You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Why is Wonder Woman hawking diet bars?

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/15/2017 Kelly Lawler
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Why is Wonder Woman thinking thin?

The upcoming movie about the iconic superhero starring Gal Gadot (in theaters June 2) is partnering with protein bar brand ThinkThin, which is offering a discounted ticket and the chance to win a trip to the film’s premiere.

While ThinkThin says its products were "created for active, busy women who care about what they eat,” the word “thin” has caused outrage, prompting headlines like “Wonder Woman is being advertised on diet products and our eyes are going to roll out of our heads.”

Fans took to social media to express their anger and disappointment.

© Provided by USA Today "Shilling body-shaming 'think thin' weight loss bars is a betrayal of Wonder Woman's character, which is par for the comics course right now," tweeted Bailey Poland, author of Haters, a book about cybersexism.

"'Thin' is about how someone looks not about health," wrote Katia Fowler, a Chicago bookseller.

ThinkThin referred USA TODAY to Wonder Woman studio Warner Bros., which declined to comment. 

Marketing blunders are nothing new in Hollywood. CoverGirl was knocked for selling makeup tied in with dictatorial villains of The Hunger Games. HSN's Southern-inspired tie-ins with The Help, a film about racial oppression, were called “tacky.” Disney pulled a Moana Halloween costume that some compared to blackface.

But the dust-up has highlighted what many see as the problematic differences in the way films are marketed to women and men. “These messages do reinforce gender stereotypes,” says Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University.

As the first big-screen superhero film starring a woman in more than a decade — and the first time in the character's 75-year history that she's had her own live-action film — Wonder Woman is under a microscope that, say, Beauty and the Beast, another recent release aimed at women, was not. Beauty's tie-ins include fashion-and-beauty partnerships with HSN, Uniqlo and Juicy Couture, among others. Contrast that with the most recent superhero release, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was linked with brands like Doritos in ads that seem targeted at men.

Though Wonder Woman also has a partnership with ice cream parlor chain Cold Stone Creamery and plus-size retailer Torrid, the problem with promoting a product with the word "thin” in it goes to the history of the character. 

“When Gal Gadot was first cast, she was criticized by a lot of people online for being ‘too thin,’ which is ridiculous,” says Vivian Kane, a writer at feminist geek site The Mary Sue. “Now, the movie's marketing is telling fans to ‘think thin.’ The studio is reinforcing this can't-win mentality women battle their whole lives.” 

“Wonder Woman isn’t for the male gaze, she’s just drawn that way,” adds Donna Dickens, deputy entertainment editor for Uproxx. “Over the years, swipes have been taken at Diana’s tube top costume, (but) Wonder Woman is more than her physical attractiveness.”

© Provided by USA Today

Other tie-ins, such as with NASCAR or Dr Pepper, don't necessarily cancel out fans' anger about ThinkThin. 

"Part of it is this problem inherent in movie tie-ins: They just want as much revenue as possible," says Barbara Lippert, columnist for MediaPost.com. "If you’re going to have a message (with your movie), it really does diminish it." 

When it comes to female superheroes, Hollywood has a poor messaging history. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Age of Ultron had prominent heroines in the cast, they were markedly absent from merchandise, prompting outrage among fans asking #WheresRey and #WheresNatasha on social media.

“To some extent, marketers don’t feel like changing behavior. They usually do what’s easy,” says Allen Adamson, founder of Brand Simple Consulting. “And to sell girls on (superheroes) and to sell boys on dolls is harder than going with the status quo.”

But despite the backlash, Warner Bros. probably doesn't have to worry about repercussions.

"Honestly, I can't think of a tie-in that hurt" a movie, says Forbes box office pundit Scott Mendelson. "I don't think the ThinkThin thing will affect (Wonder Woman's) box office," because fans who were upset "will see the movie anyway," which is expected to make between $65 million and $105 million in its first weekend, according to estimates from The Hollywood Reporter and TheWrap.

Controversial tie-ins are more of a problem for the brand that missed the point than the movie it's tied to. But considering Wonder Woman's fraught place in the pop culture landscape, a junk food tie-in might have been criticized as much as ThinkThin, Lippert points out. “With Wonder Woman, you can’t win."

Will things be different when our next solo female superhero hits theaters in Captain Marvel (2019)? 

Considering that there will be less pressure on the film after Wonder Woman bows, and time for the studio to learn, "I certainly hope," says Dickens. She points out there's already a good sign: U.S. Olympian Mikaela Shiffrin recently wore a snowsuit that channeled the Marvel character's costume for a photo shoot. 

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From USA TODAY

AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon