Upon hearing the casting news of the new Wonder Woman television series, there was quite a bit of optimism along with a healthy dose of “...who’s that again?” Although I haven’t seen Adrianne Palicki in anything, I’m aware that this could actually bode well for the franchise, and I’m certainly in no hurry to judge her acting chops before I’ve seen her take on the part. There is one thing that does bother me, though. See that picture on the right? While she is clearly a very attractive woman, I have a small bone to pick with producers and casting agents everywhere—
Why doesn’t she look like she could beat me up?
Let’s be honest, there are too many examples of super heroines on film who look like they might blow over in a strong wind. Rather than focusing on the power behind the mask and spandex, we’re often encouraged to focus on sex appeal alone. I’m not saying that sex appeal is a bad thing; our boy super friends are also known for being sexy (I’m looking at you, Tony Stark), and I’m all for gender equality. But what’s wrong with doling out strength and sexniness side by side, the same way the boys do? Why don’t more of these women look like they could take you out?
There are one too many examples here to claim that it isn’t a conscious choice on the part of film and television makers. It was a slim-and-trim Silk Spectre that fought with Night Owl to take down the gang that attacked them in a dark alleyway. Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer are both forces to be reckoned with in the acting world, but neither one of them cut a very forbidding figure in their Catwoman catsuits. They all look like the Hollywood ideal—toned, but not muscular. Lithe, so they don’t take up too much space. Not one of these women could block you in a doorway, but we’re supposed to withhold our disbelief because we see them kicking butt and taking down anyone who stands in their way.
The comics they herald from are not guilty of this same offense. Instead, the women are often drawn with the same overwrought musculature that the men receive. It’s cartoonish, but at least we know they have to pack a punch. When a lady has a six pack and the shoulders of a basketball player, there’s no way you’re surprising her in a darkened hallway. Her breasts may be bigger than her head, but they also have the ability to knock someone unconscious. How can you complain about that? At least she looks like someone who does 50 pull-ups at the crack of dawn and bench presses you and your german shepherd’s combined weight.
I had a talk with a bouncer at a bar about this, oddly enough. He was similarly perplexed by the issue; he wanted to know why producers and the rest seemed to be under the impression that men would find these women too intimidating. He sure didn’t. He wanted to see them tough, unforgiving and with all the freedoms that their male counterparts enjoyed. Maybe if you took a pole among the general male population they wouldn’t share his sentiment. But maybe they would. Maybe we’ll never break the cycle of “Skinny Minnie Saves the Day” without giving a loud shout to the people who are making these choices for us. It’s probably the only way we’ll get a Black Widow who looks like the woman pictured above, instead of a doe-eyed Scarlet Johansson. And I, for one, would love to see that fearsome woman on a big screen.
It’s my hope that future generations of girls will have some different role models to look up to when they go to the movies. That they will be able to argue with the boys about which superhero is best, and ably defend Wonder Woman or Batwoman because she deserves it. So far, these ladies haven’t been living up to their reputations for most of us, so while I wish Ms. Palicki luck, I’m going to hold out hope that her Wonder Woman comes out looking something like this:
That Lasso of Truth seems a little bit scarier now, doesn’t it?
Emily Asher-Perrin wishes she had grown up pretending to be Wonder Woman, but pretended to be Batman instead. No, really. She had her own stunt show and everything. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.