Fri
Mar 4 2011 10:06am

Will Wonder Woman ever look like an Amazon Woman?

Adrianne PalickiUpon 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?

Xena: Warrior Princess

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 CatwomanPfeiffer 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 She-Hulkthey 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 Black Widowcounterparts 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:

Wonder Woman

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.

27 comments
Lindsay Ribar
1. Lindsay Ribar
This is a great article! You know, of all the skinnygirl-superheroes out there, I still think Buffy was the only one who did it right. Her unassuming physique was a weapon in itself -- a tool to draw in the monsters she was supposed to kill. But what's everyone else's excuse? (And yeah. I do miss Xena.)
Ty Margheim
2. alSeen
I don't think Adrianne will have any problems with the roll. Acting wise, she was quite good on Friday Night Lights.

She's 5'11", so with heeled boots she'll tower over a lot of people.

Compared to Lynda Carter, I think Adrianne is much more suited to the roll.
George Gordon
3. gordong1968
Maybe she isn't built like an Amazon, but Adrianne Palicki can definitely act. If you haven't seen her work on Friday Night Lights, I encourage you to check her out. I had very little interest in the Wonder Women series until I found out she was cast.
Lindsay Ribar
4. SWS
I completely agree - the Amazing Amazon was an athlete, and should look like one. Perhaps it is difficult to find athletic women who also can act? Actresses have to have appeal for a variety of roles, and maybe being built like Venus Williams effects their ability to collect a steady paycheck. Just thinking.
Chuck Holt
5. conspiracytheorywackadoodle
From my experience, the only guys who complain about women who are too athletic, too strong, etc., are the same guys who can give you an insistent, day-long speech about how they're not gay. (Perhaps punctuated by a bit of ass slapping with their buddies.)

By producing one movie after another fitting the model of "Skinny Minnie Saves the Day," Hollywood is catering to a vocal minority of guys (yeah, I know, they're loud, and they don't shut up) who have no other interest in women beside the potential they present as beards. (Hopefully, these guys will be damned with freedom soon.)

I commonly see strong and athletic women at the gym and on the jogging trail at a city park ("real-life" strong as opposed to "comic book" strong), but I've yet to see guys fleeing the area screaming whenever these women happen to drift within eye shot. The male fear that Hollywood is catering to just isn't there in the populace.

I've seen plenty of "Skinny Minnie Saves the Day" movies -- I'm one of those who can suspend disbelief and instantly edit different versions of movies inside my head. It's mostly fantasy, after all, and I accept it as such. (Sucker Punch sounds potentially interesting -- I might go see it.) I don't know if I'd necessarily be more likely to see a movie if the role of the (super) heroine was played by an actress with a competitive martial artist's body, but the inclusion of real athleticism would probably subtract a little bit of unreality that my brain's movie-editing mechanism would have to deal with. (There I go, pleading for a convenience.)
Lindsay Ribar
6. cranscape
You have to suspend belief a lot on tv. How else can you explain most sitcoms having unattractive male leads married to a disproportionately hot wife? You will occasionally find an actress who can ride a horse like a pro or is a black belt or who can learn how to box (Hilary Swank) etc but in general actor act and be it pulling off the role of the President or a superhero a lot of it has to do with that ability over the reality of it. As long as they look reasonably fit it works for me if their acting can sell it. I will always prefer they find someone who can act over casting someone because of their looks or random skills minus the acting chops.

In this instance I think the acting does it for me more than having a female character look like my maxed out warrior character from Fable II. Some of my favorite kickass female characters happen to be wirery rather than bulky. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley or Lena Heady as Sarah Connor for example. Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck does a little better as the actress was a swimmer and had the shoulders for it, but even then it was the acting that sold it.

I'm not even sure what "look like an Amazon" means.
Matthew B
7. MatthewB
I don't disagree with your points, but I was expecting you to be talking about someone who looks more like this:

;)
Lindsay Ribar
8. Mike Cugley
We're also judging by her current photo, not the one after any training she may do for the role. Fingers crossed, anyway.
Lindsay Ribar
9. tarbis
From a business point of view everybody is in a bind here. It's a pilot so they need somebody with a name that network execs will know and the actress needs to be in a position to take other roles if the pilot doesn't pan out. There aren't very many actresses with well defined muscles because the market for them isn't around so the producers can't find a name with muscles easily and any actress that bulked up for a pilot would be risking her ability to find other work.
Similar problem with movies and women really. If you're doing fourteen weeks on an action movie and three weeks later you're in a romantic comedy then you can not bulk up for the action film since there is no way to lose the mass in three weeks without scandal and tight clothes will almost certainly be a must for the next movie.
Lindsay Ribar
10. Cool Bev
Uma Thurman as action hero has always bugged me. She's whisper-thin and has that pale complexion that makes her nose look like she has the sniffles. I guess that's the point - she looks too frail to be so deadly.

Angelina Jolie is another one - I think she is a fine actor and a beautiful woman, but doesn't look strong, and doesn't move like an athlete. My wife pointed it out in Tomb Raider. They never showed her running or jumping, just getting ready to, or landing.

Now, Michelle Rodriquez, there's an action hero. I wonder what Chyna is doing these days.
Paul Ripley
11. matt1616
So I just watched "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" last night (redbox didn't have anything else). And the Scarlett I (vaguely) remember from the cartoon seemed a much stronger kind of character than the one in the movie (I don't mean just physically).
John Pigott
12. AbEnd
Where have all the Brigitte Nielsens gone?
Lindsay Ribar
13. the27th
I understand the exigencies of the movie business, and I know movie stars are going to be slender, and that's not a huge problem. It takes a long time for women to build muscle and it's not realistic to expect actresses to do it for one role.

But, as someone built more like the comic-book Wonder Woman than the silver-screen version, sometimes I do wish for an athletic-looking actress who looks like she's actually strong enough to do her stunts. I always have trouble suspending disbelief with Angelina Jolie. The fact is, the public can tolerate a little diversity in actresses' body types. People loved Christina Hendricks. If the public is okay with a curvy woman, why not a strong woman?

(Imo, the closest thing I've seen to this was Jessica Biel.)
Lindsay Ribar
14. BRB
I like a female superhero who can embody both femininity and stregnth. Frankly, protryaing female heroes as "men with boobs" doesn't do anyone any good. I think Palicki is a decent choice because she's feminine without being a tiny doe-eyed waif. She has a decent athletic build (and is a former athelete) and isn't a stick (hurray)--but she's also not butch. Plus, she's got the acting chops to carry a big role like wonder woman. She's fantastic in Friday Night Lights.
Ashe Armstrong
16. AsheSaoirse
A friend and I actually had a huge ranting discussion about this after I showed her the info for the new series and Palicki. We were both shouting about Diana being an Amazon and being taller, stronger and braver than most guys, standing tall next to Superman and Batman, as an equal. I want to see that. As a man, I want to see a woman playing Wonder Woman that makes me think she could hang out with the biggest, baddest mofos around. Like Xena minus the cheese (I miss Xena too, even after it became the Lesbian Power hour, and no that's not a slight at the LGBT community, just that the weird shift in character was a bit jarring in my mind, ANYWHO, if you want to discuss it, PM me).

The Jimmy Palmiotti/Amanda Conner Power Girl rocks for the reasons Diana rocks. Except that she loves horror movies and has a sense of humor. Also, she had to explain tentacle monsters to Diana. Oh my.
Lindsay Ribar
17. RandolphF
Adrianne Palicki is a big strong woman; nearly 6' tall, a former high-school athlete who is apparently still active. The photographs I've been able to quickly find play down her height and strenght. Dressed the part, I think she'd be a pretty intimidating Wonder Woman. She doesn't, however, have the heroic build of the Wonder Woman in the drawing you show, who seems to be based on a body builder.
Lindsay Ribar
18. mirana
I've only read a small amount of WW stuff, but isn't one of her powers super strength? She doesn't need the mortal muscles to kick someone's ass with her meta ones.

That being said, I do miss Xena and I do hope the actress bulks up a bit more. It'll be one less thing to complain about when this comes out, because a lot of it has sounded very, very bad.

Also, typo... "pole" instead of "poll."
Lindsay Ribar
19. Kvon
Linda Hamilton did a pretty fine job too of transforming herself into a muscular badass between Terminator 1 and 2.
Ashe Armstrong
20. AsheSaoirse
@Kvon- Indeed, she did quite a fantastic job. She was also proportionate to herself. That's the thing with Wonder Woman though. She's hot as hell but she's a big girl.
john mullen
21. johntheirishmongol
I'm way more worried about the approach and writing than I am about the actress. I did watch FNL and Adrianne is one of those who is attractive but a normal girl, not someone who would be over the top gorgeous. She also can act up a storm
Lindsay Ribar
22. justlila
"Actors act", yes, but apparently Hollywood thinks no woman who weighs more than 120 lbs. can act. Oddly, this handicap does not seem to apply to men to nearly the same degree.

Imagine how well society would function if mechanics and engineers were chosen for their dress size.

There are many strong, athletic, coordinated women who are also good actors. Unfortunately, they can only get hired to do stunt work. Because having actual muscles means you look "fat" by Hollywood standards.
Lindsay Ribar
23. eastendleo
#6 " I'm not even sure what "looks like an Amazon" means. "

Jenette Goldstein aka Pvt Vasquez in Aliens comes to mind. Though an image search shows her to be slighter and prettier than the big bad ass ass kicker memory provides. But I would put that down entirely to a quarter century of hightened expectations. And that is a satisfying surprise to discover.

I would put in a word also for the women who might not have the six pack and whip cord musculature of a body builder competitor, but instead tends more to the sumo wrestler bulid. A build male movie thugs and bouncers often menace with, but outside of women in prison movies, one not often allowed women. And no, not a build I ever expect to see a heroine of Hollywood to sport!
Lindsay Ribar
24. R.A. Porter
As plenty of people have mentioned, Adrianne Palicki is nearly six feet tall and plenty fit. Trust me: she can beat you up.

I just hope you complained in the same vein when Michael Keaton was cast in Burton's Batman. Talk about an unintimidating figure. My mom could kick his butt.
Lindsay Ribar
25. Cawakitty
I'm going to disagree. I think she could be an awesome teen wonderwoman. She just needs a chance. Also, that's a really soft picture meant to make her look cute and girlie.
Not to mention she's firmly built and quite tall.
She's going to be awesome. I have high hopes for this series.

I wonder if she plans to stay blond?
Ashe Armstrong
26. AsheSaoirse
I'm more worried about the writing but if she can pull off the look, that'll give me hope.
Lindsay Ribar
27. J. Lee
How about Gwendoline Christie as Wonder Woman? If not, let's get Adrianne into the gym to put on 15 pounds of muscle, like Gwendoline did for her role as Brienne of Tarth.
Lindsay Ribar
28. Lars Panzerbjørn
I'm a bit late to the party here, but I just wanted to say that I totally agree.
My girlfiend and I frequently jeer at the screen when an actress (or male actor for that matter) is playing a role they clearly don't have the physique for.

I suspect it might be because we both are quite active, have done martial arts & weapons combat and are in good shape ourselves (My girlfiend could easily play a kick-ass heroine^_^).

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