'The Problem Is That Some People Can't Read,' Says Critic Who Wrote Sexist Wonder Woman Review

Image via DC
Image via DC

New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein published a review of Wonder Woman last week that, unsurprisingly, dedicated a lot of words to star Gal Godot’s body.


In addition to calling her “the perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness,” Edelstein wrote that while Godot looks “fabulous” in her suffragette outfit, “it’s not until she strips down to her superheroine bodice and shorts, pulls out her sword, and leaps into the fray, that she comes into her own.” Oh, and if you were looking for the heroine’s S&M, red, white, and blue origins, you won’t find them here, Edelstein writes: “I didn’t miss Lynda Carter’s buxom, apple-cheeked pinup, though,” he writes. “It was worth waiting for Gadot.”

In a post on his Facebook published some time after the New York review went up (and republished on Tumblr), Edelstein responds to the wave of criticism in the comments section for the review, clearly confused as to why people might think his write-up was sexist.

Screengrab via Facebook
Screengrab via Facebook

The post reads in full:

It’s weird to be pilloried for writing a sexist Wonder Woman review. Weird and infuriating. I did not believe that describing the appearance of the leading actress would be off limits. There is no prurience. Early on, I say she has a combination of “super- babe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness.” This is obviously a play on “babe in the woods” and she is literally “super.” They are contrasting characteristics, hence the sentence.

The original comic has S&M overtones, and that has been written about elsewhere at great length. I say that fans of that particular viewpoint might be disappointed that the female director does not photograph Gal Gadot “to elicit slobbers.” This is a GOOD thing.

I mention that despite being awkward in “real” civilized clothes she looks “fabulous in her suffragette outfit with little specs.” The suffragette outfit covers every inch of her body from her hat to her shoes. It’s a triumph of costuming, not of her physique.

There I’m attacked for talking about her super heroine bodice. Here is the context: “She looks fabulous in her suffragette outfit with little specs, but it’s not until she strips down to her superheroine bodice and shorts, pulls out her sword, and leaps into the fray that she comes into her own. More focused on world peace than bombs and bullets, she’s on an ecstatic plane of her own.”

This is meant to evoke the characterization of the actress and the ecstasy she evinces when free of those clothes and in battle. It is not sexist in the fucking least.

Finally, I do generalize favorably (in a parenthetical) about Israeli women. I have known a few. The secular ones at least have learned to stand up against a lot of angry Jewish males (maybe THAT is sexist); they serve in the army; and they have a vibe uniquely their own. It’s amazing that a role played by the apple-cheeked Lynda Carter is now played by an Israeli model/actress. To say as much is well within bounds.

A tweeter by the name of Priscilla Page from a website I’ve never heard of says this is “how not to write about Wonder Woman.” Another blogger attacks me for saying that the female director doesn’t know how to stage action. Since I said the same thing about Seth Gordon with Baywatch last week (and have said it about Christopher Nolan and many others), I have trouble believing someone would suggest this as a sign of my misogyny.

If describing a female super heroine in garb that has been written about at great length is “how not to write a review,” I don’t know what to say. If any of my friends here wish to take me to task respectfully, I will listen. Right now I think the problem is that some people can’t read.

Edelstein says that he didn’t realize that “describing the appearance of the leading actress would be off limits,” which is funny, considering he has a bit of a history of writing about women’s bodies.

In a 2001 review for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, which resurfaced on Twitter after his Wonder Woman review made the rounds, Edelstein writes about a tween Emma Watson in... this way:

(The prepubescent Watson is absurdly alluring to those of us who always went for bossy girls; when she fixed her sharp brown eyes on Radcliffe and said, “Harreh, do be keh-ful,” my heart did about five somersaults.)


Then there is his gushing review of the film Her:

Perhaps Jonze decided that with Morton the film was too chilly, that he needed a voice that was fully, seductively human. Johansson’s is the least mechanical imaginable. It’s girlish, throaty, slightly cracked—the voice of someone next to you in bed. Does it hurt or help that we can visualize her? I’m not certain. But right from the start she’s a dream mate, especially for a writer. With Theodore’s permission, she analyzes thousands of his e-mails (in less than a second) and dumps all but the 80 or so she identifies as important. She cleans up his mess and then tells him he’s funny. Heaven!


And this is the way he wrote about the women of Sex and the City 2:

What’s the point of spending that much when the cinematographer, John Thomas, lights Sarah Jessica Parker to bring out the leatheriness of her skin? How did he manage to mummify the lovely Cynthia Nixon? Kim Cattrall, fresh off her witty, subtle work in The Ghost Writer, is costumed to look like a cross between (late) Mae West and (dead) Bea Arthur. Kristin Davis gets by (just) pulling little-girl faces, probably for the last time.


Charming as always.

Correction: This post incorrectly dated Edelstein’s Harry Potter review as being published in 2011. It was published in 2001. Jezebel regrets the error.

Hazel Cills is the Pop Culture Reporter at Jezebel. Her writing has been published by outlets including The Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, ELLE, and more.



‘The Problem Is That Some People Can’t Read,’ Says Critic, Without Sense of Irony, as He Fails to Read the Mood, Tone and Times He Lives In