Last week’s announcement of Gal Gadot’s selection as the next Wonder Woman came with the expected mixed reaction. Casting a relatively unknown actress for the part in their Man of Steel follow-up — a Batman-Superman crossover — is a bold move for producers Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder, who already shocked comic fans everywhere when announcing that Ben Affleck would be the new Batman (a scandal I now call “Batffleck-Gate”).
Gadot’s previous film roles are limited to side appearances in Knight and Day (that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz action-romance-comedy jaunt no one remembers), Steve Carrell and Tina Fey’s Date Night and the first, fifth and sixth Fast and Furious installments. Clearly, she has something that convinced Nolan and Snyder that she could fill the legendary red boots. History shows that the former can be trusted with decisions like this — Nolan put his faith in Heath Ledger as the Joker despite comic fan outcry, and we all know how much that amazing performance stunned everyone.
But instead of the same “Oh, God, not him. Remember how bad Daredevil was?” backlash seen when Affleck was chosen as Christian Bale’s successor to the cowl, Gadot has been the target for a lot of criticism that targets her sexuality. Sadly, this isn’t too unexpected — Anne Hathaway was criticized when it was announced she would be playing Catwoman in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, with online commentary complaining that she lacked the sex appeal present in Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal. When the movie came out, however, many critics hailed her as the best part of the rather pretentious film.
What amateur critics are saying about Gadot, though, is the flipside of Fat Shaming. Many have complained that she is too skinny to play an Amazon warrior — they apparently don’t realize that she was a member of the Israeli Army for two years and landed the part of Gisele in the Fast and Furious franchise based on her physical capabilities. So really, she’s more Amazon than most of the women in Hollywood.
The reason for including of Wonder Woman in an already hero-filled adventure is also under scrutiny. While Marvel has included Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in almost every Avengers installment since Iron Man 2, women in the DC films have been as invisible as Wonder Woman’s plane. The Dark Knight Rises saw the inclusion of Hathaway’s villainess-turned-heroine, but that was still just a small cat scratch on the surface of the comic line’s pantheon of female supers, which includes Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Andromeda, Starfire, Super Girl, Black Canary and Batgirl. Solo superheroines are kryptonite for movie studios, apparently, so I guess we’ll have to tack on as many as we can to male-led films in the meantime.
Common speculation says that Wonder Woman will be both a side heroine and the third piece of the traditional Lois Lane-Superman-Wonder Woman love triangle. “I hope that I can be involved with a woman on screen where we’re not in a love triangle,” Amy Adams, who plays Lois, said in a Time article. This comes after Adams has competed over a man twice in films released this month: with Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle and Scarlet Johansson’s Siri-style voice in Her.
With the strides made in Hollywood this year for women in lead roles, it’s very possible that the Batman vs. Superman film could survive without a love triangle. The comics included such a plot factor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to keep it in for the film. Nolan has been known to change up comic culture — Joe Chill, the homeless man who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents in Batman Begins is shot, while in some comics he later becomes the Joker — and this would be a perfect time to prove conventional Hollywood wrong.
Kate Everson is Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”