Armed with popcorn and a Diet Coke, my sister and two female cousins entered the movie theater for the most anticipated movie of the summer, Wonder Woman.
As four Jewish girls, we were swelling with pride that Hollywood had chosen to cast an obscure Israeli actress, known for her role in one of the Fast and Furious movies (I wouldn't be able to tell you which one-- aren't there like nine at this point?) to play Wonder Woman.
To us, Gadot represents everything. Aside from being strong, courageous and a feminist, she's also Jewish. The four of us can relate to her so much more than we do other actresses. Gadot comes from the same stock as us -- the descendant of European Jews who fled their homeland due to generations of persecution.
But to me, Gadot represents something more than just being Jewish.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I am very involved with Israel advocacy. I served as the president of Badgers for Israel and as AIPAC liaison to campus last year. While I spend a nice portion of my time studying for my degrees, and another socializing, I devote a large amount of time to educating others -- and frankly, educating myself -- about Israel.
A large part of Israel advocacy on college campuses is urging people to look beyond the politics -- explaining that Israel is so much more than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But here's the sitch: Although Israel is a world leader in technology and scientific discoveries, I have less than zero interest in those topics.
I hate science, business and tech with a burning passion. My majors are Political Science, Journalism and Strategic Communication (the only science I enjoy is social science). So I've had to grit my teeth and learn about these subjects in order to explain to others about Israel's incredible achievements.
It would be an understatement to say that Gal Gadot has made my life astronomically easier. I no longer need to explain "the other side of Israel." Gadot does it for me.
Hollywood is a trademark of American culture. No one can walk around a street without seeing some sort of billboard promoting a Hollywood blockbuster. So, people tend to pay attention to celebrities, and they can use their star-power to talk about things they care about: Bono is a spokesperson of UNICEF; Angelina Jolie works tirelessly for a variety of charities.
Gadot has used her star power to positively portray Israel. Whenever she talks about Israel, her eyes light up. She happily tells her interviewer about how proud she is of her homeland and about her life. In 2014, during the Gaza War, she posted a picture on social media sending her love to the IDF and the people of Israel.
Basically, Gadot fell into my constantly Israel-advocating lap. I no longer need to tell people about Israel and scientific discoveries (I took a college class on monkeys in order to satisfy a biology credit). Instead, I get to talk about Wonder Woman, the first leading superheroine to hit the silver screen. If I could, I would thank Gadot for the constant love and attention she gives to her birthplace -- the country she represented in the Miss Universe and fought for in the IDF.
Facts about technological innovations can sometimes seem abstract (at least they are to me), but Gadot is concrete. You can see her in the "here and now" on television and online. When people listen to her, she promotes Israel. All I need to do is share her posts and interviews on social media to get the word out about Israel.
And I know I'm not the only advocate that feels this way. I look at the Facebook pages of my fellow advocacy groups, such as Illinipac (University of Illinois). We just can't get enough of Gal Gadot.
When we walked out of the theater, I felt hyped. It wasn't just because my popcorn bag was empty and enough soda gone to caffeinate me for a few hours, or even because Wonder Woman was played by an Israeli. The movie was pretty fantastic too!
The DC Comics movie universe hasn't produced many winners (e.g. Green Lantern, Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman, which I liked it, but I seem to be at odds with the critics). The acting is overdone, the plots thick and the tone grim. But not Wonder Woman. The subtlety of the message and balanced seriousness sprinkled with humor broke away from the DC norm. Plus, with the skills she learned in the IDF, Gadot channeled strength and beauty while doing her own stunts.
Women old and young have been waiting for a film like this since superheroes were created during World War II. I'll admit, even after the rave reviews and my determination to see it in the theater, when the previews started playing I felt scared it wouldn't live up to the hype -- there was just so much riding on this movie. But sure enough, it lived up to the anticipation that's been building for half a century.