Objectification of Females

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When examining gender representation in the film industry, it becomes clear that the majority of significant characters are portrayed as male. This overwhelming presence indicates a dominant male influence and a consistent misrepresentation of gender in movies. Men are often depicted as the ones who protect, save, provide for their families, and symbolize strength and autonomy.

Women in films are often portrayed in a manner that objectifies them or positions them solely as supporters of male characters. They are commonly depicted as love interests whose purpose is to drive the male narratives. Even in action roles, women in cinema are presented in a way that objectifies them, regardless of the intended goal of their character. This perpetuation of stereotypical gender roles aligns with Laura Mulvey’s theory of the “Male Gaze,” which suggests that both men and women share aspects of scopophilia—the desire to look and be looked at.

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In his article “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger previously suggested that in Western culture, men observe women while women observe themselves being observed (Berger, p. 198). Mulvey’s theory supports this idea in Hollywood films: the male character visually studies a woman and the camera captures what the man is seeing (a point-of-view shot). Because the camera depicts the man’s perspective, the viewer is seemingly obliged to adopt the male’s point of view.

Thus, the male gaze is illustrated in films through three main components: the camera, character, and spectator. Charlie’s Angels (2000) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) will be compared in their usage of the male gaze and its function throughout the movie. While both films are examples of Mulvey’s male gaze, they differ in how it is portrayed.

Both Charlie’s Angels and The Dark Knight Rises explore themes of female independence and power. In Charlie’s Angels, the three main characters are strong and threatening female detectives, but there is also extensive objectification as they use their sexuality as a form of power. Similarly, in The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle or “Catwoman” is portrayed as resilient and self-governing due to her fighting and stealing abilities, yet she is also tacitly presented as a sexual object.

However, Selina also serves as Bruce Wayne’s love interest in The Dark Knight Rises. Moreover, she is portrayed as a symbol of sexuality through her consistent attire of a tight, leather body suit and her manipulative actions to achieve her goals. Hence, both films depict the objectification of women from the perspective of the male gaze. However, Charlie’s Angels presents this theme in a more explicit manner, while The Dark Knight Rises subtly sexualizes Anne Hathaway’s character as an object of the male gaze. The central theme in Charlie’s Angels revolves around the interplay between power and sexuality.

The female protagonists in Charlie’s Angels consistently utilize their sexual appeal to manipulate and obtain desired outcomes from male antagonists throughout the film. While some may perceive Charlie’s Angels as an empowering representation of women due to the Angels consistently emerging victorious over their male counterparts, it is nonetheless rife with feminist concerns. For instance, in one scene, as the three women attempt to attach a tracking device to a vehicle, Dylan (played by Drew Barrymore) engages in flirtation and sensually licks the steering wheel to divert the attention of the male driver. Simultaneously, Natalie (played by Cameron Diaz) provocatively displays cleavage and engages in flirtatious behavior with the car owner.

This passage explores the recurring debate surrounding the portrayal of women in media, which suggests that women must possess both power and sexuality in order to avoid being rendered powerless and objectified. Laura Mulvey contends that the film industry is heavily influenced by the voyeuristic fascination with scopophilia. Mulvey defines scopophilia as the act of treating others as objects by subjecting them to a gaze, with women often being objectified and controlled by the male gaze (Mulvey, 1975).

The Angels employ sexuality to gain power, a concept that aligns with Mulvey’s theory. According to Mulvey, the film’s plot relies on the Angels utilizing their sexuality to attract the attention of the men they aim to defeat in order to advance. Therefore, their power is acquired through this tactic. Society’s fascination with voyeuristically witnessing others’ sexuality is presumed to be the sole reason for the film’s popularity, as suggested by Mulvey’s theory.

Despite rejecting Mulvey’s arguments, it is clear that the movie incorporates sexual innuendos stemming from the characters’ “strength”. The film poster itself promotes the phrase “get some action”, featuring the three Angels dressed in tight leather outfits against a backdrop of flames and explosions. According to Schubart (p. 292), the film aimed to be a fantasy, an escape, and a celebration of fun and California. This portrayal not only characterizes the movie as an action film but also alludes to the sexual “action” expected by viewers. In comic books, female superheroes have often been depicted with exaggerated curves and provocative costumes to appeal to their predominantly male audience. Therefore, it makes sense for this representation to continue onto the screen, although downplaying these women’s roles in comparison to their male counterparts, they are still crucial to the plot.

In The Dark Knight Rises, “Catwoman” (played by Anne Hathaway) plays a crucial role in the plot. However, there is a prevalent male gaze evident in multiple scenes featuring Hathaway dressed in a cat suit and straddling Batman’s motorcycle. The camera intentionally focuses on her behind, providing the audience with a visually striking view. Furthermore, Selina Kyle utilizes female stereotypes to her advantage throughout many scenes. For example, when she steals Bruce’s mother’s pearls and makes her escape, she seductively enters another man’s car and playfully asks for a ride while conveying a sexual innuendo through her tone of voice and sensual gaze. Interestingly, Selina Kyle’s introduction also emphasizes her body rather than her persona or character. Throughout the movie, the camera consistently fixates on how she uses her body—not primarily for combat abilities but for sexual prowess instead. As a result, despite deserving recognition as an individual subject herself, Selina becomes objectified for the pleasure of the male gaze.

The camera focuses on the curves of her body in the cat suit and her frequently sensualized lips, adorned with bright red lipstick. Whether she is crashing out of Bruce Wayne’s mansion window or fighting Bane’s henchmen while jumping off a rooftop, the audience might expect to see her as an action star. However, she is portrayed more as a fetish, posing for the male viewer. Her poses appear forced and unnatural, and she playfully teases the men she defeats while seemingly winking at the viewer.

According to Schubart (p. 2), the notice is focused on her physical appearance rather than her skills as a thief or fighter. Mainstream films currently tend to portray female protagonists as erotic dancers and dominatrixes, which clearly demonstrates the objectification of women for male viewers. Even though Anne Hathaway’s character in The Dark Knight Rises is strong, well-developed, and skilled, she still experiences objectification from male viewers.

According to Morley and Robins (p. 365), the freedom of media consumers to interpret transmitted material should not be overestimated. Even if they had the ability to reinterpret the content, their choices would still be limited to the options provided by influential media organizations. Therefore, it is justifiable to include characters such as Selina Kyle who depend on their appearance to achieve their goals. In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina skillfully exploits female stereotypes like emotional fragility and vulnerability to successfully maneuver out of perilous circumstances.

When a character is only created based on their physical appearance and sex appeal, it limits the audience’s ability to empathize with them. Instead of forming a connection, the audience ends up objectifying the character. Consequently, this film guides the audience to interpret its message in a particular manner (Morley & Robins, p. 365). Ultimately, this movie reinforces the marginalization of women by giving more importance to their looks and clothing rather than their personal development, intelligence, and humanity.

In summary, the abilities given to female superheroes or main characters are always associated with stereotypical notions of feminine power, such as manipulation, sexuality, and disguise. These stereotypes are reinforced through their outfits, like leather jumpsuits and wigs, which emphasize their physical attributes and cater to voyeuristic displays of the “ideal” female form. As a result, the deliberate framing and camera angles used in these scenes objectify women according to the male perspective. Consequently, women’s roles in film and cinema become devalued, reduced to mere objects of sexual desire.

Works Cited
Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” The Media Studies Reader. Ed. Laurie Ouellette. New York: Routledge, 2013. 197-204. Print.
Morley, Davis, and Kevin Robins. “Under Western Eyes: Media, Empire, and Otherness.” The Media Studies Reader. Ed. Laurie Ouellette. New York: Routledge, 2013. 363-377. Print.
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16.3 Autumn 1975: 6-18. Brown U, 10 June 2010. Web. 12 April 2013.
Schubart, Rikke. Bitches and Action Babes: the Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970-2006. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers, 2007.

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Objectification of Females. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from


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