With the release of the first trailer for the Jumanji sequel, fans aren't just finding out that the board game has been traded in for a video game. They're also finally getting to see why Karen Gillan's character is wearing a crop top in the jungle. When the first photo from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was revealed, fans complained about the character wearing such a skimpy outfit, but were promised that all would be explained soon. In this particular trailer, however, Gillan's controversial outfit is used as the punchline of a joke — and fans don't think it's very funny.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, last year, when the first footage of the film was shown at Sony's CinemaCon Panel, it was revealed that Gillan's look was a satirical take on sexism in video games, and how too often, female characters are designed to be eye candy for male players. But the joke in the trailer doesn't push the conversation surrounding the treatment of women in video games further. It just gets a laugh at Gillan's character's expense. Bustle has reached out to Sony Entertainment for comment, but have yet to receive a response.
Now, no one has seen the whole movie, so there may be more depth here than the trailer allows, especially since Gillan promised that this look would pay off. Last year, when fans started tweeting their disappointment over the only female character in a family film wearing half a shirt while the male co-stars by her side were fully dressed, the actor tweeted, "Yes I'm wearing child sized clothes and YES there is a reason! The pay off is worth it, I promise!"
It was after this initial backlash that it was revealed that Gillan's character is actually a video game avatar. See, this Jumanji is The Breakfast Club meets Big. Four teenagers find a video game and end up being sucked into it, where they become the characters they've chosen — Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Franklin "Moose" Finbar (Kevin Hart), Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).
In the trailer, when Martha (Morgan Turner) turns up in the jungle dressed as Ruby, she's quick to criticize the look of her avatar. With her arms folded around her uncovered stomach, she asks angrily, "Why am I wearing half a shirt and short-shorts in the jungle?" And that was all the payoff on the outfit that fans get in this nearly three-minute trailer, where Gillan still has to run around in that same look.
Again, it's just a trailer for a movie that has yet to come out in full. But, for fans, this trailer punchline fell flat. "Turns out 'It's supposed to be a joke' was the big reason why Karen Gillan's
#Jumanji character is dressed the way she is," one person wrote. "Hmmm." Another person tweeted, "I watched the Jumanji trailer bc they told me Karen Gillan's costume would be explained. It's still not funny."
The reason the joke falls short is that honestly, it's not really a joke. For over 20 years, Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series has been a kick-ass archaeologist, but it's those tight tank tops and short-shorts that too often define her. In 2015, the newest Tomb Raider game finally stopped objectifying Lara by allowing her to wear pants and a long-sleeve shirt, but her original look is why the New York Times defined Lara Croft's legacy as "complicated." "She remains a polarizing figure among gamers," the paper wrote in 2016. "A paradox regarded as either a digital pinup girl or a feminist role model — or sometimes both."
And that's why this Jumanji trailer joke deserves a bit of side-eye. The punchline reinforces the stereotype that women are objects of desire, that they don't have any say in who they are and are defined by the men around them. In the trailer, at least, Gillan's character isn't smashing the patriarchy. She isn't making that wisecrack and then fashioning herself a full shirt. No, she's just forced to deal with it while doing all the things the boys are doing fully clothed.
Of course, there could still be more to this joke than the trailer shows. The real payoff Gillan promised might not have been revealed yet. After all, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter from earlier this year, the Doctor Who actress said she was worried about the Jumanji costume, but "I have to say, I'd never take on a role that was truly gratuitous for no reason. There’s a really valid reason why she’s wearing that. My character is really not happy about it!"
But right now, it's clear that the audience isn't happy about it either. Fans would like Jumanji to use Gillan's costume to subvert sexism, not laugh about it. Still, at least when the film comes out this Christmas there's the chance that the joke won't be on the audience who want more from their female characters — starting with more fabric.