~the female gaze

Not only does the Wonder Woman movie not sexualize Diana, it also doesn’t sexualize Steve. Compared to the female gaze fan service provided in the second Thor movie, where the camera lovingly pans up Chris Hemworth’s water-beaded chest as he bathes himself, a moment that was met with a theater-wide sigh of feminine appreciation (and then a giggle), Steve is shown from just the shoulders up for much of the scene. Even when you are shown his whole body, it is shot from a distance. There are no loving close-ups of his Adonis belt or his flexing biceps.

When Diana sees him, she asks if he is a typical example of his sex, and while Steve automatically thinks of his penis, she isn’t thinking that at all. The camera shows Steve the way Diana sees him, which is as a man, but not as a sexual object.

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C.S. Pacat & Johanna The Mad on their new comic series Fence!

Writer C.S. Pacat (best known for her Captive Prince series) has been mercilessly teasing her fans with a new Top Secret Project™ for the last few days. Well, the wait is finally over, as the L.A. Times just broke the announcement for her new comic series, Fence!

Teaming up with the ridiculously talented artist Johanna The Mad, Fence follows Nicholas Cox as he joins the world of fencing at an elite boys school and becomes embroiled in the drama of competitive sports, team romance and rivalries, and good old self-discovery.

On finding inspiration for Fence, C.S. Pacat says, “I got really into sports comics in Japan, where I lived for about five years. I love the intense rivalries, the striving, the way you can take characters to their breaking point. Haikyuu!! and Hikaru no Go are easily some of my favourite comics of all time. Fence is like my love letter to the genre.

At the same time, I’m interested in female gaze and queer gaze art. I wanted to make something that had all the drama and intensity of a sports comic, while also being joyously and unabashedly queer.  I was really inspired by Ngozi Ukazu’s fantastic hockey web comic Check, Please!, and the recent Japanese animation Yuri!!! on Ice. I started to wonder, what happens when those energies come out in a combat sport—when you add in the danger and stakes of fencing?”

Fence means the world to me,” says Johanna The Mad. “It has always been one of my biggest dreams to draw comics, but I never thought I’d be able to work on one that I’d end up fangirling about!”

Johanna’s artwork captures everything that is hot, dangerous, and exciting about fencing,” adds Pacat.

Fence #1 hits comic shops in November, and it’ll have covers from Johanna The Mad and Kevin Wada (and maybe someone else we’ll seeee~) and colors from Rebecca Nalty.

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This post on the desexualisation of men made me think of this Charli XCX video.

Charli XCX directed this with Sarah McColgan, and asked the boys in question to do “all the sexy things that girls usually do in videos”. They include Riz Ahmed (this is the source of those gifs of him with a big pink teddy bear), Stormzy, Josh Ostrovsky (aka thefatjewish), Tom Daley, Jay Park and more - full list here. It is pink and fluffy and female gaze-y, and everybody looks happy.

It also has a much, much more inclusive idea of cuteness than sexy girl videos, and doesn’t dehumanise its subjects. Which is lovely, but underlines that when men are treated as objects of desire, they’re much more likely to keep a sense of agency.

there is just an aspect to being a woman, which is that we are socialized to live under the male gaze and to comport ourselves with the knowledge that everything we do will be scrutinized and deconstructed by men. no man will ever understand this, even if you’re a gbt man. heteronormativity is debilitating and brutalizing, but there is no societal pressure for any man to perform for women. no man’s worth is tied to how women interpret him. there’s no “female gaze”. like, heteropatriarchy may tell gay/bi men that they’re “not good men” for loving men, of course, but it’s not telling them that their value is tied to how “useful” or “appealing” women find them, whereas it does tell women that. sexuality is far more traumatizing for women (cis or trans, straight or not) than it is for men. 

You know what I appreciate about James Gunn and his Guardian movies? There is sex appeal for both men and women. Short sexy dresses are worn by extras and our main ladies wear tight outfits, yet almost no cleavage and minimal butt shots for them. Whereas in Vol. 2 all three of our leading males are shirtless at some point, they and the main villain discuss or display sexual prowess, and talk about their dicks. And then there’s the memorable line from Drax: “My nipples!” Also, in Vol. 1 there is a gratuitous, but much appreciated scene showing Ronan’s morning routine.

Thank you, James Gunn.

I’m so done with movies about a guy or group of guys that have to look after a child and are terrible at it. Give me one that’s like “Here’s Colin Firth, here’s a baby. They both have a lovely day!” I would go and see it 50 times. I would buy the Two-Disc Special Edition Extended Director’s Cut 4K Blu-Ray With Fold Out Poster version of that shit.

But no. Because Adam Sandler needs to drop a baby on its head for lolz.

Creature of the Black Lagoon: monster’s pursuit of hapless heroine has obvious sexual tones and serves to dramatize and prop the struggle of the monster and the men. Treatment of women and focus on men demonstrates obvious male gaze

The Shape of Water: heroine is protagonist and film focuses on her consensual romantic attraction to the monster. Portrayal of the monster’s sensual form and movements, as well as delicate physical intimacy, demonstrates use of the female gaze. Aggression, abuse, and control by men is the villainy of the film

the best piece of media ever made about ancient rome is, of course, thermae roma

  • unparalleled with its organically non-western approach and yet calling out its own internalized imperialism with how it looks at rome
  • very funny, but not in a mean way and at the expense of an arrogant, culture shocked roman time traveling architect
  • very female gaze + fan service
  • people actually speak latin (and at some point it just goes - “bilingual”)
  • was shot on the set of hbo’s rome and through out all the historical locations
  • lots of solid info on roman bath building
  • they actually preserve the roman imperial power through building baths and power of friendship
  • god (?) is there and sings opera

So, I went to see Wonder Woman for a third time and this time what struck me was that the absence of the male gaze wasn’t just kinder to Diana, it was kinder to Steve.

Think about that scene where Steve’s totally naked in the pool and then stands up and Diana comes in and they have their awkward little chat.

Then think about the scene in Thor where he’s changing into his new clothes.

Steve is literally less clothed - he’s not wearing pants, and Thor is.  But the camera treats him much, much better.  Although there ARE some shots where Steve is totally naked and covering his crotch with his hands, the majority of the scene is closer in, focusing just on his face and shoulders.  In contrast, there are almost no shots in the whole scene with Thor where we can’t see at minimum his whole torso, and there are several shots where he’s inspecting or adjusting his pants where it’s pretty clear we’re also meant to be looking at his butt.

The framing is important, too.  Steve stands up before he knows Diana is coming in, and he’s awkward about being naked - but he’s also aware she’s looking and gets to decide what to do about it.  He could dive back under the water, but he doesn’t.  He lets her look, and then covers what he wants to cover as he moves and dresses.  He also looks back.  The whole time we’re looking at naked Steve, he’s looking at us (and at Diana.)  In contrast, the first shots we have of Thor are when he’s not only unaware of being watched, but also actually out of our and the other characters’ line of sight.  We are literally watching him dress in the mirror while we and the other characters are in a separate room.  It’s not just that he doesn’t look back at us, but he can’t. Not until he walks into the other room with the rest of the characters, at which point, he still doesn’t.  He’s looking sideways or down at things, or even in the close-up shot, he’s looking away for at least half the shot.

There are a lot of things I could say about body types and Hollywood standards for muscle and Good Lord Just Let The Marvel Chrises Eat A Sandwich And Take A Day Off From The Gym, but that’s not even my point here.

My point is that Steve Trevor, male lead and love interest in a superhero film directed by a woman and targeting an audience that skews female, is shot like a person.  He has agency and presence and we’re not invited to separate his body from his personality.  Thor Odinson, male lead and love interest in a superhero film directed by a straight man and targeting an audience that skews male, is shot like an object.  He does not have agency to decide when and how he is looked at and who sees him.  He does not have an emotional presence because we’re invited to look at his body while he is silent and/or unaware of our gaze.

I’m not gonna sit here and say that they female gaze could or would never objectify men.  But I am going to say that the assumption that what women want from films is to get to ogle men like men get to ogle women is probably an assumption driven more by men than by women.