In October of 2013, a little known Israeli actress signed a three-picture deal that would go on to redefine female cinema, and this year's theatrical releases as a whole.
Previous to this, Gal Gadot had modeled and acted, reprising her role in the Fast and Furious movie franchise three times. And then she beat three other actresses for the title of Amazonian Princess, Diana Prince, and her acting career was changed forever.
The announcement of a live action Wonder Woman was met with a response that rose decidedly above the rest of the DC live action releases. Finally a female superhero. Finally a role model for the girls that flock to theaters every year only to see men in inspirational and heroic roles.
"I wanted to show that women are empowered and strong, and don't have to be saved by some male hero"
Needless to say, the world of cinema, feminism and indeed chauvinism all followed suit in the fervour. Gadot's role was criticized because she was too thin and her breasts too big. A female director, Patty Jenkins, was chosen when many felt the “pressure" of such a blockbuster and large budget would be too much for her. And the excitement was duly heightened by Gadot's glowing appearance in the dud that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
You may remember that last year the movie was in headlines again on a completely unrelated movie topic, as the U.N dropped Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador. SWAAY previously recognized how foolish the decision was on behalf of the U.N to reward the character its title in the first place, as before Gadot, Wonder Woman was most definitely not an emblem of female empowerment, nor deserve such a title. Had they waited for after this release, perhaps then their decision would not have become such a controversy.
Clouded and controversial as the movie and its lead/director has been, we never expected just how much it would be in the headlines, and dominating social feeds. Below we look at three different instances of just how much fervor Gadot and Jenkins' movie has created.
Previous to its release, the movie was caught up in a torrid of conflicting press reports about whether or not it was getting the marketing budget given to its DC counterparts. Articles abound and nobody was decided as to whether the movie had in fact received more or less funding than that of Suicide Squad, or any of the Batman/Superman films. Why? Because this year has become defined by a rampant raging feminism that has consumed the press since the president's inauguration and the subsequent women's marches. Those that didn't vote for Hillary have received a torrent of abuse for purportedly anti-feminist views and 2017's “Year of the Women" title has created a sense of urgency within the wider press to produce content that complements the idea that women are a constant victim of the patriarchy in every aspect of their lives. Was this the case with Wonder Woman? No, in fact, DC spent more on its marketing budget than its sibling live-action film Suicide Squad. Click bait conspiracy, anyone?
Girl-only screenings wreak havoc
Women-only showings of the movie have become very popular in the last week and have sparked incredulity from both sides of the line because of their hard female-only stance. Is it a civil rights violation that these showings are taken place? Is it sexist? Perhaps. But this is (set to be) the first female superhero blockbuster ever, and hey - if you've been deprived of say beer for your entire life, and then magically are given beer - would you prefer drinking it for the first time with people who have been depriving you of it - or people who have been deprived with you? Don't we deserve a little all-female celebration of what could become indicative of 2017 as “the year of the woman."
Lebanon officially bans Wonder Woman from theaters
In what actually seems like a veiled attempt to scupper a step forward in feminism, the “Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel" spotlight anything or anyone that might be funding the Israelis in their decades-old war against Lebanon. They have thus called on the Lebanese government to cancel all showings of Wonder Woman in Lebanon because of Gadot's time served with the Israeli army (which is mandatory for Israeli youngsters), and her outspoken views against Hamas. On Wednesday it was officially announced that the movie would be taken out of the Box Office, with reports slowly coming out that some rogue theaters plan to go ahead with showings despite official orders.
How is this a step to scupper strides in feminism? Well, you might remember Gadot's previously mentioned cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie which ranked third in last year's Lebanese box office. While the campaigners penned a letter to officials requesting a boycott for this movie, this request was snubbed and as such the movie ended up making over $800,000 at the Lebanese box office. Now that Gadot is at the centre of the movie, authorities veritably jumped to cancel its showings and as soon as the statement was read, movie posters were torn down and campaigners were overjoyed with the outcome.
Politics aside - what does this say that Gadot was featured in both trailers and movie posters for the two films - but only the one where she is the lead is thrown out of cinemas?
Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019