“Wonder Woman” has progressives in a quandary: Should the left eagerly cheer the rare Hollywood blockbuster depicting a strong female role model or boo a film starring an Israeli actress as the iconic Amazon?
The $150 million Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment movie is seen in the industry as a surefire blockbuster after rapturous early reviews despite misgivings among some on the left about star Gal Gadot, who served in the Israel Defense Forces and has criticized the terrorist group Hamas.
“Many people want to wholeheartedly support this film but are conflicted,” said Amal Matan in a May 26 post on Medium’s NerdyPOC [People of Color] blog.
Her post called Miss Gadot’s casting a “cruel and unusual irony” and raised the issue of “intersectionality,” which refers to the progressive movement’s call for unity among “oppressed people,” including women, minorities and Palestinians.
“So where does that leave Wonder Woman fans, intersectional feminists and those in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle?” Ms. Matan said. “As the world will see the movie, there will be a solid chunk of individuals who will choose not to support Gal Gadot.”
There’s no indecision over the movie in Lebanon, which on Wednesday banned screenings after complaints over Miss Gadot’s Israeli heritage by groups such as the Lebanese Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement and the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon.
Lebanon’s Grand Cinemas chain announced the ban on Twitter after the campaign complained that showing the film would be “against the Lebanese law” because Lebanon and Israel are officially at war.
Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah said on Twitter that “Gal Gadot’s support for Israel’s slaughter of 11 children a day in Gaza in summer 2014 means it’s common sense not to reward her with money.”
The tension between supporters of Israel and the women’s movement came to a head in March when Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian activist and co-chair of the Women’s March, argued that feminists could not also be pro-Israel.
“It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’” Ms. Sarsour told The Nation. “There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”
Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson accused anti-Israel activists of trying to “force liberal feminists to put anti-Zionism ahead of true liberal feminism.”
“This regressive leftist tactic is nothing short of a hijacking of the feminist movement and sacrifices the lives and well-being of women around the world in order to attack Israel,” said Mr. Jacobson, who edits Legal Insurrection. “It is a very cynical, destructive and intellectually manipulative tactic.”
This isn’t the first time the movie has been mired in controversy. In March “Wonder Woman” came under fire from the left because the trailer showed Miss Gadot with clean-shaven armpits.
And in December the U.N. dropped the superhero as an honorary ambassador after a petition posted by “Concerned United Nations staff members” objected to her “overtly sexualized image.”
That said, anxiety about intersectionality, armpits or outfits is unlikely to deter the legions of women expected to flock Friday to “Wonder Women,” which industry experts have estimated could pull in $100 million in its opening weekend alone.
At this point, the biggest flap may center on the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s decision to appeal to female ticket-buyers by offering a June 6 showing for women only. The idea was so popular that the theater added another screening after the first one sold out.
“Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’ for one special night at the Alamo Ritz,” said the theater’s post.
The move sparked a backlash among some men who complained about sexism, as well as criticism over reports that the proceeds from certain screenings would go to Planned Parenthood.
That was enough to prompt progressive sites like Jezebel and Slate to put aside any intersectionality worries and jump on the “no dudes allowed” bandwagon, with Jezebel smirking about men “screeching wetly about the wretched unfairness of it all.”
The Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn responded with its own women-only showing at 3 p.m. Sunday, prompting New Yorker Jack Posobiec to file a complaint Wednesday with the state Human Rights Commission.
Alamo responded to the gripes with a tongue-in-cheek apology, saying, “Again, truly, truly, truly, truly sorry that we’ve offended you. These screenings are just a way to celebrate the character and how important she’s been to women over the last eight decades.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a humorous response to a man who wrote to complain about the women-only showing, warning him that his account had been “hacked by an unfortunate and unusually hostile individual.”
“And I hesitate to imagine how embarrassed you’d be if someone thought you were upset that a private business was realizing a business opportunity by reserving one screening this weekend for women to see a superhero movie,” said Mr. Adler in his letter.
Fans of “Wonder Woman” point out that Ms. Gadot played the same part in last year’s “Batman v Superman” with no political outcry over her two-year stint as an Israeli soldier.
Not surprisingly, she’s been embraced in Israel: The Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv displayed a message for her this week in lights, saying, “We’re proud of you Gal Gadot” and “Our Wonder Woman,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
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