The United Nations created an uproar when it named DC Comics’ Amazon Princess “Wonder Woman” a “special ambassador” in honor of the character’s 75th birthday. The honorific chosen was “Special Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls” and you might think that would be a positive thing. And it was … just not for everyone.
Protestors both inside and outside the UN chambers let their opinion be known that the honor should have been given to, well, a real woman. Others were upset that such a “sexualized” character was bestowed with the honor.
As what was supposed to be a lighthearted ceremony began, 50 UN staffers showed up at the visitor’s entrance then strode inside the council chamber to make their anger felt by turning their backs to the stage.
The Associated Press interviewed some of the protesters who said they “don’t think a fictitious comic book character wearing basically what looks like a Playboy bunny outfit is really the right message we need to send to girls or even boys…”
While at first blush this may seem like much ado about nothing, from a PR perspective there’s a lot to look at. For one thing, the decision and the ceremony rips the lid off a bubbling online debate over the role of women in the world. While there are disparate factions on both sides of the argument, the general consensus is the role of women in the world is changing, and it should look a certain way … how it should look often depends on who you ask.
If the ceremony had been it, the issue may not have even made headlines, but the announcement was intended to kick off a campaign in which the cartoon heroine will be used to promote the UN’s empowerment agenda. There’s even a hashtag: “WithWonderWoman” that organizers hopes will catch on.
The rub, as you might imagine, comes down to money. DC and Warner Bros, which are producing both comics and movies featuring Wonder Woman are at the heart of this campaign.
But there’s more to the story. Honorary Ambassadors are supposed to be fictional characters. Previous honorees have included Tinker Bell and Winnie the Pooh. In addition, the UN actually has another category – Goodwill Ambassador – which includes such luminous celebrity women as Nicole Kidman, Emma Watson, Anne Hathaway, and Princess Mahidol of Thailand.
And this isn’t even the first time the UN has coupled with an entertainment company to use a cartoon to promote an issue. So, while they may not like her outfit, the protesters need to do a better job of getting their narrative straight, or they are going to be snared by the lasso of truth.