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Gal Gadot talks ‘muting’ criticism of military past and docuseries about impactful women

Amahl S. Azwar

The Jakarta Post

Bali  /  Thu, May 13, 2021  /  11:48 am
Gal Gadot talks ‘muting’ criticism of military past and docuseries about impactful women

Actress Gal Gadot is one of the executive producers for National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

“I think much of it comes from ignorance and people not understanding what most people do in the army in Israel or what I did in the army during my service in the military,” Hollywood star Gal Gadot told the Post about the criticisms of her military background, during a virtual press conference on April 12 to promote IMPACT. The show is a series of six short-form documentaries that highlight the lives of women from different parts of the world who are making a positive impact in their respective communities.

“The whole idea of the show started when I just wanted to use my reach that I have to the audience and the fans and do something good with it,” said Gadot during the press conference, adding that the team wanted to “shed light” on stories where the cameras “won’t necessarily aim to cover.”

Gadot added that the story of 23-year-old ballet dancer Tuany in Rio De Janeiro Brazil, who started a dance company for young girls in one of the country’s most dangerous favelas, sparked the whole docuseries. Tuany was featured on Na Ponta dos Pés (On Tiptoes). 

IMPACT premiered Monday, Apr. 26 on National Geographic’s YouTube channel. The short documentary series will be digitally released on a weekly basis and then concluded in a feature-length documentary special to premiere on the National Geographic channel on June 24. The docuseries is set to be aired globally in 142 countries and 43 languages.

On one of the scenes of Coming Home, one of the short-form documentary films featured on National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot, Kayla Gore talks about how My Sistah's House project aims to help homeless transgender women of color in Memphis, Tennessee.On one of the scenes of Coming Home, one of the short-form documentary films featured on National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot, Kayla Gore talks about how My Sistah's House project aims to help homeless transgender women of color in Memphis, Tennessee. (National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic)

Wonder Woman

Thirty-five-year-old Gadot rose to prominence after portraying Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in the DC Extended Universe. The female superhero’s appearance on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 was the character’s first live-action cinematic portrayal. Gadot returned to the titular role in 2017’s Wonder Woman, which met with a largely positive response from critics.

Gadot’s portrayal, however, was also a subject of some criticism, mostly online, due to the fact that she is a former Israel Defense Forces soldier. Gadot, who enlisted as a combat fitness instructor with the military forces, completed her two mandatory years of military service at the age of 22.

At the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, Israel invaded Gaza after Hamas captured and killed three Israeli teenagers. A United Nations report revealed that at least 2,000 Palestinians—including hundreds of children—were killed. Gadot showed her support for the Israel Defense Forces on her official Facebook page with a picture of her and her daughter praying with the following caption:

"I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children...We shall overcome!!! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf"

Gadot was repeatedly targeted on social media following her public comments especially by pro-Palestinian groups. The first installment of Wonder Woman was subsequently banned in Lebanon and Qatar in 2017.

Following the release of Wonder Woman 1984 in late 2020, Gadot was again criticized, especially since one of the scenes from the sequel showed the superhero saving several Egyptian Muslim children while playing soccer. Some people pointed out that during the Gaza conflict in July 2014, four Palestinian boys were killed by the missiles that were fired by the Israel naval forces while the children were playing soccer on a beach in Gaza.

Others showed support for Gadot and pointed out that it was unfair that her 2014 Facebook post be brought up against her every time her project was released.  

During the virtual press conference, the Post asked Gadot how she would “move forward” from the ongoing criticism of her military background.

The question might be too sensitive for some people, but to her credit, Gadot was level-headed as she delivered her response.

“The Internet […] can be very, very dark and full with hate and negativity. When I read [the criticism] I’m like, ‘wow, they obviously have no idea what I did [in the army].’ Being an Israeli and going to the army is an integral thing. It’s something that you have to do. It’s mandatory,” said Gadot.

“And by the way, everyone’s dream in Israel is that their children won’t have to go in service in the army because everything will be great and there will be peace in the Middle East,” she added.

Gadot said the best thing she could do was to try to “mute all this noise” and instead put her energy on implementing the value that she believed in and sending this narrative out to the world.

“I just try to do me and spread the good as much as I can. And talk [about] the things that I believe in,” she said.

Making an impact

One of those things that Gadot believes in is IMPACT. The women featured in the series come from Brazil, Puerto Rico, Michigan, California, Louisiana and Tennessee.

During the press conference, Gadot highlighted Kayla Gore, a black trans woman in Memphis, Tennessee, who established My Sistah’s House in order to help homeless transgender women of color who are largely discriminated in the country.

“Kayla used to be homeless and now [she’s] taking care of people like her and making sure they have homes to live in. [On an episode of IMPACT titled "Coming Home"] she talks about the one person who gave her the one opportunity when she needed it the most. Now, she’s in a position where she can give those opportunities to other women,” said Gadot, adding that she hoped the “ripple effect” from the docuseries could empower many people.

One of the trans women that My Sistah’s House has helped is Alexis Alexandria Jackson, who said she had to fight for being an African American and being a transgender woman in America.

National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot premiers on Monday, Apr. 26 with Ice Breakers, which tells the story of Kameryn Everett, a 20-year-old figure skating coach in Detroit, Michigan, who has dedicated her life to coaching young girls of color to empower them both on and off the ice.National Geographic Presents: IMPACT with Gal Gadot premiers on Monday, Apr. 26 with Ice Breakers, which tells the story of Kameryn Everett, a 20-year-old figure skating coach in Detroit, Michigan, who has dedicated her life to coaching young girls of color to empower them both on and off the ice. (National Geographic/Courtesy of National Geographic)

“I have literally all the odds against me. In the South in general, people like me aren't accepted and a lot of girls like me don't make it to the age of 35 and I'll be 34 this year. So that’s a blessing within itself because I’ve seen so many girls die [at the age of] 25… 26… 22… over people just not accepting them for being who they are,” Jackson said on "Coming Home".

“Their determination surprises me and inspires me,” said Gadot, who added that she would love to do stories about Arab women for a second season of the docuseries.