The Masked Hero and the Male Gaze

The prominice of toxic masculinity and the male gaze in D.C.’s newest film

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Eleanor Peterson

D.C.’s newest film, “The Batman,” directed by Matt Reeves, has been praised as one of the better D.C. films to come out in recent years. The film focuses on the dark and brooding vigilante as he follows clues through the dark atmosphere the movie creates in pursuit of a mysterious serial killer. 

     While “The Batman” is an improvement from past films, it falls short in one key aspect: toxic masculinity. The film continues to portray hypermasculinity through its characterization of Bruce Wayne as strong, dark, and brooding, and its focus on physical violence. It also gives a perfect example of the male gaze in media, in its portrayal of one its ‘main’ characters, Catwoman, played by Zoe Kravitz, whose entire character is over sexualized and seemingly does nothing other than strut around for the pleasure of the male audience.

     “The Batman” is the definition of the generic action film filled with flashy action shots, physical violence, and all tied up with a mediocre story line. Bruce Wayne, played by Robert Pattinson, is set on cleaning up the streets of Gotham by going after crime rather than donating his vast wealth to anything that might actually be useful. The story centers around the serial killer, the Riddler played by Paul Dano, who is set on murdering corrupt officials in Gotham. Batman must follow the Riddler’s cryptic clues that he figures out surprisingly quickly, taking away any sense of real struggle in the movie.  

     A couple of car chases and flashy action shots later and the credits roll. The movie ends in an extremely unsatisfying way as the Riddler’s final plan falls into place showing that every single action that’s taken place was ultimately meaningless and changed absolutely nothing, except for Batman’s perception of himself and his job not as vengeance, but as a beacon of hope for the city. Cliché. 

     The presence of Catwoman’s character seems like a step back for the media as her entire existence seems to be for the purpose of the male gaze. Kravitz’s character does literally nothing throughout the entire film. Her character adds nothing to the story other than providing an uncomfortable romantic interest for Batman. Their relationship feels forced and awkward as within the first five minutes of them meeting, they are already kissing. Her costume is entirely made up of skin tight leather suits, which offer no protection, as opposed to Wayne’s heavily armored suit. 

     The sad attempt to tie her character into the story felt unfinished and rather confusing. She doesn’t fit into the story and you can tell that the writers struggled to find a reason as to why her character was there in the first place.The reason was to provide a sexy, femme fatal who could strut across the screen dressed in leather. The one attempt to tie her character in only continued to portray her as a woman who needed a man to rescue her. When Catwoman attempts to kill Carmine Falcone, the main antagonist of the film, she is quickly overpowered, requiring Batman to come to her rescue. Up until this scene, Catwoman is portrayed as a skilled fighter and thief, but all her skills seem to go out the window when she goes up against Falcone. I found this to be extremely unrealistic and frustrating. Her character wasn’t just a step back, it was a running jump back to the dark ages where women’s existence was to please men. 

     The producers should have allowed more time to develop Catwoman’s character. They should have dived deeper into her background and her relationship with her friend, Annika Kosolov. This would have given Catwoman a much more developed personality and made her need for revenge more believable. 

     Isn’t it time that we threw out the idea that the main character has to have a romantic relationship, especially when they and their romantic interest barely know each other? If you are not going to take the time to develop a realistic relationship, then don’t have one. And if you’re not going to take the time to have a fully developed female character, then don’t have one.