Batman v Superman Pushed Me Over the Edge — I'm Done with Comic Book Patriarchy

I don't go to the movies to see woman regress back to 1950s caricatures.
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Tamara White
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I don't go to the movies to see woman regress back to 1950s caricatures.

SPOILERS ABOUND (OBVIOUSLY)...

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This weekend I begrudgingly accompanied my fiancé to see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The previews have been running for months, but I just wasn't excited about this film outside of catching a glimpse of Wonder Woman's latest iteration. This is mostly, because Hollywood movies based on comics tend to be created for a male audience with little to no interesting female characters. However, it's been years in the making to get a female superhero on the big screen and I was excited about the possibility of what this new millennium's Wonder Woman could be. Unfortunately, I was served a healthy dose of sexism and patriarchy during Dawn of Justice. With the exception of Wonder Woman, every female character in the film is victimized – and if she didn't have a film coming out in 2017, I'm not very confident she would have made it out alive either.

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We're first introduced to Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) at a swanky, party thrown by Lex Luther. She's wearing a stunning dress and Batman eyestalks her from the moment he walks into the soiree. Wonder Woman is flawless in a Victoria Secret model type of way. Leave it to Hollywood to give us a female superhero, thirteen years younger than her romantic interest, who looks better equipped to walk during Paris Fashion Week than to wrestle monsters. (Or maybe, she doesn't need the bodybuilder hulk of muscle that Batman and Superman have because she has better powers?) I was particularly disappointed that over the years, while male superheroes have grown to be more muscular, technological and even middle-aged — Wonder Woman has stayed much the same.

At the party she outsmarts Batman (played by Ben Affleck), and steals the hard drive he is using to download information from the enemy, Lex Luther's computer system. As she makes her escape with the hard drive neatly tucked into her handbag, they have a flirtatious exchange. "I don't think you've ever known a woman like me," she tells him as she straightens his bowtie, before jumping into her sports car and speeding away into the night. To her credit, in the film's final fight scene, Wonder Woman joins Batman and Superman in taking down a near invincible monster created by Lex Luther (played by Jesse Eisenberg). This was a cameo appearance for Wonder Woman to promote her own film so that's the extent of the role she plays in Dawn of Justice.

While Wonder Woman has the opportunity to drive a sports car and kick monster butt, the other female characters in the film are weak and helpless woman struggling to survive in a man's world. Which is a real let down to female fans, who make up close to half of comic book readers and are looking for characters they can relate to.

Martha Wayne, played by Laura Cohen, is violently killed in the opening scene. Martha Kent is kidnapped, tortured and almost burned alive for being a witch – the word scrawled across her forehead by her captors. Senator Finch, played by Holly Hunter, stands up to Lex Luther and then is brutally murdered along with Mercy Graves his supermodel assistant (and the film's only character of color that has an actual name). 

Mercy Graves' character (played Tao Okamoto) is a particular let down since she is such a fierce protector of Luther in the comic books. Not to mention, the nameless Asian sex slaves that are saved from a dungeon of horrors by Batman. Last but not least, Louis Lane is a helpless damsel in distress, who is rescued by Superman four separate times — and in the process she causes a public relations disaster that turns the world against him.

In an earlier interview, Amy Adams who plays Lois says of the character, "What I love about Lois Lane is that she's been very consistently strong, successful, independent."

Unfortunately, I don't agree. Sure, Lois is an accomplished journalist who we see pursuing hard news stories about terrorism and government corruption, but she's still a woman who can't navigate her life without Superman. She's such a liability to the superhero, that during the intimate bathtub scene she questions whether he can love her and be himself at the same time.

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After seeing Dawn of Justice, I can't say that I am ultra-excited to see Wonder Woman next year. Although, Dawn of Justice did a decent (and brief) job of introducing Wonder Woman to the franchise, however the rest of the female characters fell flat. And in terms of Wonder Woman, I'll definitely be on the lookout to see if this character develops beyond just a pretty face.

What I am excited about is that Robin Wright will be playing a fellow Amazonian in the Wonder Woman film. (Here's a promo photo of the cast). I'm a huge fan of Wright's character, Claire in House of Cards and hope that we'll get the same type of intensity from her as a superhero. However, what I really want to see in this franchises next films are more complex, female characters (and maybe even some ethnic Amazonians, pretty please?). 

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One of the reasons superheroes are so important is that they not only fight against evil, but take a stand and win. In 2016, regular women are taking a stand and conquering in business, entertainment, politics and love – I don't go to the movies to see woman regress back to 1950s caricatures. Unfortunately, that's exactly what I got from Dawn of Justice.