[TW: sexual assault, mentions of suicide, domestic abuse, and the Occupation]
I saw a tweet from someone I followed the other day that earned a double-take:
"ppl boycotting WW bc of gal is rly just a perfect example of the internet reducing a complex issue into black& white & dialling it up to 100"
It was a thought that had crossed my mind (and apparently a host of others'), but one I had been hesitant to share. We want "Wonder Woman" to succeed, of course, so that it'll bring a wave of female-directed projects to Hollywood, which is notorious for shitting on anything made by women (if in doubt, check out this amazingly condescending headline from the Hollywood Reporter). For that, we have been willing to acknowledge lead actress Gal Gadot's service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), including the pain the IDF inflicted on countless Palestinians during that time, but not let it overshadow our dedication to the success of the film itself.
"sometimes it's really not black and white and you have to pick between 2 evils in a way and decide what's more important?"
The above could easily be defined as white feminism, aka focusing on the struggles of well-off white women (like wanting our Hollywood superhero movie to succeed) without addressing the other forms of oppression that face women on a global scale (like having said superhero movie led by a Zionist). After all, the Twitter conversation that took place was between a group of grown white women in violent agreement that the current online culture of what we're "allowed" to like without knowing why was ultimately another excuse for ignorance. There's the unspoken expectation in these virtual spaces that you already have extensive anecdotal knowledge of a litany of historical events or issues when, in reality, all of us are always learning from each other. New issues are rising every day still, with no clear answer.
"if i knew everything that was happening right now i'd probably fall into a deep depression. i don't think humans are meant to handle that"
But the ever-present threat of doxxing one's opponent, which may work well and fine for outspoken racists and bigots, only lends to more tiptoeing around vital conversations that need to be had. Do your own research, form your own opinion, and be willing to discuss, not assert.
For example: Israel imposes a compulsory military service of two years for all Israeli citizens (not including Arabs) over the age of 18. Gal Gadot was conscripted fresh out of high school, served for two years as a combat trainer, then left to study law. She caused a minor controversy in 2007 when she refused to enlist in the IDF.
Are the human rights abuses being committed by Israel abhorrent? In my opinion, absolutely. In a recent academic paper, I discussed how Palestinians are prohibited from riding on public buses between cities in the West Bank unless they have a special work permit. Even then, anti-Palestinian sentiment from Israeli passengers often kicks them out at security checkpoints, so they can't get home to break fast during Ramadan. The very nature of how the Occupation's public transportation is structured works to keep Palestinians isolated in a very visible form of de facto segregation (which, in 2014, was made de jure with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's directive). Even today, "Freedom Rides" are being conducted in the West Bank in an effort to gain international support for their plight by adopting the imagery of the 1960s African-American Civil Rights Movement.
Did Gal Gadot make a post on her Facebook page showing her support for the IDF nonetheless? Yep.
Does Lebanon, a neighboring country that has seen violent conflict with Israel for decades, have every right to ban screenings of "Wonder Woman" in their "refusal to normalize relations with an enemy state"? Not everyone in Lebanon agrees with their Ministry of Economy and Trade, but I can certainly understand both sides of that argument.
In the end, it has to do in part with how much we are willing to see art as objective. Recently, it's become more difficult: the woman who accused "Birth of a Nation" director Nate Parker of rape committed suicide last year; Johnny Depp's had his spectacular downward spiral including his portrayal of a Native American character in "The Lone Ranger" and accusations of domestic abuse from Amber Heard. It's hard for me to get excited for the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie when I look at Jack Sparrow and all I see is Depp slurring his acceptance speech at a 2016 film festival.
That being said, we all know that Hollywood has placed the burden of whether or not female directors will get superhero movies in the future (despite flop after flop from male-led films) on the shoulders of "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins. It's not fair, it's not right, but that's how it is.
Gal Gadot is a Zionist. I'm sure most of us would prefer to overlook this (or pretend it's not a big deal at all), but not everyone in the world has that luxury. But, after weighing the two issues (only because the Internet and my peers have presented this false equivalency as an opportunity to take sides), I will support "Wonder Woman" and the great strides Patty Jenkins is taking for all women in the film industry, however much we may wish that weren't the case.
Whether it succeeds or not (and the freshest reviews out of the theaters are giving the thumbs up), Gadot's past is not something to be erased, but still duly considered and discussed. If you accept a majority opinion without the reasoning behind it, and then use that to look down your nose at those who dare to ask questions, you're not as woke as you think you are.
its rly nice to actually discuss and develop ur own opinion w/ out worrying about having your head bitten off
I know I am speaking from a place of privilege, but I'm still doing my best to learn what was never taught to me in school, and subvert the toxic and spotty worldviews ingrained in me by an environment I had no choice in. I welcome comments and discussion on this topic.
[Thanks to Twitter users @barbaragordcn, @stereoroo, @brodinsons, and @thorlokid for a productive and patient conversation]