Dey, Ayesha R. (2019) Contemporary Action Heroines: The Quest for Emancipation from The Male Gaze. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The commercialised male gaze has facilitated a postfeminist culture in which women continue to be moulded into scopophilic pleasures and now willingly participate in presenting themselves as such, out of a self-proclaimed right to reclaim their sexualities. This thesis explores the way in which contemporary action heroines are visually represented by deconstructing three filmic examples of contemporary action films. The iconographic figures of the action babe heroine, the superheroine and the contemporary femme fatale are depicted in the blockbusters; Tomb Raider (2018), Wonder Woman (2017) and Red Sparrow (2018). As major adaptations of literary texts and video games, the movies serve as modernised representations of visual spectacles. Close textual analysis traces the evolution of the iconographic figures from their initial appearances in source materials through to their current iterations, as presented in the aforementioned films. The evolution of heroine representation is contextualised against the conventional feminist wave system, in order to explore the correlation between feminist ideology and the representation of the female body in film. Additionally, the chapters deconstruct the action babe heroine, superheroine and femme fatale, considering the way in which directors have successfully allayed/challenged the male gaze and/or preserved female protagonists as scopophilic pleasures.

The premise of this thesis was inspired by the paradoxes of Hollywood, a male-dominated industry wherein ‘empowered’ women are still subjected to blatant gender disparities including lesser pay and stereotypically gendered roles. The thesis concludes with a reflection upon the current Hollywood climate and a speculation as to whether emancipation from the male gaze will ever be viable for action heroines.

FINAL THESIS - DEY.pdf - Accepted Version
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