Wonder Woman, Slut-Shaming And Mastering The Art Of Sexploitation
So I consider myself a feminist. Is that a bad word, feminist? Does it make you think about man-hating? That ain’t the case, kids. Feminists are just after equal treatment. That’s why, on this site, for every bosomy female, you’ll see a shirtless dude. We’re equal opportunity objectifiers here at Pajiba. But of course I got my feminist knickers in a twist when I saw the first image of David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman. Want a refresher? Here it is. I mean, it’s bad. A lot has been written about how bad it is. How garish, how cheap looking. Some clever photoshoppers over at Bleeding Cool even tried their hand at fixing the costume. Deepening the red, toning down the makeup, removing the heels, etc. To which I say, fine. Better, sure. Still bad.
A more interesting reaction, I think, was the back and forth between The Nerdist contributor Kiala Kazebee and her friend Bobby “Fatboy” Roberts. The writers had plenty of critiques (“it looks like a costume I could have grabbed half-off, November 1st, at those Halloween stores that take over abandoned Party Depots”), but were more concerned with the accusation of “slut/whore/tramp” being levied at Miss Palicki’s vinyl clad thighs. Kazebee fumed at the detractors who insinuate “that [Palicki] will be playing a hooker who fights crime.”
While Kazebee and Roberts make plenty of great points, I disagree with their central thesis that there is nothing amiss with the sexiness of this costume. Listen, if this were Diana’s fav outfit that she wore to go clubbing (or whatever the hip young Amazonians do these days), I would have no problem with it. But this is her uniform that she wears for her job, which is, correct me if I’m wrong, kicking ass. Kazebee remarks, “Do cheap fabrics somehow imply Wonder Woman is gadding about town DTF anyone who buys her a drink (because that is what ‘sluts’ do, I guess?) or, I don’t know, just anyone she finds attractive? Even if this were so, who gives a fuck? Why is that ‘bad’? In fact, a promiscuous Amazon would really not be so very far-fetched.” I agree with Kazebee and have zero problem with Wonder Woman racking up some notches on her bedpost. However, if I recall, we’ve already seen a DTF kick-ass television babe, and that sexy number on the right there? That’s what she wore to work.
Okay, but obviously Wonder Woman is not going to be fighting crime in a bulky flight suit. Palicki is a super gorgeous woman with a great (possibly fake? I don’t really care) rack and I wouldn’t mind seeing her pummeling bad guys while wearing something revealing/body conscious. But can she even MOVE in that thing? Some people say those preposterous painted on leggings are more practical than a skirt for stomping ass. I dunno about that. Xena: Warrior Princess did okay for herself (plus she was pretty DTF).
Later on in The Nerdist article, Roberts writes, “If I remember correctly, [David E. Kelley’s] written (poor) reasons for why this costume looks like it does into the script. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I remember seeing an excerpt that shows Diana acknowledging the sex-appeal of her costume, and her chest specifically.” This is where, if you’ll excuse me, I might lose my sh*t (not at Roberts). Wonder Woman does not need to use her sexual appeal as a weapon, she has SUPER POWERS. There’s a tradition, in television and film, of badass females exploiting their bodies and their appeal in order to triumph over evil. (The villainesses adopted this trick long ago.) You’ll sometimes see ficitional female spies use their wiles (breasts) to catch their prey off-guard. I’ll admit, it makes sense for females (often at somewhat of a physical disadvantage) to gain whatever upper hand they can. I will readily cheer for Nikita, Sydney Bristow, or Sarah Walker when they deliver a breast-baring beat down. But, you know what, THEY DON’T HAVE SUPER POWERS. Take note of the photo on the left, “Wonder Woman” producers, that’s how you do tight, blue and shiny.
Additionally, the operative word in the above paragraph is “sometimes.” Because sometimes, those lady spies get to wear kevlar, or fatigues, or f*cking sweats when fighting crime. Wonder Woman has to wear that thing ALL THE DAMN TIME. Okay, but let’s take the example of a famous television heroine who DID have super powers. One of the things I loved about Ms. Buffy Summers, is that she never used sex in combat (that was Faith’s gimmick). Was she sexy? Well, that’s a matter of some debate, but I say hell yes. But when you’re stronger, faster and smarter (or at least have smarter friends) than your enemies, you don’t need the sex. Once again, “Wonder Woman” producers, note the better execution of shiny. Also, remember when Sarah Michelle Gellar used to eat and, therefore, had a stellar rack?
Going back to The Nerdist article for a moment, Kazebee exclaims, “FUCK. HAVE ANY OF THESE PEOPLE SEEN A SUPERHERO COSTUME BEFORE? They are all — every single one of them — bright, shiny, primary colored, tight in the sex places, and ridiculous.” Well, that’s not true. Take Christian Bale’s BatKevlar or the new Captain America’s leather number. I’ve heard Cap’s new costume described as baggy. I know I’m in the minority, but I LOVE the rugged look of his outfit, especially compared to how that outfit is drawn in the comics or, god help us, the CGI monstrosity that was painted onto Ryan Reynolds’ body for the new Green Lantern film. By the way, can you imagine how preposterous people would find it if Reynolds were to shake his green painted nethers at a bad guy in order to stun him into submission? (Stop drooling, YOU!)
Finally (and this is where I may get my feminist card pulled), if the goal of the Wonder Woman outfit is to show off Palicki’s body, they are DOING IT WRONG. Kazebee, Roberts and I all agree that Adrianne Palicki was kick-ass on “Friday Night Lights” and has both the physical prowess and the acting chops to pull off this role. She’s also a babe. A stone cold fox. And that vinyl diner booth of an outfit is not doing her legs or chest any good. I agree with The Nerdist authors that sexy does not equal slutty. But if you’re going to do sexy, do it right.
Joanna Robinson has never read a single Wonder Woman comic. Have at thee.