There is a piercing cry from click-bait hungry editors that you know is being heard this week in newsrooms everywhere: "OK PEOPLE! I need Wonder Woman-angle stories and I need them now! With as much art as possible."
If you do an online search, for example, for the terms "Wonder Woman" and "feminist" you get a mere 680,000 hits in Google NEWS, as opposed to the whole WWW. That was last night.
With the whole Amazon meets Greek mythology thing going on, there have been a few stories sort of chasing that religion angle.
However, we can celebrate the fact that The Washington Post dedicated a large amount of digital space (I would appreciate knowing how much of this copy ran in the dead-treepulp analog edition) to an "Acts of Faith" feature that offered a great deal of information about the Jewish faith and Israeli identity of the actress with the iconic sword, shield, wrist armor and, well, form-fitting battle garb -- Gal Gadot.
The headline: "How the Jewish identity of ‘Wonder Woman’s’ star is causing a stir." Just about the only thing negative I can say about this report was that, for logical reasons, it needed to include quite a bit of material from other media sources. Oh, and this story also requires me -- once again -- to praise the work of this reporter, none other than former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey. Awkward.
In addition to soaring box-office numbers and feminist and post-feminist arguments about cleavage, there is actual news linked to the popularity of this movie and its star. Right up top, readers learn:
Ahead of the film’s international release, Lebanon banned the film because of Gadot, who, like most Israeli citizens, served a mandatory two-year stint in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat trainer. (Jordan is also reportedly considering a ban on the film.)
In 2014, Gadot posted on Facebook support of the Israeli army’s actions in Gaza while lighting candles with her daughter and writing “Shabbat Shalom,” the common greeting Jews say to one another on the Sabbath.
The text in that Facebook missive was certainly a grabber:
I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children...We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf
Most of this feature, however, is dedicated to complex topics linked to the nature of Jewish identity, with its potent mix of questions about race, religion and culture. A same question in these debates: Is Gadot the "first woman of color" to grab a headliner role in the superhero genre"?
This is tricky territory in the age of super-strong identity politics. Here is a sample of that:
There is a historic range of Jewish subgroups, including Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian and more, which raises the question, “So, is Gal Gadot white?” asks Joel Finkelstein in the Forward. “Is she North African/Middle Eastern and Israeli and Jewish and European and white? Is she all six of these things? Or perhaps something else? Who decides whether Jews are white, and what forces guides those decisions? The ambiguity of Jewish ethnicity serves as a perverse weapon in hands hostile to Jewish identity.”
Mark Tseng-Putterman, who is Asian American and Jewish, says the argument that all Jews are people of color by default is out of touch with race in North America, where race was constructed as an outgrowth of slavery and genocide.
“In the context of American institutions that produce race (namely slavery and genocide), European Jews were firmly positioned as white and were able to systematically benefit from these institutions,” he said.
I would add another question to the mix: Can a Jewish actress playing a superhero be considered part of a victimized minority group? What about the long, hellish history of antisemitism that looms in the background?
Wait, there's much more to discuss in this piece. Consider, for example, this identity-politics riff on how torn up some young viewers (some critics would call them Social Justice Warriors) may feel about their desire to see this superhero film, while also feeling driven to reject anyone with ties to Israel.
Read this carefully:
Some people who want to support the film were conflicted because of Gadot’s casting, Amal Matan wrote on Medium’s NerdyPOC blog.
Gadot raised the issue of “intersectionality,” which refers to a call for diversity and inclusion when working for human rights. Intersectionality focuses on how overlapping identities, such as race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation, affect the way people face discrimination.
“So where does that leave Wonder Woman fans, intersectional feminists and those in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle?” 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.”
So how many potential ticket buyers can an actress tick off with the act of lighting Sabbat candles with her daughter, while saying prayers for Israeli soldiers?
There is more. Read it all.