Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thoughts on Casting Wonder Woman

I haven't posted about this yet, but my reaction to the recent Wonder Woman casting rumor is pretty similar to Ragnell's.

Rachel Bilson is very cute and undeniably a good actress but when it comes down to it, a sexy scene does not a Wonder Woman make.

I understand Ragnell's trepidation with Joss Whedon and I share it in one sense. His particular comments about Kitty Pryde, the nature of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and River from Firefly have me a little worried.

But not as much as some. Whedon's got a lot of strengths and faults writing-wise, but there's one thing that gives me hope. He's not just a popular writer, he's a comics fan. The man has to know Wonder Woman already.

Serenity and Firefly have had many problems with gender portrayals, for all that there were strengths as well. However this is the same movie set that brought us:

Zoe Warren. Zoe's strong, beautiful and a little terse. As warrior women go though, she fits the iconic image really well. I'd love to see Gina Torres as Wonder Woman actually. She's very tall and has a towering presence. She's also very beautiful.

I can see some issue though in the fact that Gina Torres isn't white. The initial fan reaction to Jessica Alba as Sue Storm wasn't pretty. This has the shot of being worse. There's nothing so depressing as watching fans insist they're not racist while making fuss over race. In the end, Alba's looks were not the issue (though I thought she'd be prettier with the darker hair color) and Kingpin's casting in Daredevil was inspired, I thought.

I admit, personally, I'm of mixed feelings about the issue. On one hand, Superman and Batman were clearly cast with the iconic comic book image in mind, with as little deviation possible. Wonder Woman, as the third in the trinity, should have the same importance. Such a dramatic change might be a sign that she's somehow not as important as the other two. However, I would much prefer to change something as small as Diana's apparent race (and really, do Themyscirans sculpted from clay *need* to be white?) than other elements of the character. As Ms. Bilson and other suggestions go, the casting choice of Ms. Torres would be a dream.

Another character from Firefly/Serenity that bears elements that could be used in the portrayal of Diana is:

Inara Serra, admittedly, the character is a courtesan, however she conducts herself always with stately dignity and composure. She is regal, calm and centered, with a diplomat's eye for etiquette. If Whedon's film will focus on Diana's role as a diplomat, Inara is a good sign that he can pull it off.

On Ragnell's thread, Loren brings up Morena Baccarin as a casting choice. I could see it. She's a little soft looking for my taste, as I prefer my Amazons to look Amazonian, but she's very beautiful. She has some of the same elements I remember from Lynda Carter's portrayal, though as yet I've only seen her play serious.

While I'd personally prefer Torres as a casting choice, I can definitely see Baccarin's appeal. In the costume, she would very much resemble the iconic image of Wonder Woman. She's, as I said, a trifle soft looking, but that's nothing that some training and exercise couldn't fix. (And superpowers do allow a little leeway.) She's not as tall or towering, but she could definitely believably play a foreign princess/diplomat.

Baccarin's also got the advantage of youth, appearing closer to an age suitable for a beginning Wonder Woman.

So right now, I'm still optimistic. The rumors are disheartening, but Whedon's a comic fan. He's written archetypes applicable to Wonder Woman, and I can't see that he wouldn't recognize that. He (or whoever his casting director is) also seems to be very good at finding talented relative-unknowns to play his roles. Hopefully these facts will combine in an appealing way.

Or you can bet I'll be right there to bitch about it. :-)

(These pictures were originally publicity images for Firefly and were swiped gratuitously from various places on the 'Net)



  • At September 16, 2006 1:16 PM, Anonymous Lyle said…

    One thing I liked about Zoe was that, in Serenity, she had that suicidal warrior moment after her partner's death that's usually reserved for men. It was one of the movies more powerful moments.

    One thing I like about Torres was realizing that she also played Angel-baddie Jade, the demon who preached New Age sweetness and light. Gina Torres is a very versatile actress and one of the few I can imagine hitting the multiple aspects of Diana.

  • At September 16, 2006 1:27 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    Holy crap, Sigourney Weaver and Geena Davis are FIFTY?

    What happened to tall fit women in Hollywood? Was it just an eighties thing?

  • At September 16, 2006 1:35 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    lyle: Yep. Zoe as a character gives me some faith that Whedon won't botch Diana.

    And I remember seeing her as the Angel-character and being amazed. That's a good sign.

    zaratustra: unfortunately, it's not in vogue anymore...

  • At September 16, 2006 2:52 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kali,
    Don't forget the amazing and fabulous Monica Bellucci! And someone somewhere also mentioned Katee Sackhoff, who is tall, buff, and *talented*.
    *crossing fingers*

  • At September 16, 2006 3:54 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    An excellent point. If any actor is going to play a warrior, he or she needs to look believable in the part (you wouldn't buy Jim Carrey as a warrior, for example), but even more so for female roles or you can't get into the illusion (Jennifer Garner in Elektra, I'm looking at you). Gina Torres would be an excellent choice in that she can portray a very calm (dare I say serene?) attitude, in addition to looking dangerous or enraged when the need arises. In that famous near suicide scene in "Serenity," notice how composed her face is. She doesn't just scream and leap, as we might expect a male character to.

  • At September 16, 2006 5:26 PM, Anonymous Loren said…

    Please cease and desist using my name in your entries...


    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    I LOVE Gina Torres and, like you, I think she would make a marvelous Wonder you suggest, as a warrior. I think part of it for me is that I do see Wonder Woman more as an emmisary or a diplomat for peace rather than a warrior. True that she comes from a warrior race, but, the way I've always imagined them was more in the line of defense and not offense. So, I'd like to see somebody a bit softer (like Baccarin) yet who can exude strength at the same time.

  • At September 16, 2006 8:55 PM, Anonymous chuck said…

    No idea of who should be cast as Wonder Woman...perhaps someone who's 'unknown'(like Christopher Reeve was)or a 'lesser-known'(like Christian Bale)...that seemed to work out okay.

    My only requirements for WW are that she be at least 5'10", look around 30 years old and have an athletic build(actresses with pipe cleaner arms and legs need not apply!)

    I have DEFINITE thoughts on who should be cast as Hippolita...Lynda Carter or Lucy Lawless(presuming that she'd be considered too old to be WW).

  • At September 16, 2006 9:21 PM, Anonymous Palladin said…

    Gina Torres would be great. Thing is, Whedon mentioned not taking the job until after he had read some Wonder Woman stuff. He then got an idea and said, yeah I can do this.

    So it is not a fan thing in the sense that he might have the strongest sense of the character that WW fans would want. That could work against the movie.

    I think he will go with someone that will be unexpected or cast Eliza Dushku. He either will prime the Buffy well (And apparently Charisma C. and him are not that close if rumors are true) or have a complete unknown to low level actress be cast.

  • At September 16, 2006 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Claudia Black! Claudia Black! Claudia Black!

    Sorry, I just can't help repeating it over and over. Claudia Black! Her role as Aeryn Sun in Farscape floored me on both looks and acting ability equally. She was completely bad-ass and completely vulnerable when she let her guard down and she convincing at both. And she has a great sense of humor too.

    Claudia Black! WOO! I know she won't be cast, but I can dream....

    -- Anun

  • At September 16, 2006 11:26 PM, Anonymous Willow said…

    I'm not going to follow up on Joss' run on RUNAWAYS because of how he managed things in ASTONISHING. It's not wrong, it's just not what I like. I've had enough of his views on sexuality and the fiestiness of small women.

    I know he's done a lot for gender reflections and bucking gender trends. But I also feel he's created a whole new stereotype niche. And I don't want to see that for WonderWoman. So I worry.

    Zoe is wonderful. But Serenity also had River.

    PS: And my net name was Willow way before Buffy ;p

  • At September 16, 2006 11:42 PM, Anonymous carla said…

    I have been saying that since... sine I rrad it on a weblog somewhere. Silly me. But if people could get over the race issue, she would be hands down perfect. Morena Bacarrin is too small.

    Then again, I ws the one who said long ago that if race were not an issue, Wil Smith would have been an inspired Peter Parker. So what do I know? =)

  • At September 17, 2006 9:05 AM, Blogger Johnny B said…

    I lean towards Baccarin as Wondy myself...

    the nature of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and River from Firefly have me a little worried.

    Uh...what was wrong with River's "nature"? I don't get the drift of this statement...

  • At September 17, 2006 9:12 AM, Blogger Katherine said…

    I never liked Firefly, so you might think I'm biased, but... I don't think either Torres or Baccarin is particularly good at, well, acting. Torres can frown and look tough, and she can cut a guy's throat convincingly, but her line readings are flat and emotionless and she has two facial expressions: Grim, and Happy. Baccarin was never able to persuade me that her character was feeling anything more intense than mild irritation. Or maybe it was just that I felt mildly irritated every time she was on the screen, since her character had clearly been created by somebody who'd given no thought to the socioeconomic aspects of prostitution. (The worldbuilding on Firefly was appallingly shoddy.)

    I don't know of Rachel Bilson, so won't comment on her. The idea, though, that you can tell how well an actress will depict Wonder Woman by having her play through a seduction scene? That does not bode well.

  • At September 17, 2006 4:09 PM, Anonymous Starman Matt Morrison said…

    I'm hopeful, at the very least, with Joss running this. He's not perfect, by any means, but I think he's a damn site more likely to give us a Wonder Woman who isn't a total bimbo than, oh let's say... Jon Peters?

    One thing though; most of the complaints I heard about Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four before the movie came out were more regarding her acting ability (or lack thereof) than her race. The only racial comment I ever heard was someone asking how they could have Johnny Storm played by a white guy in the same movie which... is a bit of a question, isn't it?

    And I didn't hear a single word of complaint because of Halle Berry's race in regards to Catwoman. Everything else, yes - but not her race.

  • At September 17, 2006 8:52 PM, Anonymous Ununnilium said…, wait, Jessica Alba isn't white? ``;

  • At September 17, 2006 9:29 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    amy: I like Sackhoff, but I don't know if she'd work for Diana. Bellucci would be awesome. :-)

    hale: yeah, a bit of illusion is vital.

    loren: :-) Decorum prevents me from giggling at that.

    I wouldn't mind either woman actually. :-)

    chuck: Oh either woman would make a fantastic hippolyta. As long as it's not Cloris Leachman. :-) Love her but not as Hippolyta.

    palladin: I don't think I'd like Eliza Dushku. But an unknown could work. As long as he chooses well. :-)

    Anun: Black is awesome, but I think she's a bit too hard looking for Diana if that makes sense. Another Amazon...or maybe Circe the evil sorceress would be perfect IMO.

    willow: I'm optimistic that he'll go the Zoe route rather than Willow...but it does make me nervous though.

    carla: Wil Smith as Peter Parker would be an interesting take I think.

    johnny: Basically, the "nature" I'm referring to is the way they fall into a particular characterization niche.

    Let's call it the Kitty Pryde effect. The tiny but kickass girl overpowering the rest of the cast. I personally think it worked well in Firefly and Buffy but I'm hoping he won't use it in Wonder Woman.

    katherine: I think some of that's the way the characters are portrayed.

    Still, and this'll probably get me in trouble, I don't necessarily think Wonder Woman is a role that requires a lot of...well...acting ability. I mean, the actress can't be wooden of course but well if she can emote fairly honestly and naturally she should be fine.

    Lynda Carter isn't a stellar actress, but she carried the role with gentle amusement dignity and compassion. I don't know for sure that Baccarin or Torres can carry it off but I think they've got a good shot. :-)

    starman: Depends on where you go. I've heard some really nasty racial stuff about Alba myself. It was really depressing.

    Halle wasn't playing Selina Kyle though which might help too. An original Catwoman wouldn't have to compete as much with preconcieved notions.

    ununnilium: I think she's mixed race, something like danish and hispanic. I mean, in the end, it doesn't make much of a difference. She's a beautiful woman but not a great actress. She would have looked better with dark hair though, IMO.

  • At September 17, 2006 9:34 PM, Blogger alau said…

    The other thing about "whiteness" is that it's a modern conception. I've heard some people saying that Wonderwoman should be played by a "white" person because Amazons were Greek (which is another discussion altogether). In fact, the Amazons were NOT Greek but were only written about by the Greeks. In fact, there's a fascinating PBS special that argues that the so-called Amazons lived on the Russian steppes and that their modern-day descendants (determined via DNA testing), are in fact, the Mongols.

  • At September 17, 2006 10:01 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    'The other thing about "whiteness" is that it's a modern conception.'

    I agree. Without getting too historical or poli-sci, "white" has almost always been defined by exclusion rather than inclusion, i.e., "This group, this group, and this group aren't white. Therefore, we who remain are." At various times in American history, Italians, Poles and even Irish were considered "nonwhite."
    What can I say? You yonegv (white men) are craaazy! ;)

  • At September 17, 2006 10:08 PM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    "hale: yeah, a bit of illusion is vital."

    Ironically, that very phrase appears on my family crest...

    Once again, Kal, you have distilled my thoughts as though they were your very own.

  • At September 17, 2006 10:19 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    alau: I agree in theory but I can also see the people who are obsessed with the iconic image of the character. Debatable veracity true, but these Amazons are Greek. Ergo, I can see the argument that Diana should reflect the comics.

    Though personally I'm more worried about the toughness than the race. :-)

    hale: Sorry. :-) I don't mean to be glib. I just agree completely. :-)

    And I wish I had a crest!

  • At September 18, 2006 11:45 AM, Blogger R.Nav said…

    If Gina Torres were cast as Wonder Woman, it would be against the law as there are federal limits on just how AWESOME something could be.


    Also, I'd probably get arrested for travelling across america and kicking anyone who has a problem with her race upside the head.

    Just Sayin'

  • At September 18, 2006 1:09 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    Torres is probably the only really well-known actress I can look at these days and say, "yeah, she's Wonder Woman." And not just because of Firefly, but because of how she carried herself on Hercules and Cleopatra 2525.

  • At September 18, 2006 9:29 PM, Blogger The Fortress Keeper said…

    Gina Torres was also pretty awesome on Alias.

    I have to admit, I don't really see the problem with River. Is there a counter-insurgency against the "Buffy" prototype?

    That said, WW does need to be portrayed by a taller, kick-a actress.

    Actually, I don't know how tall she is but I kinda like the Claudia Black suggestion.

  • At September 20, 2006 12:14 AM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    "hale: Sorry. :-) I don't mean to be glib. I just agree completely. :-)"

    I didn't think you were being glib; I was just being a smartass.

    "And I wish I had a crest!"

    They're overrated. I always have to duck when I go thru doorways...


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