What is wrong this picture?
It depends on whom you ask, really. So far, I have heard:
1. “Nothing. I like it!”
This is mostly my guy friends. Then again, it’s hard to find a heterosexual guy friend who doesn’t think any woman bearing a sword and showing this much leg looks perfect. (She doesn’t, but there’s always grace for swooning over Wonder Woman.)
2. “It’s too monochrome.”
That’s fair. It doesn’t bother me too much, primarily because I expected Zack Snyder to go dark – he muted Superman’s colors too, after all. This is how DC has been approaching its characters since Batman Begins.
Still, Wonder Woman’s costume was bequeathed to her by her mother, and the stars and colors were intentional; she was going as an ambassador to a foreign land. The colors were meant as both tribute and peace offering. To alter them now indicates a departure from her origin story: more on that in a minute.
3. “She’s too skinny.”
Yes. She is. God bless Gal Godot and the body God gave her, but it is not Wonder Woman’s body. Wonder Woman is an Amazon: tall (without the aid of platforms), large-chested (but not so much as to blind herself in a fight), and thick / muscular. This is extremely difficult to cast; I’ve only ever seen one actress who fit the profile perfectly (Noa Tishby on Leverage – amazing!), and I take delight in fantasizing that Ms. Godot may have had to be Photoshopped bigger for this character.
4. “It’s impractical. What woman in her right mind would ever try to fight in an outfit like that?”
Okay listen, I get it. The realm of superhero women has long been dominated by misogynistic overtones and inappropriate sexualization. My daughters and I love to redesign superhero costumes – not to make them more modest, exactly (because there’s a fair bit of misogyny in that, too), but to do better justice to their personalities and/or skills. (Good example: we are thrilled over Batgirl’s makeover this year – love the boots!)
But, besides the already established point that Wonder Woman’s costume has meaning just the way it is, I have long stood for her exemption from costume sensibility for two reasons:
- She doesn’t actually need any clothing at all.
Coming from a temperate, isolated island where time stands still and women are completely empowered and self-identified, clothing would be of secondary importance. She is trained to defeat an enemy in full body armor or in nothing. Her apparel is neither frivolous nor required; in fact, it is a matter of strategy. Specifically…
- The costume is deliberately disarming.
One of Wonder Woman’s most charming characteristics is her ability to respect humanity and challenge us at the same time. She is ever making quips about the weakness of men when it comes to understanding / underestimating women, and the disgrace of women who are unable to take their space because of male dominance. Her outfit is important to her; she likes it, and doesn’t much care what anyone else thinks of it. Since it happens to give her an additional tactical advantage by means of distraction, then all the better for her.
What exactly Wonder Woman is wearing is far less important than why she is wearing it.
5. “There’s something missing.”
This is the critical point when it comes to analyzing this incarnation of Wonder Woman’s costume. Did you notice?
Taken by itself, the absence of the lasso may not seem like a big deal. After all, any attempt to update these characters and ascribe them new relevance in the modern world would have a difficult time adapting such an abstract and (sure, we can say it) potentially hokey item into the storyline.
But let’s also note the other changes to Wonder Woman’s look as a whole. Her headpiece has been downplayed from a true crown (another gift from her mother, a sigil of her royal heritage) to a leather headband. Her bracelets (powerful enough to deflect bullets, also symbolic reminder of the oppression from which her people had been freed) are now reduced to standard issue bracers. And she is wielding a sword (Wonder Woman did have a sword of mysterious origins, as well as short swords that emerged from her bracelets in later years; both were employed very rarely, however, so the sword’s position of prominence in this picture is discomfiting).
In short, it appears that the best way Zack Snyder and his team could find to make Wonder Woman relevant was to turn her into Leonidas. A man.
Doesn’t that just say it all?
William M. Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, once said: “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power…Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their [perceived] weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
Wonder Woman is hard to adapt not because of flaws in the character, but because of weakness in our own hearts. She values herself and all people too much to conform to what makes us comfortable. This means no costume changes to cover or reveal more than she intends, no added or reduced weaponry to fight our way, no filling her speech bubbles with our messages. She will not be altered to fit our molds.
The bottom line: No matter how much money the studios make off of the upcoming Justice League movies, if they continue to strip the characters of what makes them truly special (and thus, powerful) in the name of “relevance,” they will still be an epic failure.
There’s no Justice in conformity.