Gal Gadot, the actress best known for her role as Diana Prince in the blockbuster hit, Wonder Woman, sent out what she thought was a heartfelt message to honor the passing of Stephen Hawking, the well-known theoretical physicist who died on March 14. Social media saw the tweet as anything but heartfelt and some people called Gadot’s sentiments “abelist” and felt the words demeaned Hawking, as well as other physically handicapped individuals.
Gadot, who will once again pick up the Wonder Woman mantle for the sequel, tweeted, “Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you’re free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.”
The “physical constraints” terminology caused an uproar with many social media users demanding that Gadot delete her tweet. One Twitter user called Gadot’s tweet harmful, as it suggested that Hawking, who had spent most of his life in a wheelchair as a result of a motor neuron disease, was constrained by his disability and that it was harmful to suggest that he had to be dead to be free. Yet another user condemned Gadot for using the term “rest in peace,” writing that “to tell an atheist to rest in peace implies they have transferred to an infinite life of rest, a rest that he would mock a creationist for having the audacity to believe.”
The firestorm continued with others saying that Gadot implied Hawking wanted to die to be free of the limitations of his wheelchair and that her words were cruel. Some users reminded Gadot that Hawking himself had said that his physical disability actually helped him and had not hindered him. In a 1984 article for Science Digest, Hawking wrote that his disabilities had not been a significant handicap in his field, as they had shielded him from “lecturing and administrative duties” that he otherwise would have had to have performed.
Supporters of Gadot’s tweet did speak out, telling the actress that she was being respectful and kind in offering her condolences and that other individuals were “more concerned with being PC” or politically correct, than they were with focusing on the intent of her message. So far, neither Gal Gadot nor any of her representatives have responded to the backlash.