Here is a list of every character Gal Gadot played this weekend as the host of “Saturday Night Live”:
A 21 year-old model. A woman who is so oblivious she is tricked into dating OJ Simpson. A literal male fantasy. A fairytale princess. A sexy French criminal. A heterosexual woman who sexually experiments with other women for a crowd. A professional mom.
Was the writing team of SNL replaced by a male focus group for a Pornhub initiative? Why would a beloved comic actress receive this treatment from a progressive sketch show?
If you think it’s naive for me to call Gadot (who, until recently, was best known for her role in “The Fast & The Furious” franchise) a comedic actress, consider sitting down for this: in “Wonder Woman,” Gal Gadot is very funny. Somehow, writer Allan Heinberg, director Patty Jenkins, and Gadot herself collaborated to create a character who is sexy and funny and strong. How otherworldly. Diana trying ice cream — funny. Diana trying to go through a revolving door carrying a sword — funny. Diana telling Chris Pine that he’s average — funny. Me feeling forced to pull examples to prove that hot women can be funny — sad. Just because Gadot has a funny accent and the comedy is based on her misunderstanding and naïveté doesn’t mean we don’t owe our laughs to her comic sensibilities.
Something about Gal Gadot has captured America’s heart. Do any of us believe that it is really just her looks? Gadot’s stream of appearances promoting the movie over the past six months has been a constant assault of charm and humor for which America clearly has an appetite. Unlike many beautiful actors and actresses, Gadot in interviews is not just beautiful but also poised, funny, and cute. Like all women everywhere, Gal Gadot is many things. After the success of “Wonder Woman,” many feminist critics argued that the movie presents an ideal femininity that demands too much from women — perfect looks, impossible strength, bravery, integrity, sweetness, and knowledge. “Saturday Night Live” kindly ended that debate, reminding us that a beautiful woman can only serve one purpose. The female fantasy of “Wonder Woman,” however unrealistic, was replaced by SNL with the male fantasy: that women be mostly seen and not heard.
Compare Gadot’s treatment this weekend to Ryan Gosling’s as host last weekend. Like Gadot, Gosling is a celebrated sex symbol. He is the stuff of locker decorations and “hey, girl” memes. Just look at this gif!
But wherever Gadot played a princess waiting for a prince, Gosling played a Levi’s spokesperson who was both sexy and hilarious. Where Gadot played a woman in a see-through top serving lemonade in a man’s fantasy, Gosling played a man who is overcome by his hatred of the font in the “Avatar” movie logo. Of course, Ryan Gosling is a more established actor and host than Gadot. But the comic nuance gap in the material provided to each of them is preposterous. In six out of seven sketches she appeared in, Gadot played the “straight man,” the stock character who exists to react to the other characters’ jokes. In the seventh sketch she played Kendall Jenner as a vapid model who forgets her own name and poops in her own closet.
Just a reminder, this is a comedy show in an era in which women are under attack from their own government.
Ryan Gosling losing it over “Papyrus”:
Gal Gadot as a fantasy lemonade saleswoman:
Speaking of playing the “straight man,” the most insidiously proto-progressive sketch showed Gadot in Themiscyra as Wonder Woman, visited by SNL actresses Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant as best friends on a lesbian-tourism adventure. This promising idea was immediately destroyed when Wonder Woman announced to the visitors that no one on Themiscyra is queer. According to the writers of SNL, every woman on a fictional woman-only island is sexually available only to men. This, even though Wonder Woman is widely considered bisexual. In the sketch, Wonder Woman volunteers to “try to kiss one of you and see if I feel anything,” as the other Amazons, and the audience, look on. Watching the passionate kiss between the two beautiful women left a bitter taste in my mouth (unlike the taste Gal Gadot leaves in peoples’ mouths when she kisses them, which I assume is awesome). The sketch pretends to be about a lesbian fantasy, but a beautiful straight woman experimenting with a lesbian woman in public is literally a male fantasy. SNL turned a feminist story about a possibly queer woman into a titillating girl-on-girl kiss for the benefit of headlines.
Perhaps in all these simple characters and unfunny lines SNL was just trying to ease the challenge of hosting — Gadot spoke publicly before the broadcast about her nerves, endearingly saying that her greatest fear was “to speak like a dummy.” But when Ryan Gosling, a lifelong English speaker, breaks character several times throughout the show to laugh, it’s considered a sign of his humanity. It proves he’s hilarious. When Gadot speaks with an accent, it proves she’s too simple to be anything other than a hanger for (what we have to admit were some) gorgeous little black dresses.
The best and funniest thing Gal Gadot did during the show was play herself during the opening monologue. In writing Gadot a monologue that plays upon the very sense of humor she has deployed in every single interview and appearance since her rise to fame, “Saturday Night Live” got caught in its own lie. But the truth will out: Women can be hot. They can be funny. They can be both at the same time but they shouldn’t have to be either all the time. Gal Gadot is beloved because she is those and so many other things — a talented actress, a warm person, an inspiration to young women, and an ambassodor of Israeli culture. When the world’s most successful comedy writers decide that a woman can’t be more than one thing at a time, we’re in trouble.
The female fantasy - that women can be anything they want to be - is just a few sketches away.
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny