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Tag: opinion

How Justice League fails Wonder Woman

Contributed by
Nov 15, 2017

Justice League has arrived, and it's the third Wonder Woman movie this year! But hold off on the celebration, fellow fangrrls. Because while Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman gave us a goddess to worship, and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women gave us her rich IRL origin story, Justice League -- helmed by Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon -- sells DC Entertainment's only superheroine woefully short. Let's break it down.

Battle bikinis

Twitter is fired up about comparative shots of the Amazons' costumes from Wonder Woman versus those teased in Justice League promo images. Basically, it looks like the Amazons lost the middle part of their costumes between World War I and now.

Now, some have noted that the leather sparring outfits and the more casual looks in Wonder Woman were similarly skimpy in the midriff region.

These fans pleaded for patience until audiences could actually see the much-anticipated return of the Amazons in Justice League. Well, I've seen it. And, yes, there are leather sparring outfits with bare midriffs similar to those seen in Wonder Woman. However, there are also full-on metal armor looks that likewise boast bare bellies (seen below on the far right). Revisiting the Wonder Woman battle between the Amazons and the Germans, you do see metal armor that only covers the upper chest, but it's worn OVER TOP leather armor, which does cover the midriff. 

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On the left, a Wonder Woman costume, in the middle and right, Justice League's. Courtesy of The Golden Lasso

This isn't an issue of maidenly modesty, but simple logic. These women warriors should be able to wear whatever they want. Sure. But how in any logical realm outside of leering Male Gaze do you justify on-duty guards choosing to leave their torsos largely exposed, instead favoring only a glorified metal battle bra? That none of the Amazons get their six-packs sliced open and have their guts spill out onto their shorter skirts seems only because DC's determined to keep it PG-13 to get those sweet teen dollars. Any other explanation strains credulity, even in a world where Amazons live on a magical secret island.

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Diana becomes a lame rom-com protagonist

In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, she was powerful, seductive, playful, and mysterious. In Wonder Woman, she was powerful, idealistic, spirited, and inspiring. In Justice League -- save for some mentoring scenes with Cyborg -- Diana Prince is mostly forced to bicker and flirt with Batman.

Admittedly, she gets an independent action sequence that feels pretty clearly like a Whedon reshoot created for fan service, as it has zero to do with the wider plot. Beyond that, Diana is wedged into the tiresome role of "the nag," like nearly every token wife/mom/girlfriend character on TV sitcoms or male-fronted movies. Bruce says in his grumbly voice he has a plan, and Diana chimes in to poke holes in it. In response, Bruce bullies her, even evoking Steve Trevor's name to get a reaction. And boy does he get one, leading Barry Allen to quip, "You know if she kills you, we'll cover for her?" But hey, no worries. Bruce and Diana will still flirt and clink whiskey glasses, and give meaningful stares like they are Sam and Diane, or Tracy and Hepburn.

Look. I get it, they flirted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And I get Bruce being into Diana. SHE IS A LITERAL GODDESS AND ALL KINDS OF GORGEOUS. But Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot have zero chemistry here, so every Justice League flirtation feels forced. And frankly, after the shiny dreaminess of Chris Pine's dashing fighter pilot, it's hard to believe Diana would be into brooding Bruce.

Even more frustrating, Bruce mansplains to her about how she ought to be hero-ing. Never mind that's she's been doing it longer than he's been alive. He is a man and he has feels and she better listen! And what's infuriating? She does, admitting to Bruce, "I've been reacting, not leading," because women be emotional! Justice League has Wonder Woman acquiesce that Batman really sure did teach her the best way to hero, because she really should be out in the world more -- even though we saw her in her costume saving people in the very beginning of the film! And even though she doesn't wear a mask when she's rescuing people like some heroes I might mention!

Clearly, all this is meant to play as that old-school rom-com dynamic of where he's a macho playboy and she's a stern all-business lady, so he'll loosen her up and she'll teach him to grow up. But with so much else going on in the film, this trope never really develops. So mostly what's left is Diana getting lectured, getting hit on, and getting to be the nag as Batman leads the team. It never clicks with the Diana we knew and loved from Wonder Woman, so the whole thing is jarring and disturbing.

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Bad Buffy outfits

Remember how the fashion in Wonder Woman was so good that women around the world immediately began mimicking it, even putting swords in backless dresses for added panache? Yeah. That won't happen out of Justice League. With Wonder Woman, costume designer Lindy Hemming gave us that gorgeous blue gown on top of a thrilling montage of Diana trying on frilly civilian clothes. But in Justice League they hired 300's costume designer, Michael Wilkinson. Apparently he thinks the kind of aspirational fashion women want to see on Diana Prince is leather skinny pants and deep-cut, cleavage-baring tops, always in a muddy, ugly brown. Like Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer had some laughably bad fashion, but at least they didn't run from color!

My kingdom for some screenshots to prove to you these fashion catastrophes! One outfit is a dirt-brown long-sleeved shirt with a deep V in the front and back, paired with tight leather pants. It's not chic or elegant, it's provocative and ugly. Provocative would be fine potentially. Diana wants to flaunt herself -- even though according to the movie she's trying to be undercover -- good for her! But the clothes are hideous besides. Another horrid outfit is topped with a furry brown jacket that looks like something your great-aunt gets you because she knows you have a "funky" sense of style, and it looks like maybe she shaved her mangy old dog to make it, but you have to wear it at least once because you love her and family can be trying. ANYWAY, the only time Diana looks like the superheroine and fashion icon we love is when she's in her iconic battle gear. And even then, she's not safe from Snyder/Whedon's Male Gaze.

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So many up-skirt shots

I counted five, and then stopped counting because I was maybe a bit blind with rage. Look, because this movie was made by two directors, it's hard to know who to blame for this. But in nearly EVERY action sequence with Wonder Woman, there is a low-angle shot that looks right up her skirt, like a paparazzo snatching a panty shot to embarrass a female celeb. I get her skirt is short. And yet I don't remember clocking ass-cheeks and panties in Wonder Woman. And it's not just these. I'd probably be less irate about the bad fashion if it didn't feel like an excuse for Justice League to leer at Diana, even in her casual gear. The cinematography favors shots that are sure to include her cleavage, and -- more notably -- low angles that are careful to keep her butt (in those tight leather pants) in focus.

Look, I get it. Gal Gadot is beautiful and sexy. And it's totally fine to celebrate that. I'd argue Wonder Woman did that. But that movie treated her as a woman of personality, style, and character, on top of being a gorgeous sexual being. Meanwhile, Justice League treats her more like Batman's girlfriend than a hero in her own right, then robs her of her fashion sense, and frames her and her sisters as slabs of juicy meat to be ogled first … and maybe admired later. Radiant with verve and grace, Gadot manages to dazzle nonetheless. But Wonder Woman deserves better, and so do her fans.

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