This year’s TIME 100: Most Influential People of 2018 is a who’s who of progressive, feminist icons. The list includes #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke; queer writer, producer, and actress Lena Waithe; West Virginia’s first female fire chief, Jan Rader; trans rights advocate and author Janet Mock, and many others.

On the other hand, the list also includes its fair share of conservative figureheads like Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and conservative talk show host, Sean Hannity. The jarring combination ranges from every side of the political spectrum and places misogynists in the ranks of revolutionary social justice advocates. 

Indeed, like 2018, the TIME 100 list is full of surprises. In the middle of these names, Wonder Woman inexplicably appears. Or, to be specific, the woman who plays her on the silver screen, Gal Gadot.

Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot. Image courtesy of TIME: 100: Most Influential People of 2018.

The inclusion is perplexing, not because Gadot isn’t influential, but rather because WONDER WOMAN is so 2017. Moreover, Gadot deserves only partial credit for bringing DC’s most recognizable female superhero to life. Director Patty Jenkins is largely to thank for the overwhelmingly female-centric focus of the film.

So, why didn’t Gadot or Jenkins make the list back in 2017? In fact, Patty Jenkins was one of the 2017 runners-up for TIME’s Person of the Year. Again, the question remains: Why Gal Gadot, and why now?

WONDER WOMAN Is Naive, And That’s A Good Thing

Gadot earned her stripes as a performer in the first WONDER WOMAN movie. Since then she joined forces with other heroes in the JUSTICE LEAGUE film. Naturally, Gadot is also slated to appear in the 2019 WONDER WOMAN 2. Among these accomplishments, Gadot also embodied Wonder Woman to help promote the character’s controversial position as an Honorary U.N. Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls

Nonetheless, her appearance on the 2018 TIME: 100 list does not completely add up. Next to the numerous radical, queer, and/or people of color who made the list, the former Israeli Defense Forces member is a conservative choice. Next to the conservative, however, Gadot is a highly palatable icon of female strength. I suspect that Gal Gadot not only saved the DC universe as WONDER WOMAN, she strategically saves the TIME: 100 list as a politically-moderate choice for an influential female artist, however delayed the pick may seem. 

Feminine Wonder: Lynda Carter’s Take

But don’t take my word for it. TIME carefully selected the perfect author to pen Gal Gadot’s insert. The original Wonder Woman herself, of course: Lynda Carter. Carter heralds Gadot as the embodiment of all Wonder Woman represents:

“fierce strength, a kind heart and incredible valor.”

Indeed, Gadot does live up to the praise. She famously filmed parts of WONDER WOMAN while 5 months pregnant. The media often praises Gadot for being the kindest, most accommodating celebrity to grace Hollywood. Carter simply lays out the facts, saying Gadot

“is hardworking, loving, wise, goofy and full of humanity.”

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, 1976. 

Gadot is certainly the embodiment of the adventurous demi-god superhero, Wonder Woman. On the surface, the DC character is impossibly perfect. Amazon warrior princess, she can do no wrong. Likewise, Gadot is the new feminist face of DC, but she does so lovingly and gracefully.

And, as Carter points out, Gadot “understood and captured the spirit of this complex, independent, fully feminine persona.” According to Carter, Gadot’s success at playing Wonder Woman is due to both her competence and her femininity. She is both feminist and girl next door.

How to Rediscover Wonder Woman’s Queerness

Gal Gadot and The Wonder Woman Paradox:

As a result of Gadot’s “fully feminine persona,” her capability as a warrior is generally acceptable. Although it breaks from cultural expectations about women’s roles, she balances it perfectly by also being a mother, a beauty queen, and a kind, goofy lady. Like Wonder Woman, Gadot is complicated, even paradoxical.

Indeed, Wonder Woman seems to slip the ties constraining women in similar roles. Wonder Woman, and by extension Gadot, get away with being kinkier, queerer, or more masculine than other women because she is otherwise charismatic, beautiful, and the epitome of femininity.

WONDER WOMAN #13
Image from WONDER WOMAN #13.

William M. Marston got away with Wonder Woman by subtext. Under a veil of naivety, sweetness, and convention, Wonder Women is queer, kinky, and dominant. As a result, instead of destroying the possibility of feminist progressiveness, she seduces everyone to go along with it. It is possible that Gadot is similarly successful.

She escapes criticism by towing the line between femininity and feminism.

Blurred Lines: More Controversial Than Expected

Ultimately, why Gadot made the TIME 100 list might not really have much to do with Gadot at all, but rather what she symbolizes. Gadot is just progressive enough to appease progressives, and she’s just beauty queen/mother enough to please conservatives. For example, unlike Wonder Woman, Gadot is not queer, but she’s comfortable playing it on screen.

WONDER WOMAN: Does It Deserve An Oscar Nomination?

Her controversial support of Israeli nationalism is chalked up to “serving her country” (see Carter’s description). Moreover, Gadot’s real military experience makes her more credible as a feminist warrior princess because she is serving a traditionally male role. However, while she looks progressive for supporting Israeli women’s equality, her role directly harmed others, including women.

Mostly, however, American fans push Gadot’s involvement in Palestinian oppression aside. As a result, fans can believe that Gadot can kick ass in a mini-skirt and make it sexy, all while espousing moderately (white) feminist values. As delightful and palatable as Gadot is to most audiences, it is unclear if she deserved to be on this year’s list of the most influential people.

Although Gadot lovingly embraces her role as Wonder Woman, embodying the character’s best traits in the real world, Gadot simply does not push the envelope. Instead of recognizing her for her influential role in 2017, TIME 100 simply uses her to fill a white-feminist sized gap.

One Comment

  1. Heroineburgh

    May 30, 2018 at 3:32 am

    The writer is right about Gadot being out of place in this year’s Top 100, and better placed in last year’s list, but not for the reason she says. A better inclusion in this year’s list for the “white photogenic Jewish feminist” slot would have been Ayelet Shaked, the most powerful woman in Israeli politics who could be the country’s second female prime minister. Of course, she’s even bigger a defender of Zionism than Gadot even though she’s a staunch secularist, but this list is about influence, not about any particular political stance.