The Agency of it All

The Agency of it All

The Wonder Woman movie became controversial for one of the stranger reasons imaginable.

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Eowyn is an odd example (at least in the movies, been a while since I read the books). It's established early on that she's a shieldmaiden, that she can fight, that in her culture women fight.

Then her uncle goes and calls out all the old men and the little boys to fight, and has all the women hide in the caves. It's almost as though the writers wanted to show a more egalitarian culture in the first scene, and then forgot about that for the second and just assumed women can't fight. As I understand it, the Battle of Helms Deep was heavily rewritten (they originally had Arwen there), so that might literally be the case.

In ROTK, I didn't read it as her defying convention in that she's a woman, rather that she's defying orders in that she'd been given another job to do.

In regards to Wonder Woman, I've yet to see the film myself, and while I was aware of many controversies, I'd not heard of that one until reading this article. In any case:

"Regardless of whether Gal Gadot's decision to follow this convention is due to comfort or societal pressure, it is extremely unlikely to have anything to do with the character she is portraying. It's also unlikely that the filmmakers gave any thought to armpit hair whatsoever during the production of the film."

Yeah...no. It's very ingenuous to claim that Wonder Woman's appearance is solely, or even mostly, Gal Gadot's decision. Now, it's likely that she happens to shave or wax her armpits, it's more common than not. In which case, being "normal", the filmmakers would have no reason to think about the issue. Presumably the normalisation, and not considering that things could be different was what the complaint was about.

Suppose that Gal Gadot choose not to shave or wax, and she was going to do the filming with noticeably hairy underarms. Certainly, that is not something the filmmakers would ignore, and almost certainly she'd be asked to remove her armpit hair. Her having hairy armpits on screen, playing an attractive female character, would be very unusual.

Personally, I don't care one way or the other, nor do I see many other people caring, but there is a broader issue about beauty standards and the assumption that women must fit them.

Thaluikhain:

Yeah...no. It's very ingenuous to claim that Wonder Woman's appearance is solely, or even mostly, Gal Gadot's decision. Now, it's likely that she happens to shave or wax her armpits, it's more common than not. In which case, being "normal", the filmmakers would have no reason to think about the issue. Presumably the normalisation, and not considering that things could be different was what the complaint was about.

Suppose that Gal Gadot choose not to shave or wax, and she was going to do the filming with noticeably hairy underarms. Certainly, that is not something the filmmakers would ignore, and almost certainly she'd be asked to remove her armpit hair. Her having hairy armpits on screen, playing an attractive female character, would be very unusual.

Personally, I don't care one way or the other, nor do I see many other people caring, but there is a broader issue about beauty standards and the assumption that women must fit them.

This. I have nothing else to add to the discussion.

I think this piece is ironically making a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill. I remember it being noted, but it wasn't a big deal - mostly occurring just as clickbait filler content, which is simply white noise - and wasn't it more about how the frames appeared iffily airbrushed? It wasn't so much Gal was shaven, it was digitally nuked. The freeze frames certainly looked rather awful.

Robert B. Marks:
Therefore, to be empowering and memorable after the moment, a female character's actions are best grounded in something universal and timeless.

Maybe you don't get to decide what's empowering for women? Momentary and 'timeless' defiance/rejection of sexist social conformity are both valuable. Defiance has many forms and tiers.

And this means that whether Wonder Woman has shaved her armpits, and even what she is wearing as her superhero costume, will be close to irrelevant in the long run.

...but not irrelevant in the moment when certain conventions matter.

A real controversy would've been caused had Gal insisted on not shaving, and that would've been a 'momentary' action that had impact.

Thaluikhain:
Suppose that Gal Gadot choose not to shave or wax, and she was going to do the filming with noticeably hairy underarms. Certainly, that is not something the filmmakers would ignore, and almost certainly she'd be asked to remove her armpit hair. Her having hairy armpits on screen, playing an attractive female character, would be very unusual.

For "unusual" I'd say 'interestingly provocative', given she'd ostensibly remain a sex symbol yet one little detail would seemingly send some men fleeing - which is amusingly pathetic.

This is the first I've heard about any armpit controversy. Is this a Twitter thing? It sounds like a Twitter thing. I've seen no mention of it elsewhere.

This is the first I've heard anything about this. Like Xsjadoblayde said, is this like on Twitter or reddit or somthing? I don't use either of those things. I'm not overly surprised though, people these days tend to lose their shit over the stupidest most asinine things.

Xsjadoblayde:
This is the first I've heard about any armpit controversy. Is this a Twitter thing? It sounds like a Twitter thing. I've seen no mention of it elsewhere.

Probably, and being Twitter they're probably assuming that everyone is obsessing over it too.

Darth Rosenberg:

Thaluikhain:
Suppose that Gal Gadot choose not to shave or wax, and she was going to do the filming with noticeably hairy underarms. Certainly, that is not something the filmmakers would ignore, and almost certainly she'd be asked to remove her armpit hair. Her having hairy armpits on screen, playing an attractive female character, would be very unusual.

For "unusual" I'd say 'interestingly provocative', given she'd ostensibly remain a sex symbol yet one little detail would seemingly send some men fleeing - which is amusingly pathetic.

Did we not learn to count in primary school? There are two armpits. Inside each armpit is hundreds of hairs. There are hundreds of 'little details' that would send some 'amusingly pathetic' men fleeing. For 'amusingly pathetic' I'd say 'reasonable.'

As for little details, well, I suppose a mustache on a girl is also 'one' little detail to your enlightened self.

Does Wonder Woman have armpit hair in the comics?

This seems like the "Iron Fist isnt asian" controversy. If you have a problem with it, fine...but attack the comics. Adaptations should strive to well, respect the source material. Its not Netflix's fault Danny Rand is a white dude. He has been white since the 70's.

Same for Wonder Woman. If you want her to have armpit hair, ok...but it wasnt Gal Gadot or the movie who decided that.

Saelune:
Does Wonder Woman have armpit hair in the comics?

I have not seen or read many, so I can't say with absolute certainty, but when she is shown to be flying (post invisible jet era) she had no underarm hair. Same with her animated version.

OT; It's odd that someone would choose this particular aspect to fix upon. WW also had shaved legs in the DCU movies. Personal grooming of these (and other) areas is not a modern ideal. Ancient Egyptians records show that hairless was all the rage back then.

The only way to properly draw Wonder Woman so that she can be the most fempowering is with armpit hair and no curved cleavage line.

So the more hair you have the more empowered you are? really!
Having the might of a god and the ability to beat an army back, she is not empowering enough.

The original version of Wonder Women didn't have arm pit hair, She was created in January 1942 drawn by Harry G Peter. She was based on William Marstons(writer of WW) wife and his lover.If you look at the first issue of sensation comics # 1 clearly no arm pit hair. Later on maybe in another version they might have but i personally have never seen her with hair in either animated or comic versions. ( unless it was a seventy's thing i don't know about)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensation_Comics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Moulton_Marston ( info on the writer of Wonder Women )

I can think of a reason why WW might want armpit hair. Tactical advantage. 2 women on the basketball team of the NAIA school I attended were Lithuanian twins. Tall, muscular, beautiful and kind of intimidating. They used their identical looks to their advantage on the court... and they did not shave their armpits. I once asked one of them if that was a cultural thing... she said it wasn't, they did it for an advantage on the basketball court. Opposing players would shy away from them because of it, giving them more space to pass or shoot. At least early in the game before those players got more accustomed to it. Game statistics generally reflected this as they tended to be more productive in the first half of games. She also confessed 2 other things to me. She preferred not shaving because she would only attract "serious" suitors, as dudes only interested in her as a conquest were generally pretty shallow and the armpit hair would ward them off. And 2nd (and kind of ironic) any guy that wanted to be with her had to shave his armpits, as she was kind of repulsed by hairy armpits on men. And she's not the only one. A friend and I decided to try shaving our armpit hair and we both got very positive reviews from our girlfriends at the time. I don't bother anymore (I'm not particularly hairy anyway) but he still keeps shaven.

Point being I suppose there are valid reasons for armpit hair, and for shaving the pits. For men and women alike. I would guess its just a matter of personal preference. And it makes sense either way for WW. One one hand, why would they bother... and on the other hand it kind of feels nice and your pits tend not to stink as much. So I guess it wouldn't bother me either way if movie WW had armpit hair or not.

008Zulu:

Saelune:
Does Wonder Woman have armpit hair in the comics?

I have not seen or read many, so I can't say with absolute certainty, but when she is shown to be flying (post invisible jet era) she had no underarm hair. Same with her animated version.

To be fair, most male heroes are also drawn without armpit hair, or even chest hair.

Comics and cartoons are not detailed depictions of characters, visually. Otherwise, we should be angry at Ian McKellen for not being a 60 years old body builder.

There is an issue of standards of beauty in the movie, but in comics and cartoon, it is more often about animators, inkers and artists not wanting to spend a lot of time on every single frame, or just trying to get everything to fit into their art style.

Yeah, this sounds absolutely ridiculous. People seem to be drawing huge conclusions about agency and empowerment and the male gaze from something that, frankly, has nothing to do with any of those things. Some people don't mind having armpit hair. Some people find it uncomfortable. I shave my armpits because I like them smooth, not because of society or culture or anything else. This entire discussion is pointless.

I really hate this whole discussion of "agency". I feel like it's become a meaningless buzzword people use to describe characters they like.

Here's the truth: no fictional character truly has "agency". Your favorite fictional character has no more agency than your least favorite. People may gush about this or that character's agency, but when they're discussing characters doing or saying things they don't like, they'll just say "They're only saying/doing that because the writer/artist wants them that way!", even though the exact same thing could be said of the characters they were just gushing over.

As for this whole WW/armpit hair thing, that was utterly ridiculous. Calling it "clickbait" would be too kind.

I mean, this doesn't sound like a big controversy: just a couple of think pieces and twitter posts about the peculiarity of an ancient Grecian superhero in WWI, shaving her armpits in line with modern beauty standards.

I'm not sure banging on about agency disguises this peculiarity either. Critics weren't saying that you can't be a hero without body hair, though they were implying the opposite; not only would the movie team require Gadot to keep her pits shaved, but it is quite likely that all her movie scenes and publicity photos are shopped to keep her underarms as clear and un-pittish looking as possible. The message of these articles is that female superheroes are allowed to be as heroic and as empowered as they like as long as they stay consistent with our society's approved beauty standards.

Saelune:
Does Wonder Woman have armpit hair in the comics?

This seems like the "Iron Fist isnt asian" controversy. If you have a problem with it, fine...but attack the comics. Adaptations should strive to well, respect the source material. Its not Netflix's fault Danny Rand is a white dude. He has been white since the 70's.

Same for Wonder Woman. If you want her to have armpit hair, ok...but it wasnt Gal Gadot or the movie who decided that.

Seems like a weak argument to make. Comic books are full of politically incorrect stuff, or stuff that simply has become unfunny, inappropriate or lame over the better part of a century. Of course an adaptation should be able to make changes, they always do. Even the comics do. You might have noticed that Wonderwoman hasn't "slapped the Japs" recently. It is also still the tv/movie producer's fault if they don't change some details, seeing as how they still have creative control in the first place.

(Also, to answer the question: no she doesn't have body hair in the comics, for the same reason as in the movie - the beauty standard that expects women to shave their armpits was almost the same then as it is now.)

maninahat:

Saelune:
Does Wonder Woman have armpit hair in the comics?

This seems like the "Iron Fist isnt asian" controversy. If you have a problem with it, fine...but attack the comics. Adaptations should strive to well, respect the source material. Its not Netflix's fault Danny Rand is a white dude. He has been white since the 70's.

Same for Wonder Woman. If you want her to have armpit hair, ok...but it wasnt Gal Gadot or the movie who decided that.

Seems like a weak argument to make. Comic books are full of politically incorrect stuff, or stuff that simply has become unfunny, inappropriate or lame over the better part of a century. Of course an adaptation should be able to make changes, they always do. Even the comics do. You might have noticed that Wonderwoman hasn't "slapped the Japs" recently. It is also still the tv/movie producer's fault if they don't change some details, seeing as how they still have creative control in the first place.

(Also, to answer the question: no she doesn't have body hair in the comics, for the same reason as in the movie - the beauty standard that expects women to shave their armpits was almost the same then as it is now.)

Its still on the comics, not the movies, to fix this stuff if it needs fixing. DC reboots itself like, once a month, so its not like changing it would be unheard of.

Did women in ancient Greece shave their pits?

someguy1231:
I really hate this whole discussion of "agency". I feel like it's become a meaningless buzzword people use to describe characters they like.

Here's the truth: no fictional character truly has "agency". Your favorite fictional character has no more agency than your least favorite. People may gush about this or that character's agency, but when they're discussing characters doing or saying things they don't like, they'll just say "They're only saying/doing that because the writer/artist wants them that way!", even though the exact same thing could be said of the characters they were just gushing over.

That's true, but you can still simulate agency in a story. That is to say, if a badass hero exists in real life, they usually have more agency than a shackled prisoner, and a fictional work can simply present that and refer to that fictional agency. The whole thing can very easily devolve into a Themian argument though, wherein a creator uses this to excuse any decision they make with their character by saying it was that character's choice to act that way (even though they have complete control over that character's decisions).

the December King:
Did women in ancient Greece shave their pits?

If you go by art of that time women depictation then the answer is yes. Then again why would they? Or even more importantly why would an artist go out of his way to sculpt or paint that particular detail? Either way warriors and olympians were getting rid of bodily hair and oiling up their bodies to boot, for obvious practical reasons (less likely to bruise your skin when friction pulls these hair out).

I'll go with Robert on this one. This is bizzare if not outright perverse. Shaving or not. It is ones personal choice regardless of gender or 'standards'. Why would you concentrate on that particular detail in any art form for either reason than having some sort of personal fixation / fetish about it, is beyond sane person's comprehension.

 

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