Why Gal Gadot of Wonder Woman is a great Israeli superhero, by PR pro Richard Dukas
Beyond threats to its survival, Israel’s greatest challenge in its 69-year history has been the quest to be viewed as a “normal country” with the same struggles as the rest of the developed world.
Despite Israel’s excellence in academia and its significant contributions to technology, science, business and economics (as evidenced by its citizens winning seven Nobel prizes), Americans are still more likely to hear about Israel on a daily basis in stories related to war, terrorism and conflict than they are about advances in cancer research, agriculture, or cultural achievements.
Enter one of the world’s greatest super heroes to the rescue!
Israeli actress Gal Gadot, star of this year’s blockbuster Wonder Woman film, has taken the media by storm in all her sword-swinging, evil-fighting, Hebrew-accented glory.
A former beauty queen and Israeli soldier, a mother who was actually pregnant during the filming of the movie, and who is warm and friendly in interviews, Gadot is undoubtedly the best marketing tool Israel has had in a long time.
Powerful Achievements, Poor Perceptions
To be fair, in the past decade Israelis have gained notice for their high-level of innovation, pipeline of successful startups and the ubiquity of Israeli technology and science in everyday lives around the world, including: Intel’s Pentium chip, Waze, and Teva, the world’s largest producer of prescription drugs.
Israel is third in companies listed on NASDAQ, trailing only behind the U.S. and China. Israeli startups such as Mobileye are being gobbled up by U.S. companies like Intel (for its expertise in autonomous vehicles), and Israeli television programs are being imported to the U.S., reinvented as shows such as “Homeland” and “In Treatment.”
For a young country faced with years of war and geo-political instability, Israel’s level of achievement is staggering.
However, to too many people in the U.S. and around the world, Israel is unjustifiably viewed negatively, and the results have serious ramifications: many younger Americans—both Jew and non-Jew alike—are pulling away from their support of Israel and buying into the narrative of Israel as a “villain.”
But now Israel has an international hero of its own.
An Israeli-Born Symbol of Freedom and Strength
The character of Wonder Woman first appeared in the midst of WWII. At a time when America craved heroes, she came along to fight for truth and justice, taking on the Nazis in her red, white and blue uniform.
Today, the world craves heroes more than ever. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains a symbol of goodness, democracy, and decency. And many supporters of Israel are thrilled that the American public is willing to embrace an Israeli as a pop culture icon and symbol of freedom and strength.
Gadot, with her distinctively Hebrew name and accent, is arguably the first cultural Israeli to make it to the top in popular recognition. While not an official emissary of Israel, she nevertheless sends a message to everyone that she’s proud of who she is and where she grew up. She often posts on social media in Hebrew, and even tweeted her support for the Israeli Army in a recent battle against terrorists. But, like many movie stars, she also shares glamorous fashion shoots, make-up free shots, and plenty of Hollywood fun, such as her “work out” with Conan O’Brien.
In other words, she’s Israeli, but she’s a regular celebrity too.
Those of us in public relations and marketing who work with Israeli companies and organizations that support the Israel-based causes, look for encouragement wherever we can find it, and we’ll take this as a sign that Israel is that much closer to its dream of normalcy.
Gadot’s enthusiastic acceptance by the media and by fans from all walks of life is a rejection of the idea that until Israel is at peace with all of its neighbors (and in a very tough neighborhood to boot!), Israel alone must be isolated from the global public square while actual international “villains” remain unchecked. An idea that Wonder Woman herself would find absurd.
Like Israeli athletes, academics, scientists, astronauts and businesspeople, Gal Gadot leads by example, reminding the world—including investors and others that do business with the country—that Israel should not be overlooked or underestimated.
Richard Dukas is the chairman and CEO of Dukas Linden Public Relations, a New York-based agency specializing in financial, professional services, and B2B/ and financial technology.