of a long line of very thin women being cast into muscular roles, a role that is now known for being muscular just as (even more so, really…far more so) Sarah Connor was, where the actress was put into a position of proving she was gaining enough muscle to do so and we are told repeatedly that she did despite all evidence that she doesn’t. Now, again, this seems to get close to thin-shaming, but again it’s about the spin that is put on the issue by the promoters and puts the actress, who surely would rather not be there, into the spotlight to try to prove a point about what women’s bodies are “supposed” to look like.I also can sympathize, I do not put on a lot of muscle even though I work out specifically to attempt to.  So if it’s a matter of not having a mesomorph-dominant  body I get it. I’m totally an endomorph/ectomorph cross.  So why not cast an actress who already does?  Because not all women have difficulty putting on muscle, just as not all men can put muscle on easily!But there is another factor. Are these women actually getting the sort of fitness training that builds muscle.  The Women’s Health piece (I’m not giving them yet another link) claims Gadot said “that she’s been doing “a thousand and one things” to gain body mass in preparation for the role, including kung fu, kickboxing, and jujutsu.”   So, you know, fighting arts is great for preparing for such a role but they do not exactly put on mass. I can only assume those thousand and one things included weight training but, of course, that also has to be done right even for someone genetically inclined to put on muscle.And, here’s the kicker, there’s a long term gas-lighting (no, really, that is what it is) technique in the fitness biz of telling women that “women do not bulk up like men but you must work out to make sure you do not bulk up like a man.” Or even the ever growing popularity of “lift like a man but don’t look like one, just starve yourself.” (no, I am not linking to any of this shit, it’s too easy to find as it is).  It’s so fucking common.  And this little game of “oh, she’s really muscular for a woman, this is is what a proper muscular woman looks like” is a growing part of that gas-lighting.

    This gas-lighting is so pervasive and has been going on so long that women truly believe they can’t bulk up and that they must also avoid bulking up as much as possible. They also believe that a “toned” look, one of the most horrific jokes in fitness, on a woman is comparable to a body-building physique on a man. This is not just cis-women who believe all this (and I do apologize for how cis-centric this all is, the subject makes it difficult to be more diverse at this point) so most people do believe that Gadot (and other actresses put through this), for a woman, has “really bulked up.”

    (Want some great reading on how how sports media plays into this gas-lighting check out Body Panic: Gender, Health and the Selling of Fitness by Shari L Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs and Built to Win: the Female Athlete as Cultural Icon by Leslie Heywood and Dworkin)

  6. This movie is tied in with a fucking weight loss product!
  7. Sorry Women’s Health (no, not linking again), but while you can be strong and thin bigger strong people will still be stronger!  Simple physics!   “Oh, but she’s super-powered.”  Yeah, so is Superman and if there is any superhero who doesn’t need size on his side it’s Superman…yet he keeps getting bigger so….  STFU!  You’re just espousing sexist sizism that dictates women must strive to be as small as possible with this sort of shit. (I’d also be interested in whether under the circumstances of Superman’s superpowers, the yellow sun, which makes virtually nothing a real resistance for him, if such a creature would have much muscle mass at all. Anyone? ….and make it something more than an opinion because I don’t care so much to give that time, thanks).We know the Amazons trained. I expect muscle. It appears there will be in some of the Amazons, although I have yet to see boxer Anne Wolfe or MMA fighter Madeleine Vall in costume yet.
  8. A fucking weight loss product!
  9. Wonder Woman is certainly not about weight loss, she has instead, happily gained both height and weight. The Golden Age WW was, indeed, a rather tiny 122 lbs at 5’8″.   The New 52 WW is 165 lbs at 6’0″ -but honestly she often looks more muscular than that likely would.
  10.  So this movie, which should be about showing women are strong and powerful as superheroes, who can take on men, monsters and armies, is still giving us a message that this better be done while avoiding taking up too much space. Brought fully home by the fact that, they tied it into a fucking weight loss product!
  11. We have a legitimate expectation to see more varied feminine bodies on screen and that does include ones which are muscular especially when the character is already know to be and is supposed to be physically powerful!
  12. We have a legitimate expectation to see women taking up space in movies! And everywhere!  We have a legitimate right to take up space!
  13. We don’t want your fucking weight loss products!

Again, the take away is that this might annoy many of us ,but it is vital, especially if we want to see female superhero muscle to support this movie!  Which looks like it might be very good, despite this. Which is why I wanted this out of the way before I saw and reviewed it.

But also success means more female-led superhero films, more female directed superhero films, hopefully more female produces superhero films. And other such action films, maybe too!  Because right now the myth that women’s action movies do not bring in money, something which they seem to want to prove by not promoting WW as much as they already are Justice League. We have the promise of a Captain Marvel, which will be the first female-lead stand-alone Marvel offering in 2019.  Can we hope for others to follow? Only if we make this big!

In fact, this doe not need to be the last Wonder Woman of our times. Superman and Batman have had too many actors to count (well, okay, I’m too lazy) playing them since Kirk Alyn (who preceded George Reeves) and  Lewis Wilson (who preceded Robert Lowery who preceded Adam West), respectively.  Meanwhile, actually making it to screen Gadot is only the third live action actress, following the well known Linda Carter TV series run in the 1970 and the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot movie that ran the year before Carter’s series was picked up instead. There’s a lot of room there for more women playing Wonder Woman. And TV is another option.

And as Supergirl is slated early for a third season on CW, which is picking up more DC titles and which has already been established is a different Earth than the DC movies with different actors playing the Flash, I think it is now the time for them to finally do a workable Wonder Woman with a different and buff actress playing her.  And without resorting to the dreck of the previous series attempt and remember that even bits that might work for raised-since-a-young-age-as-a-“regular-girl” Supergirl is not going to work with raised-to-be-a-warrior-since-birth Amazon  Oh, she might love sharing ice cream with her bestie but not to cry over her “lost love.”  While we’re at it, let’s make sure her best friend is Etta Candy (or if they met way back, Etta’s granddaughter or something) and make sure she is fat and athletic and a fucking badass as she should be and never actually the joke she could have been (and I’m waiting to see how the movie does with her)…and never, ever have her mention wanting to lose weight because Etta does not give a fuck about your fat-shaming standard!  Oh, yeah, Diana should be bi too, because finally what was really quite obvious has been officially acknowledged. And also she must fight Nazis. I’ll discuss the taking her story back to WWI instead of WWII when I have actually seen the movie, but the original Wonder Woman came to the Man’s World during the World War II to battle the threat of Nazis. She has had to battle Nazis cropping up at various times. We have a real Nazi problem right now, we need her fighting Nazis now!

So we need to make this move HUGE and then voice our desires to see such a show come up soon.

Go to the movie, take friends, go lots of times if you can, take more friends! Post and promote, if they won’t we have to!  Buy products, but not the fucking diet bars!  Let’s remind them that women bring an audience!

ETA: I just had this go through my feed!  I guess they were just waiting to promote it (or something), so another way make this big and get more WW and more of other female superheroes is participate he shit out Wonder Woman Day

 

Wonder Woman, with muscle, punching Trump mural in Pilidelpha

Wonder Woman—a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses

 If you are looking for something on the 2017 movie I have Wonder Woman Rant Redux – muscle, space and physical feminism I intend to do a review after I see the movie early in June. (but I never did)

It would be impossible that Wonder Woman has nothing at all to do with why I’m here writing this sort of WW cover for Vol. 1 -178 1968stuff. But the truth is, I can’t really remember how much of an influence she might have really been. It seems a lot, but I also realize some issues with those memories. Did I discover Greek Mythology or WW first?I don’t know. Did I gravitate to Greek polytheism when about 9 or 10 years old due to WW or was I drawn to her due to my devotion to Artemis? I don’t remember which came first.

But as the the new pilot, the recently revealed costume from it and all WW cover Vol. 1 - 201 1972the blather on the web about it, she’s been on my mind. Oh, and that blather several months ago about her new costume in the comic, which most people talking about the new TV movie one, mostly, don’t seem to know about. Frankly, the costume even before the recent discovery I made wasn’t the biggest deal. Stupid but not the biggest deal. But then, when I started reading her book (and it was always sporadic that I got them), she shortly there after wasn’t wearing the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit anyway. The Amazons had left Earth to save their powers, but Diana Prince stayed behind, gave up her powers and the Wonder Woman moniker, took up karate and opened a boutique. In some of the issues at the time, she wore a white jumpsuit, with flat soled boots, no less! So get over “she’s in pants, ZOMG!” she’s worn them before.

Her first TV appearance was probably largely inspired by this “Mod” version and was also blond. I’m going to admit that I liked that part, being, you know blondCathy Lee Crosby in Wonder Woman (1974) (which is my real hair color, although I hennaed most of my adult life, I’m black to the blond now). And she wore a skirt, with dark tights and blue boots. And was played by Cathy Lee Crosby. I don’t really remember it much, but I remember being thrilled by the movie. I’m told it was actually very, very bad, but, hey, I was 12 and desperately looking for any good female character to watch. Even if it wasn’t a very good show…after all, TV was not particularly good back then, anyway. And I remember desperately wanting a blond Goddess worshiping, ass kicking role model. (yeah, I know, poor little ‘underrepreseneted” white girl, hey, I was a kid)Lynda Carter in The New Original Wonder Woman series

But no one else did so that didn’t make it, and when the next pilot came along it was Lynda Carter in the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit, WWII style…sort of. Actually the style was a bit shorter legged than the original shorts version, which followed the original skirted.

Which sort of brings us to just how much and how often the costume changed. It changed quite a bit over the years and I can hardly catalog Lynda Carter in The New Adventures of Wonder Woman all of it here. That’s been done anyway by Carol A. Strickland at A Brief History of the Wondie Suit. She gives a great run down, but I mostly disagree with her opinion wise. See….I really sort of always hated the suit. Perhaps it was that I got some sense from the Diana Prince era of pants and sensible shoes, but fighting crime in a bathing suit just never made sense to me. Even when Carter’s WW moved into the ’70s with a higher cut leg.

While I won’t replicate the whole run down that Strickland does, here’s a look at some of the original sketches by Dr. William Moulton Marston, who created (with a bit of help from his wives) Wonder Woman under the pen name Charles Moulton. I do apologize, I have found this on so many sites and blogs that I cannot trace an original source.

Wonder Woman sketch by William Moulton MarstonThis is the original suit. Note, no red boots, although they were there in the beginning once she was actually in the comics. The strappy sandals, hmmm…just another nod, such as the lasso and cuffs, to Marston’s bondage lifestyle? Keep the straps in mind, now, we’ll come back to that later. (However rather than diverge into Marston’s lifestyle, including living with two women and believing that bondage would bring world piece, I will let SheWire.com speak in Wonder Woman Amazon Princess of Bondage and Submission? A Brief History)

Variations of WW costume pre-2011So here’s just a few examples of Wonder Woman costumes through the years. Again nothing compared to the Strickland run down linked above. It wasn’t always the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit anyway, but even that changed a lot.

WW wasn’t always Diana, either, several others grabbed the title for awhile. Two redheads, one named Artemis, had short lived careers (that was when Diana wore that black bike short get Donna Troy as WW in WW Vol 3 (not sure of issue #) 2006up instead) and short lives once they donned the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit. Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, took the role, her adopted sister Donna Troy who had become Wonder Girl took the Wonder Woman moniker in a somewhat more metallic costume.

Earth 1, Earth 2, New Earth, Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Bronze Age, Silver Age…. The thing is, comics get deep into changes, alternate realities (including a cross-gendered world with the Manazons), more changes, total redactions and, yes, just plain clothing changes. So holding on to a really very silly Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit seems, well, really silly. But all those things did seem to cause a stir so, this costume thing has been an issue since they changed WW’s costume in the comics last year.
Wonder Woman circa 2010 jacket
The first look was fully jacketed and Athletic Woman blog did note this as an issue, as, SOMETIMES Wonder Woman was drawn quite muscular (once could probably do another 15 page index like Strickland’s just on the muscle, but the ’04 pics will do for now) and the jacket hides tWW circa 2010 no jackethe arms. However, the jacket comes off.
WW 2004
And the top has straps! It could stay on. Okay, it has a lot of straps, right down the arms. Which, if not stretchy would create some interference with muscles. But, seriously, this is a nod to WW’s bondage origins, no? Which is part of her history, after all.

Me, I like the new comic costume, mostly. I like the pants, but would really like them a bit less painted on. I like the lower heel on the boot and really do not give a fuck that they’re not red (because, who need red boots? why is that such a big fucking deal? Red is glaringly cheesy color for boots), but I’d like them a bit, clunkier, but then I’d have given her combat boots so…. And I like the darker look, although I know a lot out there hate it.

The darker look goes with the also very controversial greater violence that Wonder Woman has apparently been displaying. A lot of people are having a hard time with that too. Me, it almost brought me back into buying the book when I heard about it, but…well, we’ll get to that in a moment.Adrianne Palicki in original blue boot costume for failed WW pilot

The TV version, however, is trying to play it both ways. They have the pants and the blue boots, but are going with the baby blue and the higher boot. It’s just all to bright and shiny for me, I do like the dark urban look most people are hating on. But mostly, why would anyone want to go back to the strapless bustier thing…it’s always been the stupidest part of Wonder Woman’s costume. Seriously, do you want to be in a fight worrying if your top is going to fall off? You move around enough and no amount of boobage is going to keep that on. It’s just not.

Of course, the costume in the NBC movie/pilot is all we have to rant on, because it’s all we know at this point. I’d love to see way more muscle on a live action Wonder Woman today than Adrianne Palicki is packing in this photo (ETA: having now seen her as Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse in Agents of SHIELD, Palicki can buff up and she was excellent in that role and I’m sad that the spin off did not happen). I’m leery of her action acting chops, as the only thing I’ve seen her in has been as a rather vapid victim, but it’s unfair to say she doesn’t have those chops based on that. I hope she works out a bit more though. I wish Rhona Mitra got the role, dammit!

A big part of my plan here was to note, that pants, maybe even tight pants, are totally appropriate for an Amazon warrior despite the usual Greek toga image that most people think:

An Amazon in pants on Greek vase Amazon in pants training horse on Greek vase

But, over all, I wonder if I care anymore. Because while I needed to rant on the costume fervor, while checking this all out and considering starting to buy the book again after all these years, I discovered something. Remember, the first bit here, in some way the Goddess worshiping Amazon Princess Diana is part of my early memories of worshiping Goddesses myself, as well as probably inducing an early interest in the warrior path. I actually did worship Artemis and other Greek Goddesses early on, as They were the ones I had learned about, the ones I knew. And Artemis is such a perfect Goddess for adolescent girls. But She stayed with me for years after.
Wonder Woman at templeThen in a very powerful way, She turned me over to An Morrígan. It was actually a pretty traumatic experience for the pacifist I was and culturally mind boggling as I ended up finding myself having to explore Gaelic culture far more than anyone I knew at the time was.

And now….Wonder Woman is facing a new enemy, a Triple Goddess out to destroy the Amazons. Yup, that would be The Morrigan. This is just horrific to me."Bellona" one of the "Morrigan" in New Earth WW 2011

I’ve been trying to find pictures and more information, but so far it seems only two names and pictures exist or at least have made it to the internets. One is Bellona…um, wrong culture assholes! The other is Anann!!!! Damn! They got one right?! Most polytheist claiming to worship An Morrígan usually seem to miss Her!"Annan" one of the "Morrigan" in New Earth WW 2011 No clue as to the third, can’t find it anywhere. Nope, not going to give DC money to find out.
(ETA: Apparently the third is Enyo, who is a Greek Goddess of war. So apparently while they use the title The Morrigan, they are using only one Irish Goddess, and then the Roman Bellona and Greek Enyo…which is just more Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!)

So, the hells with the costume, to hells with who plays her in the most recent live action depiction. I’m offended! I’m done! I’ve had it!

The first Goddess worshiping role model is fighting my Goddess? Or a cockeyed, ignorant rendition of Her. Insulting! ahem

I don’t know what to think any more. Really, I just wanted to rant about the costume and my worries about the casting. I wanted to start reading the comic again, now that perhaps I an actually sort of kind of afford to do so. But instead…another little piece of my Pagan childhood has been destroyed. And not due to the loss of a fucking Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit.

ETA: Here’s The Daily Beast’s commentary on the script for the pilot with the eight cringiest moments…at least one would hope they’re the worse.

ETA April 2: photos from filming show Palicki in a somewhat modified costume, obviously Adrianne Palicki in running in red boot version of costume for failed WW pilotsome of the feed back out there got picked up. Red boots, why that was such a big deal is beyond me, but I do approve of the lower heel. Slightly darker, less shiny legging with stars, the last was another thing that really wasn’t a big deal to me. But the strapless top, waaay too low to be remotely reasonable, just is so bad. In the videos taken at the shooting, you can see her picking at the top and I think her posture over all suggests that she feels very uncomfortable and is focused on whether it’s staying up. Seriously, give the woman some straps!

Wonder Woman an all comic images are owned by DC Comics, the image of Palicki is from NBC and Warner Brothers, who can own that damn costume.