Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice for Women? Not Quite

In feminist film studies class, I have learned numerous ways to critique the Hollywood film to question how characters are depicted on screen and how it relates to cultural representation of society today. Using this newfound knowledge to examine misrepresentation of women on screen, I was able to critique the movie going experience in my very own AMC theatre in Inver Grove Heights. Upon entering the theatre, there were kiosks to the left and right to purchase or pickup tickets with the concessions stand on the back wall. After picking up the tickets to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, costing a hefty $10.50 per person, the worker asked us if we would like to purchase a discount card for movies and concessions encouraging more spending in the future, before directing us ahead. The concessions stand was decorated with enormous pictures of candy, soda and popcorn, and was meant to allure the common customer into purchasing the dazzling, buttery popcorn. After waiting in line for a few minutes, it was time to buy the popcorn. The three sizes were small, medium, and large pricing at $6.00, $7.00, and $10.00 respectively. Being the popcorn lover that I am, we had to buy the large, since it was way more popcorn than the small, and less than twice the price. This is just another scheme that theatres use to get consumers to spend more money by selling more popcorn because it is a better deal, even though they may not eat it anyway. After getting the popcorn, we then headed toward the theatre and walked inside the dimly lit hallway and up the stairs to our seats. Looking around the theatre, it was mostly boys dressed in casual superhero shirts and heaps of chatter, as the audience was excited to view the film. My girlfriend and I sat down and reclined in the soft chairs. Before the movie started, I noticed that the theatre took one last ditch effort to sell more popcorn in the AMC movie introduction stating, “The movie is better with popcorn and a Coca Cola.” Soon after, the lights dimmed and the movie began.

Zack Snyder’s film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film in which DC Comics takes the two superheroes, Batman and Superman, and puts them against one another in conflict of the future ahead. Previously, Superman had a fight in his own movie Man of Steel destroying much of the city Metropolis. Due to this, Batman sees him as a threat to humanity as he could not be controlled and has god-like powers. Superman hears of Batman’s plans to come after him and does everything in his power to stop him. Once Batman discovers Superman’s weakness to be an element named kryptonite, he then turns it into a spear, and the final fight between the two begins. Looking around the theatre at this point, everyone in the movie was at the edge of their seats staring intently into the screen to find out what happened next. The tension of the whole movie was rising up to this single fight, and everyone knew it. However, soon into the fight, Batman realized that Superman was not his enemy when he finds out the truth about Superman’s mother. Following this realization, a new threat arises that could destroy not only Gotham and Metropolis, but all of humanity, causing the two of them to unite alongside Wonder Woman and fight, ultimately saving the world. After the final fight scene was over, most in the audience looked shocked and could not believe what had happened. It is not until the final scene that this shock was somewhat relieved, and the audience could leave with hope of what was to come in the heroes’ futures.

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Parallel to many other superhero films within the genre, the movie Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice represents women in a highly sexualized manner in order to satisfy the male gaze. In her essay “Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema”, Mulvey discusses scopophilia, or the pleasure in looking, and how it is employed in the male gaze. Within her piece, she addresses Freudian theory and how scopophilia is associated with “taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze.” (835, Mulvey) Through this gaze, the male spectator “gains gratification from indulging in unlicensed looking at an image, typically of a woman.” (McCabe, 29) The male gaze implemented throughout the film is clearly apparent in the presentation of Wonder Woman. In the film, Wonder Woman is depicted as an independent, intelligent, and strong character as demonstrated in her ability to confiscate data files from Bruce Wayne. However, despite these personality characteristics, Wonder Woman is still a product of the male gaze as made evident through her heavily sexualized appearance, specifically with her final battle outfit. The outfit is tight fitting, exposing, and revealing, her hair is blown out, and she is in full heavy makeup. In this way, Wonder Women is simply an object for the male viewer’s pleasure and reaffirms the sexualized cultural belief that a woman’s appearance is her most important trait over intelligence, strength, or courage. This sexualization of culture and the importance of bodily properties in femininity are discussed in Gill’s piece on postfeminist media culture, in which she states “the body is presented simultaneously as a woman’s source of power” (149, Gill). This statement is vindicated in the film, as when Wonder Woman is at her most powerful, or during the final battle, it is also when she is most sexualized. Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice perpetuates the misrepresentation of women in film, through heavily sexualizing their appearance.

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Despite the clear gender misrepresentations presented throughout the film, in general, the audience seemed to enjoy Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, and were able to ignore sexist stereotypes in favor of the high action plot. The cinematic experience of seeing the film in theaters may have heightened this excitement for viewers, hence making the film more enjoyable than it would be watching from home. This illustrates how movie theaters are better able to captivate audiences through their usage of concessions, plush seating, surround sound, and large screens. Due to their ability to improve a film’s portrayal, movie theaters entice the public to splurge on the experience in order to satisfy their desire for entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” Film Theory and

Criticism: Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New

York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44

 

Gill, Rosalind. “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies. (2007). Web. 12 April 2016.

 

McCabe, Janet. “Structuring a Language of Theory”. Feminist Film Studies.

(2004) Web. 12 April 2016.

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