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An Exploration Into The Objectification Of Women In the DC Universe

Do you ever get sick of feeling like the only thing you’re good for is your body? Like you have to look a certain way to be accepted and valued? Well, this piece explores the sexualisation of women in comics and film adaptations in order to get to the root of the problem.

It’s no secret that men are dominant in the comic book industry, they tend to create it and consume it. For decades, women have been portrayed by an inaccurate representation in action/superhero comics, films and animations, ultimately to appeal to the heterosexual male gaze. Female characters have been created to resemble sex objects and promote the over-sexualisation of the female body, they have been undermined to the female counterpart of the male superheroes rather than them being their own superheroine. The male character is always the idealistic superhero, and the woman is almost always the one that needs saving (the damsel in distress) and is reduced to her body and what she can provide for the man. In a number of comics, women are drawn with unnatural feminine features and in outrageously impossible poses in order to show off their most prized assets, sometimes with failure to even show their faces; whilst the male characters are drawn front-facing with strong stances, the focal point being their superhero abilities.

There is a theory, that women in comics are drawn in this manner because ‘sex sells’ and that they need to intrigue and appeal to comic book consumers, which are predominantly male. Personally, I think it is undoubtedly clear that artists are directing their work

at men, the ignorance that is shown is clearly a result of being uneducated about their own fanbase, which gains more and more female population every day. What woman would want to promote or support a degrading and insulting representation of her gender? The pressure of the unrealistic expectations placed on women is coming from outdated behaviours that men seem to cling onto. Anne Hathaway portrayed Catwoman in The Dark Knight, two film series between 2008 and 2012. She was impeccably toned and slim entering the role, however she later discussed in an interview the extent she went to in order to fit into the ridiculously tight suit she had to wear. The diet she had to endure was a month long and consisted of consuming the minimum ‘normal’ daily calories for a female, if not less. She intensely trained and focused on maintaining an anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet. It is galvanizing to me that the first solution is to require the actress to lose unnecessary weight in order to fit in the costume, instead of requiring the costume to fit the actress.

The development of Harley Quinn’s character is a notable one. She started off, in the comics, as the love interest to The Joker; covered, but impossibly curvy. She then moved on to being a live action character, in the form of Hollywood’s heartthrob, Margot Robbie. At the start of Robbie’s journey bringing her character to life, she is an intelligent, sexy psychiatrist that falls in love with The Joker who manipulates her and creates his own psycho lover. She is seen as his property, his ‘Doll face’, as he calls her. We see the intelligence and independence stripped away from a female character, she becomes mentally tormented and twisted, she is dependent on her male counterpart and loses all sense of independence. She is presented in tight, minute knicker-like shorts with a ripped t-shirt with lettering that says “Daddy’s Lil Monster”, again suggesting that she is owned by The Joker, he resembles a father-like figure, mimicking the same level of influence and authority. It is only until years later, that her character breaks away from The Joker and becomes her own individual person (Robbie starred in Harley Quinn’s solo film ‘Birds of Prey’). Her personality doesn’t change but her level of self-respect and self-confidence grew rapidly. It is so refreshing to see a woman support herself and carry her own film, rather than supporting a leading male.

Thankfully, things are slowly starting to change as more women take interest in the comic book world, we are finally moving more towards presenting a heroine that has further character development than simply being the love interest. Questions have been raised as to whether this promotion of women is appropriate in our day and age, the expectations for women to look like these unauthentic presentations is so damaging to women’s mental and physical health. These industries are realising they need to keep developing in order to stay relevant to their ever-growing and changing fan base. We, as a society, need to push for the utilisation of women’s attributes, excluding cosmetic. Women have assets that can be brought to the comic world that offer more enjoyment and appeal than the mere sexualisation of our shell.

Words By Evie Trodden


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