Nerdist was started by Chris Hardwick and has grown to be a many headed beast.

The Wonder Woman “Slut” Problem: As Discussed By Two Professional Nerds Via Email

by on March 21, 2011

This picture makes me happy.

By now, I’m sure you guys have seen the pictures of Adrianne Palicki costumed as David E. Kelley’s new Wonder Woman but, if not, here she is. Early Friday afternoon, my tweet stream was inundated with cries of outrage, some excitement and sadly, a whole lot of misogyny. A friend and peer of mine, Bobby “Fatboy” Roberts (writer, podcaster, actor, and not at all fat guy), sent me a message which basically asked (in a guidance counselor-y manner) if I wanted to rap about the issue, because I was clearly reaching a nuclear level of anger. So we did. And here are the results.

Bobby: Hi, Kiala! For the purposes of this email, I will be playing the role of Tim Gunn! I know you have seen the Wonder Woman costume that David E. Kelley and NBC have shoved Adrianne Palicki into. Do you like it? I think it’s a case of “So close – so far away.” The general idea is good, I think. It’s just that the details kinda make the whole endeavor go sideways. I don’t like the high-heels, I don’t like the shade of blue they used, I really don’t like the fabric – the vinyl/pleather thing just seems sorta tacky, to me.

 

EW.com/Photo: Justin Lubin/NBC

Kiala: Hi Bobby! For the purposes of this email I will be playing a man hating feminist. For the purposes of life I will just be playing a nerd who is also a feminist.

Here are my feelings about the new Wonder Woman costume: I like it! Do I think the material could have been better? Sure. It kind of reminds me of Raw-era Eddie Murphy but it doesn’t send me into an angry nerd spiral the way the news of Lucas deciding to 3D the shit out of Star Wars did. I think it’s fine. I like the leggings – I liked them when the illustrations for the new (non-Kelley) WW costume came out. I think they’re waaaaay more practical than no pants. Do I really need to say that? I mean, duh. I like the corset. It’s, you know… the same as all the other corsets Diana has worn throughout the years, basically. And high heeled boots are pretty. She’s a superhero. She’s got like super balance and super calves.

Now here is what I don’t like: I don’t like that this convo with you is the first opportunity I’ve had to talk about the aesthetics of the costume itself, because my Twitter feed has been hijacked by people claiming her outfit looks like “a slutty Halloween costume” and that she will be playing a hooker who fights crime. Apparently. And I’ve been deflecting those slut-shaming bullets ever since. WITH MY SHINY TIN CAN WRISTBANDS.

I get that the slick PVC-ness of her costume could remind people of naughty nurses or what have you, but does that make her “slutty”? Do cheap fabrics somehow imply Wonder Woman is gadding about town DTF anyone who buys her a drink (because that is what “sluts” do, I guess?) or, I don’t know, just anyone she finds attractive? Even if this were so, who gives a fuck? Why is that “bad”? In fact, a promiscuous Amazon would really not be so very far-fetched, but again, I understand this is not the point these people were trying to make. Unfortunately, instead of taking a moment to consider the impact of such loaded terms (not to mention lazy ones), people just started throwing around “whore” and “slut” like those are perfectly justifiable adjectives and aren’t totally ironic when used within the context of a female superhero who embodies strength, justice, and beauty.

Lynda Carter's Version

And, finally… FUCK. HAVE ANY OF THESE PEOPLE SEEN A SUPERHERO COSTUME BEFORE? They are all — every single one of them — bright, shiny, primary colored, tight in the sex places, and ridiculous.

Anyway, her hair looks real pretty.

Bobby: Yeah, the usage of the word “slut” here is some poorly-thought-out shorthand, definitely. I think it is the PVC-ness of the costume that’s prompting that shit, too. The word “Catwoman” keeps coming up, as does the word “Fetish.” And fetish has a lot to do with Wonder Woman, and her history; William Moulton Marston, her creator, was a kinky little asshole. But while this costume looks cheap (and I don’t mean that as in morally cheap, it looks like a costume I could have grabbed half-off, November 1st, at those Halloween stores that take over abandoned Party Depots) it doesn’t look SLUTTY. Hell, neither did Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Intimidatingly hot, yes. But not slutty. For one thing: There are pants. Long ones. Palicki’s showing less skin below the waist than most Quakers.

But it’s that Halloween costume thing that seems to be hanging people up. We’ve been hit with about a couple decades worth of “Sexy” versions of Halloween costumes marketed directly towards females age 13-up. And for a lot of people who are ignorant/scared shitless of sex, “Sexy” = “Slutty.” So that’s where people on your Twitter feed seem to be tripping over themselves and faceplanting into lazy idiocy. It doesn’t excuse that laziness at all, but I can see where they’ve had that particular angle sledgehammered into their heads.

It might also be where David E. Kelley is tripping himself up, too. If I remember correctly, he’s written (poor) reasons for why this costume looks like it does into the script. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I remember seeing an excerpt that shows Diana acknowledging the sex-appeal of her costume, and her chest specifically. And there’s nothing wrong with the Superhero having sex-appeal. It’s how you frame it, and I wonder if Kelley is choosing to frame it in a fashion that panders to people who substitute “sex” for “slut” frequently. I wouldn’t put it past him. He doesn’t seem to have a working understanding of what makes the character tick in the slightest, so far.

Here’s my problem with the Twitter langoliers criss-crossing the internet, all chattering teeth and mindless ripping: The suggestion that Miss Palicki is too “dainty” to play Diana. Granted, this costume isn’t helping get across the idea that this woman is an ass kicker. That’s one of the reasons I want the heels gone, replaced with a more all-purpose boot for extra-satisfying mud hole stomping But it’s like, Adrienne Palicki is an imposing actress. Emotionally and physically. Sure, she’s not a UFC fighter, but she’s not Angelina Jolie, either. Wonder Woman isn’t the Punisher. I don’t need Ray Stevenson w/ bracelets. It’d be cool if she acted more like Titus Pullo with tits, but she shouldn’t look like that. Palicki is one of the few actresses who doesn’t fit the body type of most starlets her age, to the point where I know she’s missed out on roles due to her size and physicality, and now she’s not big/butch ENOUGH? The complaint irritates me even more because I have yet to see anyone offer up an alternative that makes anywhere near as much sense.

I guess that’s my biggest gripe with the costume. It seems like yet another symptom of a production led by a creative team that is bound and determined to not only kneecap the character’s potential, but Ms. Palicki’s. The opportunity to be something more is being slowly ruined for her before she even gets a chance to do something with it.

Kiala: What? They think she’s not Xena enough? She’s so TALL. And I love her. Tyra was my favorite FNL character – a character, by the way, saddled with the epithet “slut” and stronger than almost everyone on that show.

I don’t know. I have a very low bar set for this thing already so I’m not expecting much from it. I am, however, expecting more from Wonder Woman fans. So if they could stop conflating sexy with slutty I would be satisfied.

Bobby: Okay – let’s strike a deal. I’ll go to the internet and be like “Hey, Internet. Quit being dickmouths,” but only if you promise to go to NBCUniversal and be like “Hey dickmouths — get Gail Simone to run this show and you can enjoy success for once,” and everyone will win.

Sound like a deal?

Kiala: OMG YES. But only if she lets me help write the jokes. Because I am so funny. Also Geoff Johns told me one time I looked like Wonder Woman. So that’s… something.

Anyway, DEAL.

Tw00t at Bobby and Kiala here and here!