Presentation Title

Gender Conventions In 2017's Wonder Woman: How Female Perspectives Are Altered For Male Audiences

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Daniel Gardner

Start Date

17-11-2018 9:30 AM

End Date

17-11-2018 9:45 AM

Location

C308

Session

Oral 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

The trend of cinematic adaptations of comic book superheroes over the last decade has primarily focused on male protagonists. Warner Brothers, the studio that owns characters from DC Comics, has been reticent to produce films featuring female heroes. Previous attempts, such as 2004’s Catwoman, hypersexualizes the female lead, using specific angles which linger on her body. Catwoman was a financial failure, leading Warner Brothers to assume that future female oriented films would also be unsuccessful. The studio took over a decade before producing 2017’s Wonder Woman, which was produced for a fraction of the budget normally allocated for a major blockbuster release. Director Patty Jenkins broke convention by filming the character through a lens focused on her physical prowess instead of objectifying her body. Film critics at the time of the films release noted how Jenkins presented Wonder Woman with a capability and agency missing from other female led films. However, by deploying Laura Mulvey’s cinematic male gaze, I contend that Wonder Woman unsuccessfully transcends traditional gender politics. Wonder Woman, as portrayed by actress Gal Gadot, adheres to conventional standards, including long hair and perfect make up. This contrast is further seen in other films featuring the character, such as Justice League and Batman v Superman. These films, directed by men, use cinematic techniques that accentuates Wonder Woman’s body for the male gaze. The film’s shortcomings represents a larger trend in how mainstream cinema inadequately portrays women as fully realized characters. For example, Suicide Squad, another film in the same DC Cinematic Universe, features Harley Quinn, whose main attribute is her sexuality. By using Mulvey's concept of the male gaze on Wonder Woman and other films in the genre, I will show how female perspectives are compromised, altered, and commodified by the studio system.

Summary of research results to be presented

By applying Mulvey’s theories to Wonder Woman and superhero cinema in the last decade, we can see a continuum of how movie studios view their audiences. Women went from being kept in their role as sidekicks and love interests because of their assumed audience of men. Gendered readings of these films keep women contained in the frame as prized for their bodies to satisfy male power fantasies. Movie studios are concerned with profit and growth which requires increasing their audience penetration. We can see how a narrative evolves to increase diversity in movies to expand the roles of women to make them more attractive for female audiences. However, by applying Laura Mulvey to these attempts, we can see how it is still made in the language of the male gaze through enforcing gender conventions. This narrative is ongoing, and studios do not feel comfortable with staking a claim on elevating women to the same status as men. Suicide Squad, released only seven months before Wonder Woman, contains numerous hypersexualization tropes in their female characters, from Harley Quinn to Enchantress. Women are more present in mainstream cinema, but as of now it exists as a marketing device instead of a true change in gender dynamic. 2019’s Captain Marvel presents a trailer that seems to counter this notion, but as of now women are still in flux as voices of power in mainstream film.

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Nov 17th, 9:30 AM Nov 17th, 9:45 AM

Gender Conventions In 2017's Wonder Woman: How Female Perspectives Are Altered For Male Audiences

C308

The trend of cinematic adaptations of comic book superheroes over the last decade has primarily focused on male protagonists. Warner Brothers, the studio that owns characters from DC Comics, has been reticent to produce films featuring female heroes. Previous attempts, such as 2004’s Catwoman, hypersexualizes the female lead, using specific angles which linger on her body. Catwoman was a financial failure, leading Warner Brothers to assume that future female oriented films would also be unsuccessful. The studio took over a decade before producing 2017’s Wonder Woman, which was produced for a fraction of the budget normally allocated for a major blockbuster release. Director Patty Jenkins broke convention by filming the character through a lens focused on her physical prowess instead of objectifying her body. Film critics at the time of the films release noted how Jenkins presented Wonder Woman with a capability and agency missing from other female led films. However, by deploying Laura Mulvey’s cinematic male gaze, I contend that Wonder Woman unsuccessfully transcends traditional gender politics. Wonder Woman, as portrayed by actress Gal Gadot, adheres to conventional standards, including long hair and perfect make up. This contrast is further seen in other films featuring the character, such as Justice League and Batman v Superman. These films, directed by men, use cinematic techniques that accentuates Wonder Woman’s body for the male gaze. The film’s shortcomings represents a larger trend in how mainstream cinema inadequately portrays women as fully realized characters. For example, Suicide Squad, another film in the same DC Cinematic Universe, features Harley Quinn, whose main attribute is her sexuality. By using Mulvey's concept of the male gaze on Wonder Woman and other films in the genre, I will show how female perspectives are compromised, altered, and commodified by the studio system.