Wonder Woman v Lois Lane: Postfeminism v Damsel

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a 2016 Warner Bros. Pictures movie based on Batman and Superman from the DC Universe. The film was directed by Zach Snyder, best known for his directions of 300 (2006) and Man of Steel (2013). Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill serve as the main stars portraying Batman and Superman respectively. We are introduced to Metropolis with Superman’s fight against General Zod as was seen in Man of Steel. The story for Dawn of Justice takes place 18 months following the destructive attack, with Superman’s image coming into question as more people, including Batman, consider him an alien threat rather than a god. The two clash as Batman blames Superman for mass amount of casualties that occurred, and Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent seeks to expose Batman via his journalism at the Daily Planet. Lex Luther’s investigations into metahumans becomes increasingly relevant throughout the movie as Diana Prince’s identity as Wonder Woman is exposed. Batman and Superman eventually come together following their fight alongside Wonder Woman in a battle against Luther’s monstrous creation in an attempt to save Metropolis.

Dawn of Justice is one of many action superhero genre films being released recently. More so than previous Batman adaptations, Zach Snyder seeks to follow representative themes from the comics. Superhero films generally follow the actions of one of more individuals with superhuman abilities as they attempt to protect humanity from a supervillian. While Dawn of justice is an entertaining clash of titans, it further perpetuates superhero genre issues of spectatorship, the postfeminist movement to subjectification, and the damsel archetype.

In the last decade there has been a boom in the superhero movie industry, notably in Marvel and DC adaptations of the comics. These comics have always perpetuated stereotypes such as the strong muscular male lead repeatedly fighting to save mankind and his damsel counterpart. Whether it’s Piper in Iron Man, Mary Jane in Spiderman, or superman-lois-lane-dawn-of-justice-after-creditsin this case Lois Lane, the damsel in distress archetype is often a side plot in the superhero genre. Following true to form, in Lois Lane’s first scene in Dawn of Justice she is captured by a terrorist sect and Superman goes out of his way to save her. Our introduction to Lois Lane’s character is her being whisked away from danger in the arms of Superman. Throughout the course of the film she has to be rescued on 3 occasions, often times distracting Clark Kent from his job as Superman. She is a weakness, providing a love interest for someone who otherwise is considered a God. Lex Luther uses her to draw out Superman when he pushes her off the tower. When she gets stuck under a collapsed building Superman is forced to leave the fight with the monster, abandoning Batman and Wonder Woman. In this sense Lois Lane’s entire character is a distraction, a tool to be used to weaken Superman and take him away from progressing the story line. As Laura Mulvey states in her book Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema,

“The presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of the story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation.” (Mulvey pg. 837).

Admittedly, the majority of people interested in comics and superheros are likely teenage males, so it’s understandable that the industry caters to that demographic by using ultra-muscular males and sexualizing women, but that doesn’t make it any less problematic. By continuing to play on this, the superhero genre continues to deepen the stereotype and drive away many female readers. There is a distinct lack of female representation within the superhero genre, with Wonder Woman being one of the few exceptions. Wonder-Woman-Batman-V-Superman-Costume-SwordWonder Woman is a perfect example of the postfeminist movement from objectification to subjectification, as her empowerment is derived from her femininity through her body. In Postfeminist Media Culture Rosalind Gill notes,

“In a shift from earlier representational practices, it appears that femininity is defined as a bodily property…The body is presented simultaneously as women’s source of power” (Gill pg. 149).

Even a female superhero does not escape the male gaze. Clad in skintight and revealing clothing, Wonder Woman’s character quickly reverts any attempt at creating a strong female lead. Mulvey describes this within Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema:

“A woman performs within the narrative, the gaze of the spectator and that of the male characters in the film” (Mulvey pg. 838).

Dawn of Justice creates meaning largely through it’s representation of metahumans and their history within comics. Overall I enjoyed the film, but found it somewhat confusing as it seemed they tried to pack too much into a short amount of time. Even though the film is 2 1/2 hours, it’s not surprising that the director’s cut was over 4 hours given that many scenes feel unexplained unless you know the story or background beforehand. Still, I found the cinematography and production extremely well done. For viewing Dawn of Justice I went to a theater local to where I grew up. On a late Sunday evening I was one of maybe 10 people in the theater. Seats are purchased on a reservation basis so while everyone else chose the back row, I chose a middle seat in the row where the bar used to be. In the past the theater was called the Mann Cinema 12, but recently it went under construction and was re-opened as the Plymouth Grand 15. As the name suggests, it is located in Plymouth right off Hwy 55 which cuts straight through the middle of the suburb. The theater itself has around 20 screens and has seen an increase in popularity recently, although I can’t say whether that has more to do with the re-modeling or with the implementation of a full liquor bar. One of the more notable improvements in the re-modeling was putting in “luxury seating” as the theater calls it. Seats are now a collection of leather love seats that offer the ability to recline and place an arm rest between you and your couch partner.

Move ticket prices have seen a fairly consistent increase in price through the years. My ticket cost $10.50, but the theater runs a promotion every Tuesday where tickets are all $5. The entire theater was mostly empty when I went, and there was no encouragement from staff to buy food/drinks. I planned in advance and had snacks in my coat anyway. I went alone which is something I prefer when watching movies even when I’m at home. The viewing experience was pleasant, and other patrons were respectful to not make noise or use their phones. It felt somewhat homey laying back on a comfy couch which is a trend I think theaters are trying to emulate. Given the amount of homes with large screen tv’s and streaming services, it’s far less common for people to spend money at the theater. While I wouldn’t say it was necessarily worth $10, there still is something to be said about the ambiance of the theater experience and seeing a movie on the big screen.

  • References
    • Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
    • Gill, Rosalind. (2007). “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility”, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(2), 2004.


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