Women Portrayal in Superhero Movies

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Individuals all around the globe watch Hollywood audio-visual products, to be specific movies, every day. Such movies bear a significant part of our lives and help shape our thoughts regarding social, political, cultural and financial problems. Movies are strewed with messages that compass groups of viewers far and wide. Female portrayal on-screen has been stacked to male-centric generalizations and regularizing belief systems that don’t reflect reality. Through settled equations and set traditions, films tell recognizable stories to huge groups of viewers. Moreover, type hypothesis reveals to us that these storylines have been saved as a result of groups of viewers’ partiality toward such movies. The theme of this paper, which is the portrayal of women characters – i.e. how they are depicted – in action hero films matters, on the grounds that a lot of the watchers are in certainty women.


The summer season of the film theater box office is dominated every year by films that bring characters known from comic books and are more accessible to audiences than enthusiasts of comic books. The idea of a true to life universe instead of the comic book universe enables changes to the first comic book stories as they are exchanged to the cinema screen using well-known characters and storyline components. This sort of shared universe in movies was progressive from Marvel, as it has never been done to a similar degree. DC Entertainment, which is a noteworthy contender to Marvel, discharged their film plan in 2014, uncovering 10 new comic book film adjustments due to be discharged somewhere in the range of 2016 and 2020 (Keyes 2014).

There has been a lot of feedback concerning not just the modest number of female characters in superhero movies and the absence of ethnic decent variety in the movies’ characters, or in the performers who play them. Low (2014) assembles measurements, which express that; for instance, among the main 100 United States best earning movies in 2014 just 8% of the movies include a hero other than white, and besides none of these heroes are female. It is important that the absence of ethnic decent variety in movies isn’t just an issue with female characters, yet a larger part of the male characters are additionally depicted by Caucasian on-screen characters.

The 2015 and additionally 2016 Academy Awards were vigorously scrutinized for their conspicuous absence of ethnic assorted variety as there were no non-white on-screen characters designated over the four acting classifications (Griggs 2016). Indeed, out of every one of the 127 candidates in the different categories, just nine are from ethnicities other than Caucasian in the 2015 Academy Awards (McCarthy 2015). It is apparent that the entire film industry experiences an absence of correspondence in both gender and ethnic decent variety.


Feminist film theory and criticism

The areas of feminist film theory and feminist film criticism are rising from women political movement in the late 1960s (Erens 1990, p.151). The First Approach to the Movie analysis from the feminist point of view in the 1970s is used sociologically in other words, they examine how female characters are related to the film social, political and cultural history of the era, how the characters are stereotyped, whether they are active or passive and what models they have foreseen women in the audience (Erens 1990, p.151).

Another approach to feminist film analysis stems from psychoanalysis, semiotics, and Marxist ideology, and focuses on ‘ the way the text constructs the object under consideration, and the ways in which the mechanisms themselves cinematographic production influences women’s performance and strengthens sexism (Erens 1990, p.152). This approach introduces semiotics into feminist film criticism that especially in the dominant Hollywood cinemas the women on the screen are ‘simple signs for all who are not men’ and that women are represented only as what they are represent for men instead of showing ‘women as women’ (Erens 1990, p.152, Johnston 1999 [1976], p.249, Cowie 2000, p.49).

A standout amongst the most compelling ideas in women’s activist film hypothesis has been Laura Mulvey’s hypothesis of ‘the male look’ (Erens 1990, p.109). Mulvey (1990 [1975], p.28-40) draws upon Freud’s work in the field of analysis and contends that in film, females connote the male interest, bearing the look of the male watcher. Mulvey puts together her investigation with respect to Freud’s idea of scopophilia (joy in looking), contending that basically films give observers ‘a deception of looking in on a private world’. She recognizes three sorts of looking: the look of the camera, the look of the group of onlookers viewing the film, and the look of the characters at one another (Mulvey 1990 [1975], p.28-40). She contends that delight in looking has been partitioned between ‘dynamic/male’ and ‘uninvolved/female’: the male look extends its dreams onto the female figure, which through solid visual and suggestive coding implies ‘to-be-took a gander at-ness’ (Mulvey ibid.).

As indicated by Mulvey, females on the screen have worked on two dimensions: as sensual objects for the male characters inside the story and as sexual items for the onlooker of the film (ibid.). Kaplan (2000 [1983], p.120) appears to continue with Mulvey’s thought by claiming, ‘screen pictures of females are sexualized regardless of what the females are doing actually, or what sort of plot might be included’. Accordingly, what the psychoanalytic and semiotic way to deal with women’s activist film investigation contends is that the prevailing realistic structure is developed by hetero men for hetero men (Kaplan 2000 [1983], p.122).

In connection to the ‘male gaze’, Kaplan (2000 [1983], p.130) contends that the gaze isn’t essentially male in its exacting sense, however the gaze as a functioning and possessed quality is a prevalently manly position. Kaplan (2000 [1983], p.128-129) bases this contention on her investigation on movies, for example, Saturday Night Fever where the male hero has been empowered the part of the object of female’s gaze. Kaplan (ibid.) contends that in these situations where the man has ventured out of his conventional part as the controller of activity also, put as the sex object, the female at that point fundamentally goes up against the manly part ‘as carrier of the gaze and initiator of the activity’, losing her generally feminity, for example, compassion, graciousness, and mother instincts.

Previous research

The examination exhibited here is by Bogarosh (2013), who took a gander at the best earning movies of the 21st century and concentrated on generally male-centric philosophies, presumptions furthermore, values encompassing females in them. The examination makes utilization of correspondence/media analysis about, social investigations, and movie analysis, just as printed investigation (ibid., p.11), and accordingly benefits the present examination on the best way to approach and lead women’s activist film examine. Bogarosh takes a gander at 36 films that she partitioned by genre into three classifications: animations, action movies, and science fiction movies. Along these lines, she doesn’t concentrate explicitly on superhero movies, yet she touches upon maybe a couple superhuman movies in connection to the action movies, giving intriguing exchange on their characters. Her investigation is partitioned into three topics and gene that she watched most repeatedly in the movies: I) hetero sentiment, marriage and family; II) victimization and intensity, and III) dominance and leadership, and the stereotypes that were distinguished were the princess, the damsel, and the sidekick.

In connection to the primary subject, Bogarosh (2013, p.20-36) saw that particularly in animated movies a conspicuous topic was ‘happily ever after’, which, for females, was accomplished by hetero sentiment, marriage and family. The movies did not give any different options for females to accomplish this upbeat closure and satisfaction throughout everyday life; the simple route was to discover genuine hetero love, create a family and have kids. She (ibid., p.36-38) likewise noticed that the animated movies in her investigation need female rulers and that females are displayed dependably as the supporting character and never the hero. The absence of female rulers integrates with the second subject of viciousness and exploitation, as female characters in animated movies are frequently, as per Bogarosh (ibid., p.38-39), portrayed as vulnerable and detached, holding on to be saved by the male character.

This thought of females as ‘females in trouble’ reaches out in Bogarosh’s investigation to action movies too. As per Bogarosh (ibid. p.44), action movies standardize viciousness against females and ‘others’ females by putting need on manliness and activity. Bogarosh (ibid., p.45-47) talks about long the character of Mary Jane Watson, the female lead from the Spider- Man three movies from 2002 to 2007. In the movies, Mary Jane dependably needs to be saved and is rescued by Spider-Man on numerous occasions. Mary Jane is additionally regularly utilized as use by various villains to draw Spider-Man into snares. The character does nothing to save herself; rather she hangs tight for Spider-Man to arrive. In expansion to requiring salvage, as a rule, Mary Jane likewise succumbs to psychological mistreatment from the men throughout her life and experiences kinds of sexual savagery on different occasions.


Research question and aims

The aim of this research paper is to take a gander at the main female characters in two rather newly made comic book based movie adaptations, and explore how these female characters are portrayed. The theme for this examination was picked because of the massive fame of the superhero movies these days, also because of individual enthusiasm for these sorts of movies and enthusiasm for taking a gander at the movies from the women’s activist perspective. As has been referenced over, the proportion of female characters to male characters keeps on being very low in the action hero movies, and considering the stereotyped way females have been depicted in this genre previously. It is beneficial to investigate these movies and their significant female characters to see whether the generalizations, or generally one-sided portrayals, still persevere, or have the portrayals changed – and in the event that they have, in what ways, and has the change been for better or in a negative way?

The research question that expects to satisfy the reason for this investigation is:

How are the principal female characters in the hero comic book movies portrayed through visual appearance and attitude?

To answer the research question, the visual appearance and attitude of the characters will be examined. Concerning visual appearance, I will pursue Smith, Choueiti and Pieper’s (2014, p.8) strides and consider the accompanying qualities: clothes that reveal sexuality, nakedness, slimness, and allure. Smith, Choueiti and Pieper (ibid.) characterize clothes that reveal sexuality as tight, charming, or uncovering clothing, and they view bareness as part or full presentation from mid-chest to high upper thigh district.

Slenderness as one of the ascribes seems to be, as I would like to think, vital to consider also, since my theory is practically the majority of the characters portray an extremely one-sided self-perception, which can prompt undesirable body disappointment particularly among more youthful watchers. In Smith, Choueiti and Pieper’s (ibid.) investigation, slimness was characterized as insignificant measure of muscle to fat ratio and additionally muscle. Allure was estimated by verbal or potentially nonverbal articulations that conveyed the physical attractive quality of a character, especially, for instance, another character’s express remarks about a female character’s physical appearance (Smith, Choueiti and Pieper 2014, p.8).

At last, I will focus on the attitude of the characters. By attitude, I mean how the characters perform and associate with different characters, and do they, for instance, utilize their femininity to their very own favorable position. Thompson and Zerbinos (1995, p.658), for example, took a gander at such personal conduct standards in their investigation of animation characters as appearing or verbal hostility, being the casualty of physical and additionally verbal animosity, requesting exhortation, safeguarding and appearing. Exploring the personal conduct standards of a character sees how well (or inadequately) the character has been developed, for example the intricacy and multidimensionality of the character.


This research is an interpretative, qualitative study, intending to analyze the portrayals of women in superhero action movies.

Textual analysis

Textual analysis is utilized to get an opinion of how individuals comprehend their general surroundings by making instructed translations of writings, for example, movies, TV programs, magazines, etc. (McKee 2003, p.1). Textual analysis can accordingly uncover data on how specific gatherings are portrayed (ibid., p.31) – which is actually what this examination plans to do. McKee (2003, p.4) characterizes text in the textual analysis as something that we make significance from, and hence it tends to be a book, a movie, or even a bit of garment or furniture. As McKee (2003, p.37) states: ‘how we comprehend other individuals is imperative to how we at that point treat them’, which reverberates with the present investigation as in how females are portrayed in hero action movies conveys a message to the group of onlookers on how females ought to be dealt with and saw in these genres of movies.

Textual analysis is additionally observed as an important piece of women’s activist film theory, as it can help deconstruct man-centric ideology by uncovering the importance making actions in movies, or it might be said, by making the ‘undetectable noticeable’ (Kuhn 1982, p.78-79). Subsequently, Kuhn (ibid., p.82) characterizes textual analysis as a type of perusing which begins with the point of revealing procedures and structures at work in a content, consequently opening the apparently characteristic belief systems present in the content of a basic examination. A women’s activist textual analysis does this by, for instance, indicating the manners by which the movie builds female characters through its pictures or its narrative structure or by revealing deficiency, for example how females are portrayed (Kuhn ibid., p.71).

Constructivist Paradigm

Honebein (1996) depicts the constructivism paradigm as a methodology that states that individuals build their very own comprehension and learning of the world through encountering things and considering those encounters. It depends on the similarity or premise that individuals frame or develop a lot of what they realize through encounter (Cashman et al., 2008; Hein, 1991). Subsequently, to the constructivist, developing which means is learning; there is no other kind. This invalidates the conventional idea of learning in a „chew, pour, and forget‟ in this way, learning as a result of examination with less or no inspiration for the utilization of educated involvement in real life.

The constructivism paradigm is related with the qualitative research approach. The instrumentation for the most part regulated in this philosophical paradigm is through observations, document reviews, interviews and visual data analysis (Kalender, 2007). Constructivism approach is in truth a standout amongst the best philosophical methodologies that causes us in understanding the complexities and variety of phenomena particularly in this 21st century where innovative thoughts and creations checking novelty is genuinely looked through our education and research.

Data selection

My examination centers explicitly around the film portrayals of the female characters additionally known from comic books, and hence my information comprises of the accompanying movies: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). As there are a lot more movies I could have picked as my data, I expected to limit my data collection radically. The primary criteria were the film adaptation to be from a comic book, and that it includes probably some female characters in the main cast. The second basis was that the fundamental genre of the movie is superhero action/adventurous.

As it is commonly just as characteristically a male-dominated movie genre, contemplating female characters in this kind is especially fascinating and topical, thinking about the achievement of this current genre’s movies. With these criteria regardless I would have had various movies to look over, and in this way I chose to limit the choice to films made after 2010, which would put the movies in a similar setting as far as the time in which they were made. Important criteria were likewise the accomplishment of the movies: I needed to take a gander at movies that were film industry blockbusters, which would demonstrate that they contacted a wide group of onlookers and were bound to have gotten more extensive perceptibility in the media too.

Findings and Analysis

Gwen Stacy

Emma Stone, a white American performing artist in her mid-20s, depicts Gwen Stacy, the female lead character, in The Amazing Spider-Man. In the movie, Gwen Stacy is a secondary school senior, aged at around 17. Gwen is a teenager and she doesn’t have any superhuman capacities, her dad is a police chief and her family lives in a comfortable luxury apartment in New York City.

Regarding her visual appearance, she has blonde hair and a slim body. Gwen is first presented in the film through Peter’s eyes. He sees her outside their school with a book. She is perched on a table, wearing knee-high socks, short skirt uncovering her thighs and a white coat, and her hair is up. Peter is uncovered as a photographer in the film, snaps a picture of her, and the camera quickly demonstrates Gwen through the perspective (Image 1).

The film actually tends to the issue of Peter’s conceivable obsession of Gwen early in the movie, where Peter penetrates Gwen’s work environment, acting like another assistant. The genuine reason he does this is to discover progressively about his missing dad, who used to work at Oscorp and where Gwen is additionally employed as an assistant. The essentialness of these scenes is that they appear to romanticize this kind of relationship conduct: despite the fact that it is proposed twice that Peter’s interest in Gwen may have taken unfortunate extents, bringing conceivable stalker conduct, Gwen is still complemented by his consideration and consents to go out with him.

Regarding her clothes, Gwen wears very normal and comfortable outfits all through the film. She is regularly found in a short skirt and pleasant knitwear and keeping in mind that her skirt uncovered quite a bit of her legs, her apparel can’t be considered excessively sexualized. She has likewise appeared in her work clothes, which does not really contrast from her typical outfit with the exception of the white coat.

In regards to Gwen’s attitude (Thompson and Zerbinos 1995), from multiple points of view, she is depicted as being more accessible than Peter emotionally. She demonstrates worry for Peter’s wellbeing more than once, for instance, when Peter gets thrashed she recommends him to see a doctor. She likewise demonstrates worry for Peter’s life, revealing to him that since her dad is a policeman she has dependably lived in dread of him dying in the line of obligation, and does not have any desire to fear for Peter’s life too. Peter rejects her worry since he feels it is his obligation to help individuals as Spider-Man. Likewise, during Peter’s uncle dies, Gwen attempts to offer him solace and embraces him, yet Peter simply pushes her away (Image 2). She additionally gives exhortation and direction to Peter in the movie.

Gwen is depicted as the object of Peter’s look through the perspective of his camera (as found in Image 1). Comparable externalization happens again halfway through the movie. Peter watches Gwen through the window without her knowledge (Image 3). Her dad looks upon her as an item without an opinion, when he makes Peter end his relations with her. The centrality of this is that they help depict Gwen as a device of the plot, promoting Peter’s character and his story, as opposed to presenting her as an independent character that can make her own decisions.

There are a few enhancements to Gwen’s character contrasted with the other Spider-Man motion pictures and the fundamental female character (Mary Jane) in them, and without a doubt to the past depiction of Gwen as a minor character in Spider-Man 3 (2007). Though Mary Jane was depicted as principally a helpless damsel who required rescuing more often in the movies, Gwen is appeared to be progressively handling with herself. Furthermore, while Mary Jane was depicted as a performing artist and the prior depiction of Gwen demonstrated her occupied as a model, Gwen in The Amazing Spider-Man is an intelligent, capable science assistant at Oscorp. But she is as still deficient with regards to her very own voice and presence outside of Peter. Likewise, choices concerning her life are made for her without her assent. This sort of portrayal of the female character passes on a message to the group of onlookers that females no matter how intelligent and capable they are, they still require men to settle on the problematic choices and guard them.

The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff

The Black is depicted by Scarlett Johansson, a white American actress in her mid-30s. Regarding Black Widow’s visual appearance, she is depicted having red mid-length hair and a thin figure. Natasha’s dress in Captain America: The Winter Soldier varies a considerable amount from her clothing in the past movies she has shown up in. While in The Avengers she is seen wearing fundamentally her Black Widow battle clothes, which is a skintight dark costume, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier she is seen wearing the battle equip in just a single scene (Image 4).

Natasha’s suit gives off an impression of being progressively adaptable and viable, instead of tight. Be that as it may, more often in the movie she is seen wearing very practical and normal clothes (see Image 5). This is clarified by the way that in the film, Natasha and Steve Rogers(Captain America), are compelled to go on the keep running from their boss, S.H.I.E.L.D., which ends up being penetrated by the adversary association Hydra. Therefore, being on the kept running in her Black Widow battle outfit would not be useful as far as covering up and mixing in.

Regardless of being depicted as increasingly easygoing and diverting in this film, Natasha remains an exceptionally talented battle warrior for bringing down numerous men without any help. In this way, as far as various standards of conduct (Thompson and Zerbinos 1995), Natasha demonstrates physical animosity commonly in the film. She likewise turns out to be incredibly creative in a battle circumstance. For instance, in the ship battle scene she debilitates a man by folding a wire over his neck, and after that utilizes him as a stay for the wire so she can slide a pole while shooting the adversaries en route (Image 4).

As opposed to her professionalism as an agent, she is likewise depicted appearing in different circumstances. For instance, she appears crushed after Nick Fury is shot and probably murdered. She likewise demonstrates her sensitive side after they discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been penetrated by Hydra from the beginning.

At the end of the movie, Natasha is being asked for answers by the Senate concerning the occasions that occurred at S.H.I.E.L.D. base camp and she at first looks threatened by the being captured for all her past actions as a KGB specialist. She rapidly recaptures her certainty, however, and gives a confident speech (Image 6). In this scene, she seems to understand her own incentive as one of the people who are protecting the world.

In spite of the fact, that is not an ideal precedent, Captain America: The Winter Soldier appears to portray an enhancement in speaking to its primary female character contrasted with Gwen Stacy from the Amazing Spiderman. Natasha isn’t utilized as an incentive, her capacities are not the consequence of the main male hero, and moreover, nobody needs to remove her abilities so as to depower her. Rather, her range of abilities is grasped by her companions. Natasha works as a significant partner to Captain America, and keeping in mind that plainly Steve/Captain America is the fundamental hero, Natasha assumes an essential part in the movie and is dealt with nearly as an equivalent regarding her capacities and portrayal of her as a multifaceted individual.

Study Limitations

The absence of a widely inclusive framework for the investigation of female characters was both a disadvantage and an advantage. It was risky as in directing the investigation was not confined to just certain qualities or issues, and it took into account steady overhauling of the heading of the investigation. However, it was conceivable to include perceptions that had not been at first foreseen in the investigation. In any case, without an express structure to pursue, a few parts of the female portrayals may have gone unnoticed. It additionally may have made the examination procedure progressively deliberate and simpler to arrange. Moreover, with just two characters as the information test, it is hard to make wide conclusions in view of the discoveries.

Regardless of these restrictions, I could direct more detailed and deep investigation of the characters by joining diverse models and structures that, as far as anyone is concerned, have not been used together in a comparative study previously, along these lines perhaps giving some new strategies into leading comparative research later on. As a researcher, I think I have done well with the study and application of the chosen method.

Ethical Approach

‘Visual methods’ include a huge swath of various sorts of methodologies and information. Prosser (2007; Prosser and Loxley, 2008) distinguishes four unique kinds of visual information: ‘discovered information’; ‘researcher created information’; ‘respondent made information’ what’s more, ‘portrayals’. Visual information incorporate photos, film, video, illustrations, commercials or media pictures, draws, graphical portrayals and models made by a scope of inventive media. Obviously there are moral issues that emerge from analyst or respondent made illustrations and other inventive types of information (Clark, 2006; Prosser and Loxley, 2008) at the same time, seemingly, these are not quantitatively unique to those that can rise up out of specific sorts of content based information (Rose, 2007).

There are an extensive variety of expert rules and codes went for giving structures to empower analysts to thoroughly consider the moral issues and difficulties that they experience in their exploration (e.g. SRA, 2003; BSA, 2002; BERA, 2004; GSRU, 2005). These are drawn, to shifting degrees, from the moral methodologies. Such rules are essentially extremely broad; they don’t give answers to how analysts ought to deal with the particular circumstances that they may experience in their examine yet rather diagram standards to empower analysts to thoroughly consider the particular circumstances that happen (Wiles et al, 2006). These rules perceive the arranged and logical nature of the moral difficulties that emerge when leading examination. The standards tended in these codes by and large identify with issues of the prosperity and privileges of research members, informed assent, anonymity, privacy and confidentiality. The main issues can be condensed as:

  • analysts should endeavor to secure the rights, protection, respect and the well-being of those that they examine;
  • research should (beyond what many would consider possible) be founded on deliberate informed consent
  • individual data ought to be dealt with secretly and members anonymized except if they are distinguished;
  • examine members ought to be educated of the degree to which obscurity and privacy can be guaranteed in distribution and scattering and of the potential re-utilization of information.

These issues are ones that are important to all researchers and the moral issues raised by visual research are, seemingly, particular from those raised by simply textual information. These are also the ethics I tried to follow in this research paper.


The superhero movie genre is always expanding its notoriety with new comic book superheroes finding their way onto the widescreen each year. Since the comic books have been around for decades, the film studios have a practically boundless measure of characters and occasions that they can exchange onto film. Among them likewise, limit breaking characters that have the possibility to challenge the superhero genre as well as the way the males and females are depicted in action movies.

With the future looking splendid and ample for the superhero movie genre, it is moreover imperative to stay up with the latest on the improvements in gender portrayals inside the genre. As I would like to think, there is a lot of space to grow the look into the field on this theme in future years, as new information will continue being made. The present examination has started to represent a portion of the officially existing positive portrayals of the female characters, and ideally future research will make an exertion to add to that with the portrayals of the future movies.


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Cite this paper

Women Portrayal in Superhero Movies. (2021, Oct 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/women-portrayal-in-superhero-movies/

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