Marvel women: femininity, representation and postfeminism in films based on Marvel Comics

Kent, Miriam (2016) Marvel women: femininity, representation and postfeminism in films based on Marvel Comics. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

Recent years have witnessed an influx of superhero films, particularly those based on Marvel comics. From X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) to team-up mega-blockbuster The Avengers (2012) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the stream of Marvel superhero adaptations is ongoing and relentless. These films have received modest academic attention; however, close examination of the specific portrayals of women in superhero films has remained sporadic.

This thesis is the first work to cohesively consider representations of women in films based on Marvel comics, from The Punisher (1989) to more recent films such as Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Through textual analysis which accounts for discursive, contextual and ideological issues surrounding these films, I discuss how representations of women in Marvel adaptations are informed by discourses of anxiety and struggle regarding gender issues in wider Western culture.

The superhero boom occurred at a time which can be considered “postfeminist,” in which discourses of women’s “empowerment” are actively incorporated into media texts, while specific references to political feminism are shunned. Tracing historical and cultural contexts from the characters’ comic book forms, this thesis provides an exhaustive account of issues of women’s empowerment in Marvel films with particular emphasis on the ways in which postfeminist culture has shaped such portrayals. The films are considered within a wider action genre framework, drawing from existing scholarship in the field of feminist film studies. However, attention is also drawn to the role of sexuality and race within these largely white, heterosexual portrayals of feminine empowerment. Overall I consider the questions: How is power negotiated within female Marvel characters? How does an emphasis on sex appeal relate to feminist and postfeminist culture? How do these representations intersect with greater issues involving sexuality and race? And, importantly, in what ways do these representations tie in to modes of women’s empowerment in the time periods during which these films were released?

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Gillian Aldus
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2017 12:57
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2017 12:57
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/64255
DOI:

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