Wonderful Wonder Woman

I’m a big fan of the US nerd fest that is Big Bang Theory. Very much late to the party, I only discovered the show last year and have been happily catching up on it ever since. Last week I saw an episode featuring Summer Glau who played Cameron Phillips in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles about four years ago - again a series I enjoyed but I did struggle with Glau’s casting. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an excellent actress and played the role of the emotion-free Phillips very well. But – and it’s a big but(t) if you’ll excuse the pun – how can a woman as slim as Summer Glau accomplish all the physical feats carried out by her Terminator character? She has to beat up/subdue/kill all sorts of baddies, something which she manages to do with relative ease but with little muscle to help her.

I must ask – how?
This honestly isn’t the case of curvy women good, slim ones bad (regular readers of this blog will be aware of what I think about the ‘real women’ tag; all women are real, for God’s sake) but a question of believability.
I know Cameron Phillips is a cyborg – part machine – which lets the show off the hook but it got me thinking – female heroes (super or cyborg) in the present day border on catwalk model slim, when the ones from my childhood and teenage years were full figured. My heroines were more than capable of taking the bad guys on and showing them who was boss.
Take Wonder Woman, my own personal favourite. In 1975-79 she was played by Lynda Carter in the American TV show.

Of course Wonder Woman had wonderful aids in the form of bullet proof bracelets, Lasso of Truth (I always hankered after one of those) and a tiara she could throw at people but the character is physically strong, highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat, and based on the Amazons from Greek mythology.
Someone small boned with slender muscles couldn’t play the role realistically – which is why Lynda Carter was just the right person with her statuesque build, curvy hips and full figure.
Would someone similar to Carter be cast as Wonder Woman now?
Would she wear those magnificent big knickers? That tremendous basque?
Probably not, sadly. We’d probably be looking at someone younger, thinner and unrealistic.

I wanted to be like Wonder Woman when I was growing up. She wasn’t girlish, never needed rescuing and could handle herself. Above all, she was curvy – and as sexy as hell. Who wouldn’t want to be like that?
I’d really love to see more lead female action roles on the telly, but above all played by women who look like they can do the job.

With a Lasso of Truth in hand, or not.

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16 comments

  1. Pardon me for being brutal Linda but are you sure you understood the concept of the Terminator fanchise? Let me quote what Kyle Reese said in Terminator (1984) :
    “The Terminator is an infiltration unit, part man, part machine. Underneath, it’s a hyperalloy combat chassis – micro processor-controlled, fully armored. Very tough. But outside, it’s living human tissue – flesh, skin, hair, blood, grown for the cyborgs…”

    A terminator, included Cameron played by Summer glau in TSCC, is not an human whose strenght is directly proportional to its muscle mass but a robot mechanised by hydraulic equipment, giving it an extraordinary strenght that is not connected to its external physical apperance. Therefore your remark about Summer Glau thin frame being not credible is completely false, unless you have not enough imagination to undertand the concept of a robot. Saying as you did that Lynda Carter is more credible just because she has an athletic frame proves you have have a limited imagination and no idea of the concept of suspension of disbelief.

    I’ll tell you a secret, Terminators and super heroines like Wonder Woman don’t exist in reality and both Cameron and Wonder Woman’s extraordinary strenght are created by the imagination of talented writers.

    More, Camerons strenght is scientifically more credible than Wonder Woman’s (simply Google “endoskeleton” to see that such prosthetics already exists and demultiply the strenght by using hydrolic systems).

    I would have agree with you if you had chosen the example of an anorexic Angelina Jolie beating up strong guys in her last films, whereas she has no super power; fyi Summer Glau is a former ballerina and an athlete, as proven by her performance in Joss Whedon movie Serenity.

    Honestly, your article is one of the most meaningless i have seen on the net for a long time.

  2. Totally agree Cath, I have a mug with the stunning wonder woman on which supports me every day in my female endeavours (usually with a supporting cast of some sort of chocolate based side kick.)

    But as a Mother im left wondering…. once my little lady has shed her nappy, leaving her curvy booty behind – who will be the screen role models of the future for her to look up to?! who are the new Marilyns? Obviously i’ll always be a well built scally who can take on a few male challengers – but it worries me that there arent enough widely publicised, sucessful, healthy and happy women for her to emulate!

    Sadly – those that are a little more curvy (e.g Kelly Brook) show off their curves in the typical money making reveal all brainless manner which takes away all the power of said curves! perhaps curves are the new super power – you shouldn’t have em if you dont know how to use them properly!

    right on the nail with this one Cath! xx

    • Thanks Jenny! It would be great if there were more role models for your daughter, but I think times are changing – although admittedly it’s a case of baby steps …

  3. Look, this article makes absolutely no sense and I’ll tell you why!

    You say Summer Glau was miscast in TSCC because she is slim?

    You know the very concept of the character was that she is going to be a perfect infiltrator robot. Who is a better infiltrator than a tiny, fragile looking, beautiful, innocent looking girl I ask?
    Cameron doesn’t have muscles and she doesn’t even need them because she is a TERMINATOR not a human.

    Yeah, THATS how she is capable of doing that if you bothered to pay attention to the show . She is made of of a nearly indestructible alloy and she has super strong servo motors in her joints. You remember the Terminator films, do you?

    On a dramatical POV this contrast between Camerons appearance and true self created the tension and drama with the whole character because the audience and John wanted to book Cam as a beautiful girl and a human while Cams deeds and interactions challenged this view and you struggled to determine what is Cameron exactly.

    Summers incredible talent made the viewer 100% invested in her character emotionally and you were literally forced to deal with this question as Summers portrayal got you sucked into that world.

    Also why the hell would you compare Wonder Woman with Cameron exactly? The concept of the two characters are so extremely different that comparing them is pointless. WW is essentially a female super Hercules( so the stereotype requires her to have a strong, meaty build in the first place) while Cam is a killer robot infiltrator who is disguised as a pettite teenage girl( thats right there is a huge age gap between them too) and is designed to fool people -like you- who judge a book by its cover.

    Its a fine thing that you like Wonder Woman but please be a fan without writing complete gibberish about other people and TV shows!

  4. Lynda Carter Rocks!!!!

  5. I quote you :
    “Would someone similar to Carter be cast as Wonder Woman now?
    Probably not, sadly. We’d probably be looking at someone younger, thinner and unrealistic.”

    I suggest you read more carefully the entertaiment news before writing about Wonder Woman, as every serious blogger would do, because what you wrote is entirely wrong; firstly, the role has been cast very recently, indeed actress Adrianna Palicki has been cast in 2011 to play Wonder Woman in David E. Kelley’s pilot for NBC (the pilot was filmed but not picked up as serie by NBC). Secondly, Lynda Carter was 24 when she first played the role while Adrianne Palicki was 27, that’s for “younger”. Thirdly Lynda Carter is 5’9″ while Adrianne Palicki is 5’11″ and if you look for pictures of Adrianne (not the photoshopped ones), you will see she probably weight much more than Lynda, that’s for the “thinner and unrealistic”.

    I’m sure you wrote this article in good faith and i can only agree that the image of the woman showed by Hollywood is unhealthy but i also notice that the example you have chosen does not proves your point because it’s based on a misconception of the Terminator’s essence.

    • You make a good point, Chris. But I think it’ s of interest to wonder why the pilot wasn’t picked up, however and whether it would have been successful if the lead actor fitted better into today’s rules about how a leading lady should look. Also, I note Palicki didn’t wear Lynda Carter’s magnificent big knickers, instead wore a pair of rather unflattering leggings. What did the makers think was going to happen if the character went down the knickers route?
      Thanks again for your comment

  6. I agree with you Cath those leggings don’t do justice to Adrianne Palicki; again a “Adrianne Palicki In Classic Wonder Woman Shorts” Google search will show you she had several outfit; yet the show’s fail to get picked up was not so much about Palicki’s looks but rather the idiotic plots of the pilot (it did not air but a version leaked on the net).

    But when it comes to role model for our daughters, it’s not just about looks but also about the way you behave; as a fan of Summer Glau, i can assure you she’s one of the few people in Hollywood who is actually fighting for a more just and equal portrayal of all kind of women in media just like you do in a way.

    Summer Glau carries herself with dignity. I dare you to find a drug, sex or whatever scandal associated with her; for that kind of thing, i suggest you take a look at the site which is hosting your blog. Summer is not only pretty on the outside but the inside as well. There are a lot of “beautiful” leading ladies in Hollywood that are ugly as sin on the inside, vane and stuck up. Summer doesn’t strike me as any of that.
    Summer Glau is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and she has a raw and pure talent that allows her to breathe vivacious life into her characters.

  7. I see you’ve already heard from the Summer Glau fans (of which I’m one of the biggest) about the concept of the Terminator.

    Might I suggest therefore instead that you check out Gina Carano, who recently starred in a Steven Soderbergh action film as an assassin, who is entirely credible as an action star — not just because she looks the part, but in fact is (was) a mixed martial arts, full contact champion.

    I might also note that muscle mass is not perfectly correlated with power and fighting ability; the Shaolin monks generate enough power to break bricks with their bare hands but are typically very slender, and Anderson Silva — considered as one of the finest full-contact fighters competing today, pound for pound, is a gangly mess of limbs who nevertheless has managed to embarrass fighters who are much bigger, knocking them out while looking like he’d rather be taking a nap.

  8. I’m sure Adrianne Palicki is a very nice girl, and she’s very beautiful, but she didn’t have the same kind of beauty that Lynda Carter had. Lynda had the face of a young innocent girl with a body that just wouldn’t quit. She was just too much. The image of Lynda Carter wearing that Wonder Woman costume was an image that you couldn’t turn away from. It’s the finest example of eye candy ever. If they would’ve picked the right girl for the new series it would’ve worked, but Adrianne Palicki wasn’t right for Wonder Woman.

  9. (yet another) Alex

    Thank you for your kind comments regarding Summer Glau’s acting talent. There are no if, ands, or but(ts, big or otherwise) about it, the contradiction between Summer’s waif-like, diminutive status and the incredible strength she exhibited in her portrayal of Cameron was a key element of her effectiveness in this role. Indeed, her portrayal overshadows that of the woman who played a cyborg in Terminator 3, Christina Loken, who is 6 foot tall and a big, robust woman.

    You make a very good point and that there has been a steady move away from athletic, full-figured, and voluptuous women towards increasingly thinner and smaller actresses. I agree that this is a misrepresentation and to those of us who are of somewhat more “substantial” dimensions. I am heartened though to see that there may be something of a reversal to this trend though. Gina Carano, a former MMA fighter appeared as the principal character in the film Haywire. Generally, reviews are favourable.

    Regarding Lynda Evans, she still looks quite beautiful. In looking at pictures taken of her in 2011 (IMDB), she still has her full figure and a very handsome, mature face. Interestingly, in other pictures, taken by the photographer Mario Casilli in 1981, there does appear to be an attempt to make her look thinner and she certainly has a very thin neck. I suppose she may have been under pressure to appear thinner. As to her portrayal of Wonder Woman, if my memory serves, she was not what you might consider athletic. I don’t think she did her own stunts either. Looking back to an earlier age, I think she would have made a good Gibson Girl, another popular perception in the media of the time.

    As to athleticism, Summer Glau is one tough cookie. It is well documented that she spent many months in training for her physically demanding roles and that she performed most, if not all, of her stunts. Likewise, Gina Carano was called upon to perform her own stunts. I think more and more, audiences are interested in seeing action sequences that are credible within the framework of the story. In that regard, another actress that comes to mind is Malin Ackerman who played Laura Jupiter in The Watchmen film based upon Alan Moore’s graphic novel. While not exactly a lightweight, she certainly is an athletic and strong person who gave a strong performance in that role.

  10. friskywildthing

    I understand the point you’re making, but I think (in this case) Summer Glau (who’s listed on IMDB as 5’6½” tall) was cast for TSCC’s lead Terminator role, in part, because of her waifish build. Because she doesn’t look like an Arnold Schwarzenegger (6’2″), Kristanna Loken (5’11″) or Lynda Carter she made a more effective, low profile Terminator, which is what TSCC’s creators wanted.

  11. further to the quote by chrisdvanne

    “Let me quote what Kyle Reese said in Terminator (1984) :
    “The Terminator is an infiltration unit, part man, part machine. Underneath, it’s a hyperalloy combat chassis – micro processor-controlled, fully armored. Very tough. But outside, it’s living human tissue – flesh, skin, hair, blood, grown for the cyborgs…””

    a Terminator is made of coltan, a metal which can withstand 2000 degrees of heat. and furthermore a Terminator is basically a mack truck on legs. it can easily punch through solid brick walls, lift up cars from either end, bend metal as if it were wiring, withstand explosions and other feats of strength that i won’t go into here as it will turn into a book.

    as a hardcore Terminator fan i can tell you anything else you need to know.

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