Entertainment Weekly just posted the first pic from the new Wonder Woman movie, and it's stressing me out because I'm worried these ladies are gonna get stabbed in the junk.
The way I see it, there are two options here:
- Wonder Woman and friends are sword-proof and invulnerable, and the armor is just a fashion choice.
- The armor is "real," but inexplicably exposes everyone to lethal blows to the neck, arms, and upper thighs.
Now, I'm the first to admit that there's no such thing as a ~practical superhero costume. Their job is to look cool and distinctive, not to make perfect rational sense. Unfortunately for Wonder Woman, her wardrobe choices are colored by decades of sexist garbage movies where women wear skimpy outfits to satisfy our old friend the Male Gaze. In that context, this photo could probably benefit from... some pants, basically. Maybe just one woman wearing pants.
Analysing ~sexualized movie costumes is a real can of worms, because you very quickly become embroiled in the issue of shaming real women for their fashion choices. However, there's a very big difference between a real person deciding to wear a strapless metal bathing suit (do what thou wilt!) and a movie studio marketing its first female action hero in the same kind of outfit. These costumes do not exist in a cultural vacuum.
With Wonder Woman, a lot will ride on the film's tone and aesthetic. To me, the costumes in that photo suggest the camp tone of Xena: Warrior Princess, where it felt perfectly acceptable for everyone to run around wearing leather bikinis. But this is a big-budget movie, spinning off from Zack Snyder's relentlessly dark-and-gritty Justice League franchise. It is almost certainly going to be Serious.
|Lady Sif and the Warriors Three in Thor. Like Sif, Thor often wears sleeveless armor.|
Marvel's Thor movies are probably a more useful comparison than Xena, and I can't help but look at the difference between Wonder Woman's Amazons and Thor's Asgardian brethren: Heimdall, Sif, and the Warriors Three, who represent a variety of races, body types, and costuming styles.
In the EW article, director Patty Jenkins says, "I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time," and goes on to describe the Amazons' high-heeled shoes as "wish-fulfilment." She also highlights the importance of the main characters looking "authentic" and "appealing to women," which I found interesting because, well... first and foremost, "women" is a pretty broad category. Some will find Xena-style costumes empowering, while others will find them tremendously offputting. Especially since the costumes look like armor, which implies they're meant to have some kind of practical purpose.
Better to have a broader range of styles between the characters, which makes it more obvious that individual women are making individual choices.
|Wonder Woman DVD movie|
When costuming a fantasy movie, you have to deal with a tricky balance of internal worldbuilding and external expectations. Wonder Woman is more complicated than most, because it comes with the baggage of Hollywood sexism and decades of comicbook canon.
In terms of external expectations, they had to design something that vaguely resembles the Wonder Woman of the comics, while also looking badass, sexy (apparently), and appealing to women. And those costumes need to be taken seriously by audiences in the context of a quasi-historical action movie. As for the internal logic of those costumes as fictional creations, we have to assume that the armor is purely decorative. The Amazons are superhumanly impervious to sword wounds, and their all-female society... somehow developed a beauty standard that involves body hair removal, bare legs, rigid boob armor, and high-heeled sandals. Stranger things have happened, I guess?