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Is Wonder Woman the right choice for a U.N. ambassador?

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Actress Lynda Carter with the U.N.'s Wonder Woman
Actress Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970s, speaks during a ceremony as the U.N. names the comic character its Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls on Oct. 21, 2016, in New York.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations turned heads last month when it named its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. It chose Wonder Woman — yes, the fictional character known for her pursuit of justice, and also for her revealing clothing.

The choice spurred a petition, signed by more than 600 United Nations staff members, urging Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon to reconsider the decision. 

Anne Marie Goetz, a former advisor to the United Nations, expressed her disappointment, writing on Twitter: "Disgusting that the UN substitutes sexualized fake for real woman leader."

Was it the wrong choice?

MPR News host Kerri Miller spoke with Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist involved with the Pop Culture Hero Coalition, and Jennifer Stuller, a writer and co-founder of GeekGirlCon, about Wonder Woman's new, controversial role.

While many have objected to Wonder Woman's risque costume, it's worth noting that her pin-up girl-aesthetic has been toned down for U.N. materials: She wears a cape that covers the top of her trademark bustier, and the portraits are done from the waist up.

"It's wildly different than some comic book incarnations or illustrations," Stuller said. "I don't find it off-putting at all. She looks athletic and graceful."

Letamendi agreed: "There's this importance around understanding that she was the original feminist for many of us in terms of pop culture, in terms of comic book characters. She was created to represent the self-rescuing character, the self-rescuing woman. She was not a sidekick. She was not someone's girlfriend or wife. She was an individual who embodied justice, peace, equality. I'm not put off by her visual representation because I'm able to understand the entire picture."

Some people object not to the costume, but to the fact that Wonder Woman is fiction — a comic book character.

"I'm hearing a lot of: 'She's not a real woman and therefore has no value.' I'm hearing: 'She's a cartoon character,' and that's being said in a way that's extremely dismissive of the power and potential of popular culture," Stuller said. "I see the power of fictional characters and fictional stories on people every single day of my life. I think people do recognize her, whether they know her or not, as this icon. They see her and they go: 'That is a strong woman.'"

For the full conversation on Wonder Woman's controversial role as a U.N. ambassador, use the audio player above.