GAL GADOT (left) and Connie Nielsen in a scene from ‘Wonder Woman.’.
(photo credit: DC COMICS)
If there is anything blatantly political about Wonder Woman it is the film’s statement on gender roles, not Gal Gadot’s nationality.
Hollywood has put resources into a major production that is not only directed by a woman but also features a woman as a powerful superhero.
Patty Jenkins is the first woman to direct a live-action movie with such a large production budget. And Gal Gadot plays a woman who regularly wipes the floor with bad guys.
The initial controversy (PR spin?) generated by Wonder Woman
focused on gender. Women in Austin, Texas, sought to celebrate the film with a females-only screening. In a male-dominated industry in which the vast majority of directors are men, and women tend to be the ones being saved, not doing the saving, it was refreshing for women to enjoy a film that breaks that mold, according to the Texan females who arranged the screening.
Things really got interesting when men began complaining on social media of gender discrimination.Wonder Woman
did not endear herself to all. In December 2016, dozens of UN employees opposed a campaign that used Wonder Woman
to promote a strong feminine image.
The protesters said: “Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman
to represent a strong and independent ‘warrior’ woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions.”
But in recent days the controversy surrounding the film shifted from a discourse about gender to a focus on where Gadot was born and raised.
Lebanon’s government was the first to back down to BDS activists and ban screenings of Wonder Woman
. Tunisia and Algeria followed suit. The Tunisian Association of Young Lawyers referred to Gadot as a “champion Zionist.”
A Lebanese organization calling itself the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon said it did not like the fact that Gadot had served in the IDF.
Not all Arab countries have chosen to boycott the film. But the ones that did seemed particularly upset by a Facebook post back in 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, in which Gadot stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas and mentioned Hamas’s use of human shields to maximize civilian casualties.
It is of course the prerogative of Lebanese, Tunisians and Algerians to ban films in their countries – even if their motivation is blind hatred.
But the ban of Wonder Woman
will not hurt the career of Gadot or delegitimize Israelis or the Jewish state. On the other hand it will underline how close-minded and authoritarian these nations are. It will also deny millions of Lebanese, Tunisians and Algerians some good fun out at the movies. It just so happens that Wonder Woman
has received rave reviews and broken box-office records.
More important, the countries denying theaters the right to screen Wonder Woman
will also be preventing their men and women from being exposed to a very different female character. The feminist message of Wonder Woman
is particularly pertinent to the Middle East, where so many women remain under male dominance and are less free than men. This is not to say that the message of Wonder Woman
is truly empowering for women. Maybe Gadot’s character is not the role model those societies envision for their people. But that conversation should be allowed to take place.
It is unfortunate that the hatred for Israel expressed in some Muslim countries takes precedence over any other concern. The property rights of business people who bought the distribution rights to Wonder Woman
are pushed aside, as are the rights of moviegoers to be entertained. What does this say about the prospects for the normalization of relations with Israel?
The depth of hatred directed against Israel and Israelis might also explain another phenomenon unique to Israel: Israelis’ outburst of pride at the success of Gadot as though it were their own. No other people is so quick to take credit for another countryman’s success. But then again no other people sees its fellow citizens treated so shabbily. Gadot’s popularity in the world triggers so much pride precisely because Israelis are so used to experiencing the opposite.