Divergent, posters, women and the male gaze


Daredevil 300 GI Joe

On Stranger Tides The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises GI Joe Retaliation Thor The Dark World

Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014)

Daredevil (Mark Steven Johnson, 2003), 300 (Zack Snyder, 2006), G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Stephen Sommers, 2009), Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Rob Marshall, 2011), The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012), The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012, Empire Magazine cover), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Jon M. Chu, 2013), Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013).

With the release of the latest Divergent poster we again step into the wider discussion about the male gaze through the feminist lens. In this case, Divergent’s theme of empowerment and individuality against the backdrop of a totalitarian society seems to be undercut by your female protagonist’s posterior facing the camera.

Laura Mulvey introduced the idea of the male gaze in 1975 in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. The viewing lens is traditionally a heterosexual male. As a result, the female character is passive, usually the object of male viewing, unbeknownst to the viewer, which lends a voyeuristic tone.

The female body is for the pleasure of men, and the image decidedly focuses on them as an erotic object. The characters do not look back at the viewer, instead they are looking away, as if inviting a male to gaze upon them.

This is a particularly prominent image in advertising, and in many cases it is these ads that stand diametrically opposed to the ideas in the film is trying to put forward. We like to think of contemporary films as being more equal. We point out that Joss Whedon directing The Avengers is a good thing given his history of portraying strong female characters with agency. This may be true given that most of the characters above are warriors, self sufficient and capable women. But Hollywood is dominated by men (all of these films were directed by men), and the audience for these kinds of films are traditionally male, and cynically the marketing is going to sell to this demographic.

So for now, we will have to expect more of these types of posters. But in the meantime, thanks to Kevin Bolk for visually realising the The Avengers male cast in Black Widow’s pose.


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