Generally, an SNL opening monologue consists of a few elements: an amusing speech that either reinforces or undermines the elements of the speaker’s current public persona (see: Kristen Stewart’s recent ‘too cool’ SNL monologue), a fun little song (see: Ryan Gosling singing about saving jazz) and some carefully worded but still charming advertisement for the speaker’s latest screen venture (see: every SNL host ever).
Gal Gadot didn’t do much of that. Yes, she’s starring in “Justice League,” coming out November 17, 2017, and she’s been given a generally unprecedented starring role in the testosterone-dominated environment of superheroes, but that wasn’t what she discussed. Instead, Gadot took the opportunity to address her native country of Israel in her native language of Hebrew.
“Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that this might be a big mistake,” she announced. “The writers here clearly know nothing about Israel. In every sketch they had me eating hummus. I mean, I love hummus, but there’s a limit. They are very nice, but not very intelligent. I think they think that I am the real Wonder Woman. So in short, wish me luck.”
There were English subtitles but the message was clear. This was Gadot’s heritage that she was embracing, and she was using her new position of stardom to send a (potentially politicized) message.
The America of now is not an immigrant friendly place. The rise of globalization has meant that most people in the world speak English in addition to their native language while less than 1 percent of American adults today say they’ve learned to speak another language proficiently in school.
Now, the episode wasn’t great. Gadot’s enthusiasm didn’t make up for the subpar material and constantly being cast in the role of the straight man didn’t give her a lot of room to shine.
But Gadot was engaging in the linguistic tradition of non-Americans everywhere, the lonely practice of speaking your native language even when the majority of your listeners will not understand it.
Of course, this episode of SNL was being broadcast in Israel for the first time ever, thanks to the increasing wattage of Gadot’s star power, so Gadot wasn’t exactly alone in her address. Not to mention, Hebrew is not exactly an endangered language.
Yet there is a certain comfort in saying what you want, transgressing against the bias of English dominance, flying backward over the language barrier, and addressing people who are clearly not the intended audience in the comfort of the language you were raised speaking.
So yasher koach to Gal Gadot.
Shira Feder is a writer for The Schmooze. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.