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.
Gal Gadot. Courtesy of Time
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."
Patty Jenkins. Courtesy of DC Comics Universe
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 theatres plan to go ahead with showings despite official orders.
#WonderWoman has been banned in #Lebanon.
— Grand Cinemas (@GCLebanon) May 31, 2017
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?
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.