Will the Wonder Woman UN Controversy Hurt the Film?

Wonder Woman has a new enemy…Women! 2016 was a roller coaster year for Wonder Woman. The height of her 75th anniversary (she first appeared in All-Star Comics # 8 in 1941) was in October, when she was selected as an honorary ambassador representing a UN program for the empowerment of women and global gender equality. The character’s image was to be the symbol for the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goal # 5” which examines gender issues around the world and seeks to prevent the abuse of woman and girls.

There was a ceremony in October where Gal Gadot, and director Patty Jenkins joined DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson and original TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter to celebrate this big moment in Wonder Woman’s long history. They spoke about the cultural impact and longevity of the character. However, a group of women in the crowd turned their backs and walked out. This wasn’t the last of their protesting.

Two months later, a petition initiated by certain feminists groups was circulated and got 45,000 signatures to have Wonder Woman removed as UN ambassador, on the grounds that the character promotes sexism and racism. The complaint is that she’s “a large-breasted white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a Pin-Up girl.”

The sexism part of the petition claims that Wonder Woman’s body is offensive. They write, “It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image.” The racism part of the complaint states that WW, “doesn’t embody the core values of cultural diversity”.  They go on to say, that her “American flag motif” is inappropriate for a global organization.

As a result of this petition, the UN has caved, and abruptly ended its use of Wonder Woman’s image in S.D. Goal 5 (which was originally supposed go on for a year, to coincide with the release of the film, as arranged with DC.). Two weeks ago, UN spokesman Jeffrey Brez announced that the use of WW in the campaign would end immediately. While there is currently a counter-petition online to get Wonder Woman renamed as the symbolic UN ambassador for women, I doubt it will do any good.

All this leads to the question of what this entails for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie.  DC has been counting on the popularity of Wonder Woman to create an influx of new female viewers to a genre that has a predominantly male audience. However, if women are taking a hostile view of Wonder Woman as a symbol of sexism and racism, then DC may not get the new audience they hoped for.

On the other hand, protests often backfire with films, bringing them more attention than they might otherwise get. Projects like the Interview and Passion of the Christ became big hits due to the protests against them. Protesting often induces people to go see a film, either out of curiosity or just to be contrary. Or maybe this situation will have no effect on the film at all. The worst side-effect of all this might be the reviews. If the critics are swayed by this rhetoric, it may lead to Wonder Woman getting the same type of terrible reviews that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad got.

No one saw this backlash against Wonder Woman coming and it’s ironic that the biggest obstacle to Wonder Woman’s popularity in modern times is women themselves.  Gal Gadot, however, still supports the character. In response to the controversy, Gadot told Time magazine, “There are so many horrible things that are going on in the world, and this is what you’re protesting? Seriously?” She also added, “When people argue that Wonder Woman should ‘cover up,’ I don’t quite get it. They say, ‘If she’s smart and strong, she can’t also be sexy.’ That’s not fair. Why can’t she be all of the above?”


Do you think Wonder Woman promotes sexism and racism? Do you think this setback will hurt the film’s bottom line?