Facebook account pictures of its characters' appearances. But one of its super heroes is not sporting the look that many fans around the world have come to expect.Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi is promoting its summer debut with a big presence at the Middle East Film & Comic Con this week. During the con, the park has been posting to its
Take a look at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi's Wonder Woman:
Instead of her traditionally skimpy costume, this Wonder Woman is wearing long pants that cover all of her legs. She also is wearing a cape that covers her shoulders as well as any cleavage on her upper chest. It's a far more modest look, one that undoubtedly reflects the much more restrictive social norm for female appearance in Muslim countries.
But before we in the West jump on our high horse and start talking smack about Islam's fashion rules, allow me to point out that Wonder Woman's Abu Dhabi costume actually brings her look much more in line with her Justice League comrades Superman and Batman.
Superman and Batman aren't showing very much skin. So why does Wonder Woman? The answer, of course, lies in comic books' appeal to their initial core audience, which was pubescent boys. While both male and female super heroes have been drawn in idealized physical forms, the women typically show a lot more skin, adding some sex appeal for straight boys in the pre-Internet era, when a comic book might be the best chance you had at seeing a hot woman in her underwear.
(Eventually, the industry figured out that girls read comics and even that some boys were interested in seeing the guys show some skin, too, so it started developing scantily-clad male heroes. But that's another post.)
Back to Wonder Woman, her initial characterization offered an amazing blend of emotional hits for young readers: some emerging male sexual fantasy, presented within a context of female empowerment, that eventually managed to evoke a host of Mommy issues, too. It's brilliant, really. (Seriously, go read that link. The history of Wonder Woman is fascinating.)
Theme park designers have to consider a wide range of issues when developing new attractions, among them, local cultural standards. That's why Tokyo Disneyland's Splash Mountain eschewed the traditional single-file, wrap-your-legs-around-the-person-in-front-of-you, seating arrangement for a flume ride in favor of more demure side-by-side bench seating that fit better with the more formal nature of social interaction in Japan. (FWIW, Disney World copied that layout when it turned out that it offered a much higher hourly capacity than the Disneyland original.) And cultural considerations are why Wonder Woman can't show a lot of skin in the United Arab Emirates.
Is that wrong? Well, it's wrong if your park fails because it offended the local market. Every business that has had success in global markets has learned that it needs to be flexible enough to tweak its products around the world. Compare a McDonald's in Singapore with one in Cincinnati, if you ever get the chance. They're not the same. Theme parks have to adapt, too.
But if you insist on passing judgment on another culture because it is different than yours, consider this: To many people around the world, a culture that makes its female super heroes strip down to their bra and panties while allowing its male heroes to remain covered up is the one in the wrong.
One of the rationales for covering women in Muslim cultures is to protect them from unwanted male leering. Is that a bad idea? Personally, I'm with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a Muslim!) here, and agree with the amazing piece he wrote in today's Guardian, taking the NFL to task for its hypocritical treatment of its cheerleaders. Women should be able to wear whatever the heck they want, and men need to get over that.
Yet Kareem, and I, and many of you, live in the West. In my limited experience visiting the United Arab Emirates, it appears that female visitors from the West are pretty much encouraged to wear whatever the want. But if theme parks in the country feel that they must cover up their female characters in order to appeal to the many Muslim visitors to their parks, that's their call.
If seeing a more scantily-clad Wonder Woman is really that important to you, there are plenty of Six Flags parks to visit here in the United States.Tweet
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