Objectification of Females

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Looking at the film industry in the category of gender representation, it is apparent that the majority of the protagonists are male. This margin demonstrates that men dominate and gender is continually misrepresented in cinema. Men are seen as the protectors, the saviors, the breadwinners, and epitomize power and independence. Women are constantly misrepresented in films by being illustrated strictly for purposes of objectification, supporting the male characters, or most commonly as love interests that drive the male characters, Women in cinema, even in action roles, are portrayed in a way that objectifies them, even if that is not the end goal of their role. This repetition of the stereotypical gender roles correlates with Laura Mulvey’s theory of the "Male Gaze.” Mulvey innovated the idea that active and passive aspects of scopophilia (the urge to look) are shared among the sexes. Relatedly, in his article Ways of Seeing, John Berger had already proposed that in Western culture, from painting to advertising, “men acted and women appear,” or rather men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at, (Berger, p. 198). Accordingly, Mulvey’s theory works in Hollywood film as follows: the male character looks at a woman and the camera films what the man is seeing (a point-of-view camera shot), and because the camera is showing what the man sees, the viewer is seemingly required to look through the male’s perspective. Thus, the ‘male’ gaze consists of three main components: the camera, character, and the spectator. There are many films that explicitly and implicitly illustrate the male gaze. In this essay, the films Charlie’s Angels (2000) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) will be compared in each film’s usage of the male gaze and its function throughout the movie. While the two movies are similar in aspect of both being a basic example of Mulvey’s male gaze, the two differ in the sense of the way the male gaze is portrayed. For example, Charlie’s Angels seems to be promoting female independence and power, as the three main characters are strong and threatening female detectives; nonetheless, there is a substantial amount of objectification of the Angels as the three women use their sexuality as power. On the other hand, in The Dark Knight Rises, the female supporting character Selina Kyle or “Catwoman” (played by Anne Hathaway) is tacitly presented as a sexual object as she seemingly is resilient and self-governing due to her fighting and stealing abilities. However, Selina is Bruce Wayne’s love interest as well as an image of sexuality as she is consistently dressed in a tight, leather body suit and seductively uses manipulation to get her way. Thus, these films both illustrate the objectification of women with the male gaze; yet, in Charlie’s Angels, it is more explicitly demonstrated whereas in The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathaway’s character is more implicitly sexualized as an object of the male gaze. The focal aspect of Charlie’s Angels is the relationship of power and sexuality. The Angels consistently use their sexuality to gain what they want from male antagonists in the film. Though some could regard Charlie’s Angels as empowering due to the fact that the Angels are always victorious over their male counterparts, it is still full of feminist concerns. For example, in a scene where the three women are trying to put a tracking device on a car, Dylan (Drew Barrymore) flirts and then seductively licks a steering wheel to distract the male driver, while Natalie (Cameron Diaz) sexily reveals cleavage and flirts with the owner of the car. This example illustrates where a repeated debate surfaces because this representation of women implies that a woman must have both power and sexuality or else she may be both powerless and objectified. Laura Mulvey argues that the world of film is surrounded by the voyeuristic fascination with scopophilia. Scopophilia, according to Mulvey, is “taking other people as objects”...
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