WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Wonder Woman's grooming
Nobody predicted that Gal Gadot's armpits would be a topic of conversation once Wonder Woman's marketing started, but things have already gotten stranger, with the studio responding by editing said armpits in response. We have crossed the border between the strange and ridiculous, comic book fans, leaving us wondering if the body hair and grooming techniques of Batman and Superman are now up for discussion. Unfortunately, the criticism addressed in the latest round of Wonder Woman previews and TV spots doesn't add in digital hair to Gal Gadot's underarms - but is nevertheless as pointless, and was nevertheless pointed to by countless online commenters and pundits.
It's possible that some comic book fans completely missed this armpit discussion (we hope, at the very least), so we'll give a quick refresher. The shot in question comes from the Wonder Woman 'Origins' trailer, in which Diana is shown tossing an entire tank over her head at enemy soldiers. An act that proved worth commenting on not for the show of strength and fearlessness, but for the close-up shot it provided of actress Gal Gadot's armpits. Armpits that were hairless, smooth, and paler than the rest of her skin. All features that soon grabbed headlines and a fair bit of dismissal-sharing on social media... to the extent that Warner Bros. marketing clearly caught wind, making changes to the shot in future footage.
For the record, we here at Screen Rant decided not to cover the shocking investigations into what Gal Gadot's armpits look like at the time. In many ways, it turned out to be the kind of observation/humor that receives as much scorn as attention... which then spreads the number of sites, outlets, and blogs noting its ridiculousness... until mainstream outlets or TV pundits can't possibly resist on the latest frivolous, absurd issue that "fans on line are up in arms about." In this case, the issue "fans" were "up in arms" over may be an incredible play on words, but we would wager to say that actual fans of the first female-led, female-directed, superhero action movie preferred to discuss other topics.
It's clear by now that there's little ground to be gained by seeming neutral, or even somewhat positive about a DCEU movie's outlook or potential. Whether you believe it reflects the DCEU's quality or not, there's no question that the studio is on its heels - with Wonder Woman already facing negativity beyond its control. So if there's an element of the film's marketing that the same online arena is keen on mocking, it's the marketing team's job to address the commentary.
See for yourself the adjustments made from the Origins trailer to the version now circulating in many televised previews, dug up via Reddit:
There's still no sign of underarm hair growth, but artists have taken the time to color-match Gadot's skin tone to rest of her body (possibly even spreading a warmer, more saturated 'glow' to her skin in general). It's an adjustment too strange for us not to note, if for no other reason than hoping that the 'solution' to online commentary reveals how odd the 'problem' was in the first place. A problem that, for reasons few stopped to actually consider or investigate, was never a problem to begin with.
For starters, this modification only addresses half of the issues raised - the skin inside of Diana's armpits being less tanned than the rest of her body, an issue we still have trouble grasping. Unless, of course, some are postulating that sunbathing with arms raised over the head is a standard part of Amazon training and lifestyle - in which case, we'll hear the argument in full before rendering our opinion. The issue still to be raised, and which will likely be raised again by the same commentators when this adjustment is noticed, is the question of underarm hair.
Just another reminder that in question here is the grooming habits of a made up woman, from a made up civilization of immortal women, living on a made up island, continuing the culture of a version of the Greek and Roman gods that DC Comics made up. Regardless of that fiction, some did, and will continue to ask: shouldn't Wonder Woman have hairy armpits? It's a question based, presumably, on the idea that female grooming is a product of American and Western society, reinforced by a largely patriarchal society and concept of feminine beauty. Of course, Wonder Woman, like the actress playing her on film, isn't from America. In a direct interpretation of the world of DC Comics, the most obvious cultural influences on Themyscira and the Amazons are those of their deities: that of ancient Greece and Rome.
We'll go ahead and save readers the time required to Google "did Roman and Greek women shave?" and to read "Yes they did" in response, and skip right into the explanations why. Shaving body hair to meet a hygienic construct is relatively new for Western Europe and America, but classical societies embraced the practice among both genders... though we doubt that will sway the sentiments of anyone who opposes the notion of Diana shaving her armpits on political grounds. And since this is all make believe Hollywood movie-making, it's as valid a stance as any.
But if we're sticking with the idea that the DCEU's Themyscira is based on our world's classical civilizations and culture, then the idea of removing hair for both aesthetic and practical reasons rules. For many, the time, energy, and precision involved in removing the body of hair was as much about class as it was refinement, leisure, and class. For hunters and soldiers, body hair could give opponents something to grab hold of, or would carry more of the body's scent tipping off prey before ready to strike. Since Diana of the Amazons is the daughter of their queen, revered as the most powerful and best among them, she fits the criteria usually associated with those who practiced extensive grooming.
In hindsight, then, it's fitting that the marketing team's talents wouldn't correct this conundrum that would require a bit of research or knowledge to grasp. Instead, they addressed the issue raised on purely cosmetic grounds, by those who thought a woman's tan not extending to her armpits was more worthy of notice than her showing herself to be even stronger than most of her male superhero colleagues.
Sure, she's more powerful and noble than Captain America or Batman, but c'mon... don't her armpits look weird? Not anymore, thank goodness.
- Wonder Woman (2017) release date: Jun 02, 2017