The announcement that Kristen Wiig, longtime Saturday Night Live star and veteran comedic actress (star of such hilarious films as Bridsemaids and Ghostbusters) has been cast as Cheetah, the major villain of the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel, has been met with some shock and surprise around the Internet. However, despite what your initial reaction may have been, Wiig’s career has set her up perfectly to play a role like the Cheetah, making the casting an impressive decision.
First off, before we know anything else about the role, it is important to note that there is a long history of comedic actors not being taken seriously when they take over superhero roles and that has generally proven to be a fault premise, because quite often, the very success of a comedic actor derives from one’s ability to connect with the audience and have them relate to, all qualities that work well with a superhero character.
The most famous example of this would be Michael Keaton, who had mostly played comedic roles before taking on the role of Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman. A letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times from Allan B. Rothstein in 1988 echoed many people’s views on the subject back in the day.
“He might have made a good Joker, but his comic style, which he seems unable to shake (but can amplify), has doomed this promised ‘serious’ treatment of Bob Kane’s character to the same tired, boring level of artificial ‘camp’ that made the TV series a hit yet simultaneously doomed it to an early cancellation,” Rothstein said at the time. However, as it soon became evident, the very qualities that made Keaton such a lovable comedic character were also the same ones that made people connect to him as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Wiig has the same qualities that Keaton had back in the 1980s. Her work in Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters relied on her relatability to work and thus, she should have the same ability to connect to audiences that Keaton had.
One of the problems, though, with looking at Wiig’s ability to fit into the role of the Cheetah is that there have been a number of different versions of the Cheetah over the years.
The original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich, was a debutante with a split personality…
As you can see, she was a rather broad character. She’s the type of character that Wiig played a lot on Saturday Night Live, like her over-the-top actress competing on the game show, Secret Word…
However, it is highly unlikely that the Priscilla Rich version of the character is going to be used in the film.
It is much more likely that the Barbara Ann Minerva version of the character will be used (well, at least one specific version of the Minerva take on the character, at least). Minerva was introduced in the George Perez Post-Crisis reboot of Wonder Woman.
Minerva was an archaeologist who was transformed into the bestial Cheetah while on an expedition to the remotest regions of Africa. She first encountered Wonder Woman because she wanted Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth to add to her collection of historical items but once she was defeated, she kept coming back mostly out of her bruised ego. Over the years, she essentially just became a generic villain that would show up whenever a super-villain team needed a female member.
Wiig probably could play her, but this version of the Cheetah would essentially just be a CGI-fueled generic villain, so a role like that would be a waste for Wiig. No, the version of the Cheetah that we think is most likely to be used in the upcoming film is also the one that Wiig’s current strengths as an actress would play to the best, which is the Rebirth version of the Cheetah.
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