Why Body-Shaming Actors and Actresses Needs to Stop Right Now

By  · Published on December 5th, 2013

Yesterday’s news that Fast & Furious actress Gal Gadot has been picked to play Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman inevitably stirred up plenty of ire in fans of the character, superhero junkies, and people who straight-up think it’s okay to take to the World Wide Web to bitch about the abilities and appearance of a person they’ve never met. It was a sadly standard response to big time casting news, but no matter how unsurprising it was, that doesn’t mean it’s in any way acceptable.

When Gadot’s casting was announced, the Internet exploded with all sorts of chatter about her appropriateness for the role, nearly all of it rooted in how the Israeli actress looks, very little of it had to do with her acting chops or that she has starred in a limited number of roles (making her talent a bit harder to examine). Most of it was disheartening at best, ugly at worst, as various people felt the need to take to the web to air out their thoughts on Gadot’s body – my Twitter feed alone was clogged with repeated phrases like “too skinny,” “small,” and “little.” And, yes, most of the people I follow on Twitter are involved in the entertainment world in a professional capacity, this was not just irate fans mouthing off. It was an upsetting afternoon.

These were tame comments, as a quick perusal of various comments sections on a range of other movie sites turned up appraisals like “way to skinny and I am going to be blunt here she does not have enough in the chest area to play this part,” “They are going to need to boost her boob somehow.lol,” “Aint no gym in the world can make her grow boobs tho,” “Time to hit the gym and bulk up a bit. I mean this is WONDER WOMAN we’re talking about,” “Someone give this chick a sandwich or two, please,” and “WONDER WOMAN IS NOT A WAIFY SKINNY SUPER MODEL TYPE!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!! FAIL!!!!!!!!” There were, of course, plenty more comments, and plenty more that were just plain revolting (why anyone feels the need to tell a commenting community that they want to suck someone’s toes, we’ll never understand), but there’s no need to go that deep into someone else’s latent darkness to explore this issue.

Gadot is reportedly 5’9”, which still places her on the higher end of the height spectrum (the average height for an American woman clocks in around 5’4”, and Gadot is also tall in her native Israel, as their average is 5’5.5”). Even if she wasn’t, it would not actually matter, as making someone appear taller on screen is literally one of the oldest tricks in the moviemaking book. If you’re still convinced that Hollywood movie magic cannot make “short people” look imposing, you might want to break out your Mission: Impossible DVDs and watch Tom Cruise, or take out your Iron Man set and give Robert Downey, Jr. a peek. (Or, if you’re feeling lazy, take a look at this chart from NextMovie of Hollywood’s most surprisingly short actors – yes, Gadot is taller than Mark Wahlberg, Javier Bardem, and Ben Stiller).

Gadot also comes from a background of trained toughness that the vast majority of the world (and the vast majority of Hollywood actresses) can’t claim equally, as she spent two years in the Israeli army (Israel requires all of its population to serve in the armed forces for at least two years, and its conscription of women is still an overwhelming unique element of that). Gadot may be a beautiful woman (and a former pageant queen), but to assume she is not suited for a role because she is “too skinny” is insane.

But, more than anything, Gadot is an actress, a person whose very livelihood is about transforming into an entirely different person. Plenty of actors have very memorably transformed their bodies in various ways for roles – think Christian Bale in The Machinist, Charlize Theron in Monster, Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Matt Damon in Courage Under Fire, and that’s just scratching the surface – because this is literally their job.

Actors and actresses have just one instrument at their disposal: their body. Being a professional performer is not like being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or a cashier or a postman or a janitor or a florist, it is a career that demands total dedication and a willingness to change in order to succeed. Body-shaming Gadot and other performers is not only insulting, silly, backwards, and gross, it’s also a damn baseless way to determine how well someone is suited for a particular role. And, when it comes to Batman vs. Superman, it may just be a lot of loaded language about a small role, as Gadot’s part in the film has only so far been billed as “Wonder Woman,” no mention of Diana Prince, and it’s unclear how large her actual performance will be.

“Gal Gadot is too skinny.” “Melissa McCarthy is too fat.” “Jennifer Lawrence is too chubby.” (What? Don’t believe that one? Yup, even Hollywood’s new sweetheart has been the victim of a disgusting barrage of body-shaming comments.) Body-shaming is a consistent problem in Hollywood and, sadly, it’s not something that is going to stop any time soon (no matter how many impassioned editorials people pen about it), yet that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make a concerted effort to consider performers for far more than how tall they are, how “little” they may be, or how much meat they have on their bones. Gal Gadot may be “skinny,” but we’re willing to bet she could kick just about anyone’s ass – and hopefully she can kick ass as Wonder Woman, too.