by Sam Naylor
Disclaimer: Filled to the brim with spoilers and undergraduate level gender studies analysis *gasp*
Just for a moment whilst sitting with phone wrapped in hand, imagine that I am a renowned film critic — tall order I know. Now picture the scene of zero-star ratings being awarded to films. I am that film critic that awards a zero rating to the backwards 50s tripe that is Batman vs Superman. As you can tell I am totally not bitter about wasting my money and time, with 153 minutes of my life being dragged out before my eyes, as I endured a steroid-induced-figurine-smacking-debacle.
Initial rant over: what I’d first like to address is the films portrayal of its female characters. Now with a film title like Batman vs Superman I was aware that the main arc of the story would revolve around these two colossuses, but I’d hoped that in 2016 we’d moved far enough away from female roles as fillers and crutches for their male onscreen co-stars.
Cut to near the start of the film, Lois Lane, journalist not just lady, is asserting her agency to a Warlord only for things to go sour and low and behold she needs to be saved by her boyfriend Superman. Fine, it’s the start of the film and now this rubbish can be put to bed, wrong; jump ahead a bit further and Lane, in apartment, is having a ‘sexy’ bath because you cannot have a bath without it being sensual. Superman aka Clark Kent aka white saviour finds this bubbleless bath too erotic and jumps in on top of Lane fully clothed, thus solidifying Lane’s role as object over agent — put that is your gender studies pipe and smoke it.
Lane, in apartment, is having a ‘sexy’ bath because you cannot have a bath without it being sensual.
Perhaps I’m just being far too pedantic and reading things that aren’t really there; zoom to Lois Lane needing to be saved by Superman again from another male character, this time Lex Luthor. But it isn’t just Lane that needs saving, Clark Kent’s mother Martha is also kidnapped by Lex and needs not only Superman but Batman to team up to rescue her. At least Senator Finch is representing and showing the comatose audience that female agency is not dead and buried until boom she is dead and buried by Lex Luthor because she wouldn’t play nicely with the egotistical maniac, go figure. Coincidently Luthor’s female assistant is also conveniently got rid of as her use has ended.
Gender equality may have a champion in the form of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Yes Wonder Woman’s alter ego Diana Prince is constantly cast in dresses that purposely show cleavage but that is just to contrast with her code cracking capabilities of Lex Luthor’s encrypted data. Except Diane Prince is unable to decrypt the files while Bruce Wayne solves the problem in no time at all reminding women everywhere that they’ll always need a man to solve some solutions that are beyond them. But in battle mode Wonder Woman holds her own compared with her hyper-masculine team mates — yet still you leave feeling she was an assistant *MASSIVE SPOILER* in holding the resurrected-monster-alien still so that Superman can go in for the death knoll. Bonus prize to Wonder Woman’s characterisation for being the least melodramatic and most believable.
reminding women everywhere that they’ll always need a man to solve some solutions that are beyond them
Gender equality was an impossibility in this film, not only because of the dated representation of women, but because of the overly masculinised and reinforced stereotypes of its male characters. For the most part Superman was lacking in emotion and whenever Batman was emotionally fired up it was from pure rage and anger; clearly I’m not calling for a therapy session to work through years of unresolved issues that lead to one hiding underground and iconising bats, where’s the fun in that?
I just feel that entrenching these stereotypes of male masculinity and introversion is not heroic, it’s dangerous. And I will not start on the muscle worshipping and false ideals of white male beauty lest I rant enough to write a separate article. The issue is with the representation of gender as a fixed construct which is reinforced to be near impossible to overcome. I think what the film depicts is Superman’s true power in turning the clock back 60 years and wedging us all into our outdated gender roles.
I am a massive comic book fanboy and the appeal to me growing up was always in groups like the X-Men that showed me difference was something to be commended and not something to be quashed. Films like Batman vs Superman only show one idealised form of what it is to be a hero; muscles, white skin and more often than not a penis. As students wanting to make a positive change to our surroundings we cannot look to cinema screens for our heroes, as they still often represent the worst of societal stereotypes and norms. At risk of sounding as cheesy and lame as Batman at hearing Superman’s mother is also called Martha, (another HUGE spoiler there), we need to be the heroes we feel we are deserving of and refuse to accept the heroes thrust upon us on the big screen.
Featured image © Warner Bros. / DC Entertainment
Article edited 13.04.16 to correct spellings of character names.
One thought on “BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: REHASH OF INJUSTICE”
The misspellings here of two names, coming from a writer who is a “massive comic book fanboy” is a little disappointing. Lois is not a ‘Louis’, and Lex Luthor is not a ‘Luther’.
With that nitpicking out of the way, I disagree with you on the Lois bath scene. Honestly, I thought it was good to see domestic scenes between Lois and Clark, to give Superman a humanising element. I didn’t see Lois as an object in that scene, neither did the friends I saw the film with, in fact no one made a comment. I just saw it as a coupley-thing. Honestly I think that statement about objectifcation is what you’re projecting onto the scene.
And the whole thing about Martha being kidnapped – it’s a typical action film story trope, and it works for the story they are trying to tell – Lois and his mother are the only ones that tie him down to Earth and humanity, so it makes sense from Luthor’s point of view that they kidnap Martha to try and get Superman to do what he wants. You could reverse the genders of all the characters and get the same scenario. How else can you get the man of steel to do your bidding? How can you get anyone to do your bidding? By threatening to take away what constitutes their world, and in the film that revolves around Superman, that’s what you get.
Wonder Woman was one of the best parts of the film – all she does is kick ass. She held her own against Doomsday amazingly well. She wasn’t this “assistant” like you put it – it was a team effort (Batman did the least though, but he’s not superpowered so makes sense). Superman puts in the final hits because they wanted to fulfill the “Death of Superman” storyline where Superman is destroyed by Doomsday. They’re just following parts of a pre-existing narrative. Without Wonder Woman, Batman would have been killed, and the film would have ended very differently, so she’s obviously very vital in the plot.
And you can’t complain about Batman being able to do advanced computer science where Wonder Woman couldn’t. Batman makes most people look stupid by comparison. Tech is his forte. It’s a character thing, not a sexism thing. Wonder Woman was born on an island with Amazonian warrior women without technology, it might be worth noting.
Last point of contention, in your closing paragraphs (and a couple above it) you bring up “white skin” in some kind of negative tone. Why? What does race have to do with anything pertaining to this film? Because the two leads are white (and have always been canonically white)? Seriously, just what. Why would anyone care.
Honestly, I have many criticisms about this film, but each and every one of them are about the storyline and certain characterisations (i,e. Batman seemingly killing people and Eisenberg’s annoying Lex Luthor). As for someone who writes fiction, narrative and characters are the key to a compelling story and should be up to the most scrutiny. You seem to be looking through a ‘gender studies’ (as you put it in your disclaimer) lens, and thus you cannot possibly ever be happy with anything the film could possibly produce because you’re focusing on irrelevant elements. This is a high octane superhero film, it’s not a film about the Suffragettes or the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a Hollywood hash. It’s never going to be this film that breaks gender or race roles. That’s not what the film is about. It’s an amalgamation of several pre-existing stories and characters we’ve seen over and over. Just enjoy the film for what it is – Batman kicking arse. Wonder Woman kicking arse. Just lots of arses getting kicked. “Superman has white skin, Lois has no female agency because she’s seen in a bath, Wonder Woman can’t decrypt a computer, sexist! racist!” nobody sees these things but you. Strip these pointless thoughts away when watching entertainment and you might find that you actually enjoy it.