The representation of female super heroes in the media can be said to have had huge institutional, political and social influences that would suggest those in power are favoured at the expense of those without. Female super heroes tend to promote sexualisation and stereotypical gender roles of women, throughout comic books and super hero movies, but why?
In this essay I will look at the character of Catwoman, and her representation as a female, particularly in the 2004 adaptation film “Catwoman”. Originally, she is an iconic character in the batman series. Created in 1940 by Bob Kane (batman creator) and Bill Finger, she has had a strong presence in batman comics and adaptations since then. Her role as a mysterious burglar and jewel thief led her to just miss out on a place in the top ten, ranking 11th in IGN’s ‘Top 100 comic book Villains of all time’ (2009) and 51st in Wizard magazines ‘100 greatest villains of all time’ list (2006). The character has been used in hundreds of comic books, as well as video games, radio stations, TV series, animated series and films. Although she is featured in mostly batman productions and texts, Catwoman was given her first comic book series in 1993, written mostly by Jim Balent. Several years down the line, Catwoman stared as the lead role in the feature film, made in 2004.
The movie was an example of post feminism at its best, as in the 1970’s, only 15% of action adventure movies cast female leads. The movie was directed by Pitof and was released on July 23 by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures. The cast members include Halle Berry, who plays Catwoman, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone and Frances Conroy. I have chosen to analyse this movie because females are not usually given dominant roles in superhero movies, especially as the lead character. There are many stereotypes that surround women, and I believe this movie challenges those.
The film was inspired by the DC comics villain of the same name, however stars a new character, Patience Phillips. There are several similarities to the original character. For example, she has similar office job and is killed by someone she works for. In the 1992 movie staring Michelle Pfeiffer, she uncovers a dark secret in the company and is thrown to her death from a great height. The plot for the more recent movie is very like its predecessor. In both versions she is brought back to life by a group of wild cats. However the most relevant similarity is her appearance and costume.
Throughout the film, Catwoman is dressed in a tight black latex costume, black connoting mystery and evil. This material is often associated with sexuality; it clings to her body and shows off her curves. Over the years her costumes have become even more provocative, with this Catwoman being more fetish than ever. These clothes represent Catwoman as a sexual image to be looked at by the opposite sex. Laura Mulvey describes this as the Male Gaze. She explains "In their traditional exhibitionist role, women are simultaneously looked at and displayed with their appearance, coded for strong visual and erotic impact so it can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness." (1975, p33). It is arguable that woman in the genre of action, drama and super hero are not represented as women, rather an object of sexual desire. The women featured in such genres are slim, pretty, and all wear tight clothing. Lillian Robinson refers to woman super heroes as a pin up girl in a cape, rather than genuine characters (2006).
The skimpy outfit has great erotic significance (Richard Reynolds 1994) and could create a negative portrayal of females, as well as being a very bad influence for the young women and girls who watch the movie, or read the comics. Clearly, the media heavily influences teenagers already. They follow the latest fashion trends from celebrities, coolest haircuts, and they diet and loose weight to look...