• Melita Cirkic
  • Maria Maj
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis is an investigation into the action film genre in the 21st century and how women are portrayed herein. Furthermore, the aim is to examine whether these women fall victim to an objectifying and oppressive male gaze, or if they succeed in their representation as independent, transformative, and transgressive characters. Throughout time, women in the world of cinema have, to an extent, been presented as erotic spectacles, and this trend seems to continue in present-day cinema. Especially in the action genre, the female characters of significance are often stylized in a way that may invite an objectifying gaze. However, at the same time, they manage to prove a level of strength and capability comparable to that of the male hero archetype. Valid examples of such female action characters can be found in the films Charlie’s Angels from 2000, Wanted from 2008, Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015, and Atomic Blonde from 2017.
In four separate analyses of these selected films, the theoretical frameworks of Laura Mulvey and Elizabeth Hills have been utilized. Through her use of psychoanalysis, Mulvey argues that women on film are presented as erotic spectacles available for male spectators to pleasurably gaze upon. With her binaristic approach, she wishes to highlight how such objectification is oppressive. Hills, on the other hand, argues that women in the action genre are to be regarded as transgressive and alternative. She defies binaristic thinking and argues that a woman’s identity as an action heroine is not determined by the gender or organs of her body, but rather by her actions.
The findings of the four analyses indicate that some of the significant females in the four films mainly succeed as transgressive characters, while others mainly fall victim to sexualization and objectification. The Angels, Fox, and Lorraine perform as spectacles on multiple occasions, and yet, they do manage to assert dominance as well, especially over their male opponents. Furiosa seems to almost entirely avoid an unnecessary display of her sexuality. However, the four films in their socio-historical context reveals that they may have all been adjusted to certain, still present, traditional beauty standards. This notion is emphasized by the fact that the significant female characters of all four films are portrayed by conventionally beautiful Hollywood star actresses. Therefore, while Hills theory allows for an empowering reading of females in action films, the external influences of the films suggest otherwise.
Publication date9 Jan 2020
Number of pages137
ID: 319206623