Warner Brothers Japan’s ad campaign for the new "Wonder Woman" movie has sparked controversy on the internet in Japan.
Having watched the TV production of "Wonder Woman" starring Lynda Carter in the U.S. back in … well, more years ago than I care to remember, this writer is one fan who has definitely been looking forward to the release of the upcoming movie.
Now it so happens that Wonder Woman is not that well-known a character in Japan, especially compared to the likes of fellow DC comic heroes Superman and Batman.
So, how did Warner Brothers Japan begin their ad campaign for the film? When they released the first Japanese version trailer at the end of March, they decided to announce it along with a slogan that roughly translates to: “She’s supposed to be one of the most powerful superheroes in existence, but she’s also an incredibly innocent and naive girl who knows nothing about men or love.” Apparently, they wanted to play up Wonder Woman’s cute and girlish side by emphasizing the gap between her incredible strength and her lack of knowledge of the human world.
Granted, it’s true that Wonder Woman didn’t have first-hand knowledge of human men until she left her island, and we guess it’s understandable if Warner Brothers Japan wanted to show a cute, more approachable side of the fiercely powerful heroine to the general Japanese audience, who may not be familiar with her. But in this day and age, you’ve got to say a line like that is just inviting the response: “Oh, so someone who lives in an environment consisting entirely of women can’t know what love is?”
A tweet from Warner Brothers Japan showing the trailer reads: “Move over, Harley Quinn! Special Japan release for Wonder Woman, the No.1 warrior beauty the world has been waiting for. She’s supposed to be one of the most powerful superheroes in existence, but she’s also an incredibly innocent and naive girl who knows nothing about men or love. The trailer is narrated by Kotono Mitsuishi, the voice actor who plays the role of none other than Sailor Moon herself (Usagi Tsukino) in the animated series!"
We think you can see how this line of advertising could feel awkward to fans who are aware of Wonder Woman’s significance as a character who has come to be a symbol of gender-free values and liberation from various social shackles. As a result, enough Japanese fans expressed their displeasure on social media for a Twitter Moment to be created titled, “Is the 'Wonder Woman' promotion in bad taste?”
Those who expressed negative opinions were mainly upset about how the mention of Wonder Woman “not knowing men” is not only vulgar but insinuates that a female superhero is somehow lacking without heterosexual romantic experience, and in that regard, the ad assumes that she is supposed to fit into the role of a stereotypical heterosexual heroine figure.
Here’s what some Japanese Twitter users had to say about the advertising tactic:
“To use phrases like “she’s supposed to be a superhero” and “knows nothing about men” in reference to a mighty female warrior is simply vulgar.”
“How can they describe her in such vulgar terms? She’s an Amazonian princess, for goodness’ sake.”
“Very upset at the introduction Warner Brothers Japan is giving her. The Wonder Woman I know isn’t even heterosexual, but “a naive girl who knows nothing about men or love”? Come on, the imagery can’t get much more heterosexual than that! It’s appalling to think that the official distributor in Japan considers this an effective marketing phrase.”
“Sure, she’s not mainstream in Japan, but it’s a pity that Wonder Woman, a character created to defy all forms of gender bias, has been turned into a stereotypical girly heroine in their advertising campaign.”
We guess such reactions are understandable, especially considering that comic book writer Greg Rucka announced last year that her bisexuality is considered canon in the DC world.
Some Twitter users were, however, somewhat more understanding of Warner Brothers Japan’s position, tweeting:
“Sure, the ad is vulgar and in really bad taste, but in a country where an idol group like AKB48 sells, I guess a good percentage of the public simply isn’t willing to embrace or empathize with a strong female character who doesn’t need the help of a man.”
That certainly may be true, when you consider the fact that prominent heroines in Japanese pop culture include characters like the sexy Cutie Honey or the very young (and we mean junior-high-school-young) Sailor Soldiers from "Sailor Moon" and the magical girls from "Pretty Cure."
So, what do you think of the direction Warner Brothers Japan took with their recent ads for "Wonder Woman?" While we can understand it may sometimes be a struggle to promote foreign movies in a way that appeals specifically to Japanese audiences, movie distributors should be aware that taking this stance too far can be a double-edged sword, as there is the risk of leaving movie viewers with the impression that the ads and trailers released beforehand ended up presenting the movie as something it really wasn’t, which could very well happen with "Wonder Woman." We guess it will be interesting to see how viewers respond once the film is released in Japan on Aug 25.
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