Gal Gadot may play Wonder Woman, but she’s definitely far from perfect. In fact, many people online are calling out the actress for an insensitive tweet she shared following the death of renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who died Wednesday morning.
“Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you're free of any physical constraints,” she tweeted. The tweet is being criticized as ableist, or discriminatory against disabled people.
Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you're free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever ✨ pic.twitter.com/EQzSxqNTuN— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) March 14, 2018
Even though she most likely made the comment in good faith, Gadot’s reference to Hawking being “free” from “physical constraints” reinforces the ableist idea that disabilities are a form of suffering that can only be assuaged by death.
As a 21-year-old, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that led him to use a wheelchair and speech synthesizer to communicate later in life. As Teen Vogue points out, the idea that death made Hawking "free" contradicts how the professor felt about himself. “My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics,” he once said. “Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in.”
Disability activists responded to Gadot’s tweet, explaining why the sentiment was so problematic.
So what we're NOT gonna do is talk about Stephen Hawking's disability like it was a tragedy. Because it wasn't. Disabilities are not tragedies. Abled people can go away. https://t.co/e1PB6TB79F— Ophelia Brown (@bandaidknees) March 14, 2018
Gal I am chronically ill. Can't shower or even get myself out of bed. Lost 18 years thus far. But I ran a charity funding research for my illness #ME and advocate for Change. All from my bed. Is my life not important? Disablement is not shameful, bigotry is. Watch @unrestfilm pls— amara campbell (@amaracampbell) March 14, 2018
I think you’re fantastic Gal but this tweet is very ableist. His physical constraints didn’t stop him from changing the world. People with disabilities don’t wish for death to be free of their challenges. We wish to be valued for what we CAN do, not pitied for we can’t.— Adam B. Zimmerman (@ABZimm) March 14, 2018
People also pointed out that Hawking was pro-Palestine, a reference to Gadot's Israeli heritage and time as an Israeli Defense Force soldier.
1) he was free— نور (@levantina_) March 14, 2018
2) he thought Palestine should be too 🤗
Gadot is definitely not the only person who made that kind of comment in the wake of Hawking’s death. An image floating around the internet shows the scientist walking away from his chair.
I know that people are not sharing this image to be ableist, but please remember that it ties into the rhetoric of “Stephen Hawking is now free of his wheelchair now that he is dead”. This is highly problematic since it reinforces the “better dead than disabled” trope. pic.twitter.com/08csp8Ml1d— Derek Newman-Stille (@DNewmanStille) March 15, 2018
Whether intentional or not, Gadot's tweet and images like the one above dismiss the fact that Hawking did his work living with his disability, rather than “overcoming” it. Gadot hasn't responded to the criticism, but hopefully this critique can open up a wider discussion about ableism.