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The Portrayals of Females and Males in Superhero Movies

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Introduction

Gender relates to the socially constructed differences between males and females. Gender is also the social and cultural identities and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity that can be viewed from a micro, meso, macro level in society. Mass media is an agent of socialization and the images of males and females are represented in different ways and different characteristics which creates different meanings of masculinity and femininity. Thereby the portrayals of females and males in the media impacts gender-related attitudes and behaviors and creates socially constructed gender norms.

The changing nature of the interaction between females and males in superhero movies and how gender differences in relation to the roles and appearances between female and male superheroes and how it impacts people’s opinions towards gender stereotypes is particularly relevant and significant, because more recently media portrayals are showing us more independent, smart and heroic female superhero movie protagonists. Moreover, this topic is important and contributes to a better understanding of society and culture because it is vital to understand media and how media plays an essential role in our lives and how it can influence our identities at a micro, meso, and macro level in society. Furthermore, we have to understand how media can promote societal stereotypes particularly those relating to masculinity and femininity. Additionally, we also have to understand how media how communicates what gender roles and appearances that are conventional in society. Also, we have to understand media, and how media representation communicates behavioral norms for both males and females.

To investigate the topic of my research, I used both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to obtain information related to my research. Content analysis and secondary research was used to get background information and gain lots of professional and expert opinions in order for me to strongly form my personal opinion on the topic. I used this research method because the information can be gained very easily, which would be very beneficial, given the time frame of the project. Another methodology I used was a questionnaire. I created a questionnaire to gain data from participants. This research method was used because it provides an extensive range of data which could be analyzed in a short period of time, which is beneficial given the time period of the task. Additionally, this methodology of primary research can help me collect accurate and detailed information as well as both qualitative and quantitative data. I also used observational research to obtain original data directly, rather than relying information from other sources. This method and technique of research because this requires research to reflect on the situation. The information would also be valid as this process allows the researcher to gain information through personal experience and gain data firsthand and this method produces qualitative data. For this project one of the requirements is to have look at different cultures and viewpoints other than my own and to reflect a different a perspective different from my immediate culture. The cross-cultural perspective that I have chosen to explore is Gender to Gender and how both female and males react and their opinions and views in relation to my topic. During the course of the MINI personal interest project, I plan to investigate the changing nature of the interaction between female and male superheroes and how gender roles and appearances affects people’s opinions towards gender stereotypes. Furthermore, I plan to investigate how the media can promote masculine and feminine stereotypes and how it communicates what gender roles and appearances that are conventional in society

Background

Throughout time, gender has been socially constructed amongst numerous societies and cultures, determining the identities of individuals at micro, meso and macro level. The aim of this project was to examine and observe superhero movies to determine the gender differences in relation to character roles and appearances between female and male superheroes. This project also examined how the depictions of females and males in superheroes may have impact gender-related attitudes and behaviors and establish socially constructed gender norms and how it affects behaviors and attitudes of individuals. This project also examined how gender roles in superhero movies contribute to opinions and views of gender roles that are conventional within society. Furthermore, this project studied media representation and how it communicates behavioral norms for both males and females. This task also looked at how media portrayals may influence behaviors and attitudes of individuals. For example, people who watch films and TV regularly typically have more stereotypical views about gender compared to individuals who watch less, and how watching movies and tv shows will relate to people’s opinions of gender stereotypes and meanings of masculinity and femininity. Furthermore, this study explored the concept of media, and how media plays an essential role in our lives and can influence our identities at a micro, meso, and macro level in our society

Moreover, this project examined how superheroes serve as examples and their representation in the media may communicate ideas about a wide range of societal norms and values, including those relating to masculinity and femininity. between male and females and male superheroes. Furthermore, this study will analyze the forms and patterns of portrayal of women and men and their gender roles and appearances in superhero movies. This project also investigated the changing nature of the interaction between females and males in superhero movies and how gender differences and particularly, how the depictions of females and males in superhero movies impacts the attitudes and opinions of gender stereotypes, and more importantly how both males and males react and their opinions in relation to the topic of research.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is a methodology of research that involves using previously collecting or existing data or information. Some examples of secondary research include previously collected research material and previously published research reports and documents. Specific examples include textbooks, newspapers, articles, data collected by the government i.e. census and news reports. This methodology and technique of research was used in this project because I used secondary research and content analysis to gather information and knowledge what was collected previously in relation to my topic of research. It was found that male superheroes appeared more often than female heroes. Males were perceived to be more dominant, muscular and powerful. Males also had plenty of screen time and were more vitally important to their story and the majority of superhero movies had male superhero protagonists. Women were portrayed as attractive, ‘sexy’/seductive, innocent, afraid, fearful and the ‘damsel in the distress’ who needs to be rescued by the male superhero. Females also had limited screen time in their movies and there was a limited number of superhero protagonists that were female. Females were also just put in the superhero movies purely for ‘eye candy’ and only serve as the love interests to the male superhero protagonists and thus were not needed in the storyline in their respective movies. Female characters were also often overshadowed and were dominated by male characters and were often outcast as ‘sidekicks’ and minor characters and did not contribute or had minimal impact to the storyline of their movies. It is also found that the majority of female characters do not get developed enough and did not have a proper character arc. Over time, however the gender equality and ratio of males and females in superhero movies has changed. The following graph shows the proportion of females in superhero moves since comics were introduced in the 1930s to the current day.

It was also found that both males and females’ superheroes are depicted as perfect beings with perfect bodies. However, female characters in superhero movies are often hyper-sexualized and stereotyped and in both and out of their superhero costumes were more revealing on the upper and lower bodies compared to males. It was also found that though, both females and males had special powers and abilities and used weapons, male superheroes were more likely to have more than one special skill and use fighting skills and were also more likely use multiple weapons than compared to female superheroes. Also, when females are portrayed in the media, they are portrayed as non-essential and passive, rather than male characters who are portrayed as violent and strong and female characters were more likely than males to have a mentor and majority of female characters work in a team rather than independently. It is also found that 30% of all superhero teams have no women, and only 12% have more female team members than male. The majority of those 12%, however, are all female teams. These results would suggest to audiences and that women are less important, independent and capable than men and are less likely to be a hero

Through secondary research, I also found the Bechdel test,( AKA the Bechdel–Wallace test) a test that has been around since the 1980s and is used to examine and investigate the equality of men and women in film and the film’s representation of women. In order to pass the test, a movie must meet the following criteria:

  1. There are two female characters with known names.
  2. These characters have at least one conversation during the movie.
  3. The conversation is about something other than a man.

To pass the Bechdel test, the film must meet and reach the above criteria at least once. It was found that out of the various superhero movies that exist in the genre just over half of those movies pass the Bechdel test and, the ones that pass only one conversation during the course of in a two to three-hour long movie.

Primary Research

Primary research is original and ‘fresh’ data employed by researchers to get information directly, rather than relying on knowledge collected previously through background research. This project required me to use primary research methodologies to get original data firsthand and from original research. I used google forms to create a questionnaire to obtain original data from participants. I also used participant observation which involved selecting a variety of superhero movies from the past 10 years to the present and recorded the interaction between males and females and the gender differences between males and females in relation to the roles and appearances of male and female superheroes. Movies that were observed and examined included Iron man, Iron man 2, thor, the avengers, Captain America: the winter solider, Guardians of the galaxy Vol. 1, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor Ragnarök and Captain Marvel. This research relates to my topic of research because it requires me to watch and record the representation and media representations of males and females in superhero movies and the gender differences and it requires the observation to reflect on the situation and allowed me not to rely on secondary research, but rather original and unused data and the observational research helped me round out research by offering a real-world aspect in relation to my hypothesis and area of research. Therefore, this methodology of research relates to my area of study because it requires to observe and examine the gender differences in superhero movies myself, instead of relying on previously done articles and website material and is less hypothetical than other methodologies of research, particularly secondary research thereby this research relates to my area of research as I am able to observe firsthand the changing interaction between males and females in superhero movies and how it has changed over the past decade and through this method of research I am able to relate this to my research question and make decisions and draw conclusions in relation to my research based on evidence collected firsthand from original research.

Cross-cultural Perspective

This project requires me to have a look at different cultures and viewpoints other than my own and to reflect a different a perspective different from my immediate culture. This is important to the research because it integrates different cultures and drawing differences and similarities between them. Examples of having a sense of cross-cultural perspective include generation to generation, socio economic group, age, gender, ethnicity or geographical location. The cross-cultural perspective I have chosen to discuss and examine is gender to gender. This involved investigating how both males and males react to my topic of research and how gender differences in superhero movies affect the attitudes and opinions of both males and females and the varying and contrasting opinions and attitudes of the males and females in relation to my topic of research.

Future Research

Over the course of the research project, I had planned to investigate the interaction of between males and females in superhero movies and gender differences between males and females in relation to the roles and appearances of them. Future implications that I plan to direct in regard to my research purely based on my secondary research and content analysis is that participants will say that male characters will be perceived and portrayed as powerful and strong rather compared to female characters. It is also predicted that male characters will have different general roles such as less likely to work in a group and more independently than compared to females and different specific roles, for example, heroes, and soldiers than females who might have roles like secretaries and sidekicks. It is also predicted that males will appear more muscular and powerful than females, who will be portrayed as more attractive, ‘sexy’, and thin and wear more revealing clothing than male characters. Males will have more special powers/abilities (e.g., super strength flight abilities and superhuman abilities etc.) and will use weapons more often than females. It is also predicted that by watching a variety of superhero movies that female characters will appear overly sexualized and participants of surveys and questionnaire will negatively respond to female characters and overly sexualize females, rather than males. Furthermore, media portrayals can continue sexist and stereotypical social norms and standard and the objectification of women. Furthermore, media can underestimate or hypersexualize women’s roles in societies.

Conclusion

Through during this MINI PIP, I have learned how important media represention has a essential role in influencing gender roles at a micro, meso and micro level in society in that media representations of males and females are represented in different ways and different characteristics which creates different meanings of masculinity and femininity. I also learned that gender inequality may be negative and harmful to both genders because individuals may learn gender roles from the media which may reinforce gender stereotypes within societies.

Furthermore, doing this MINI PIP has helped me to be social and cultural literate which has helped me understand ethics in research and to be recognize and be aware of concerns and issues within my research. Furthermore, doing this project helped me avoid making judgements of different cultures and to appreciate different cultures in society. The processes of research that was choosen for this project was both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to obtain information related to my topic of research. Content analysis and secondary research was enabled to provide an analysis the gender representation and differences in relation to the gender roles and appearances in superhero movies. These methodlogies of research were effective because it provided a clear answer to the question. I also used original research that was collected first hand through questionnares and observational research to collect information. This helped me with my research because it provided an extensive range of quallitive data, which was accessed and analysed quickly. It also would require me to not rely on previously done research, but rather rely on first hand conducted research and I can see the information first hand and make decisions based on this research. Out of the information gathered from both secondary research, I found the significant gender differences in the portrayal of superhero characters in movies. In relation to my hypothesis and area of research it was found that male superheroes dominated and overshadowed females and more often did not work in a group. I learnt that these portrayals might indicate to audiences that females are of a lower status and are less capable of being independent rather than males. During undertaking primary research, I found that interestingly, participants oversexualized male superheroes rather than female superheroes, which contridicted my secondary and hypothesis because in the past women and female were represented as ‘eye candy’ Particpants described male characters as handsome’ compared to female superheroes who were described as ‘superior’ and ‘independent’ by participants. Compared to this, female characters were descibed by male and female partcipants as good role models. E.g ‘Black Widow, through the marvel movies we get to see her character develop and grow into a string vital member of the team and eventually into a leadership position’.

These results might suggest, in relation to my hypothesis and research question that the changing nature of gender differences in superhero movies does impact the attitudes and opinons of both males and females. These results also suggests that media representation has an important role of influencing our identites and the opinons and attitudes of individuals in society in that the portrayals of females and males in the media impacts gender-related attitudes and behaviors of individuals within society and establishes socially constructed gender norms.

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The Portrayals Of Females And Males In Superhero Movies. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-portrayals-of-females-and-males-in-superhero-movies/
“The Portrayals Of Females And Males In Superhero Movies.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-portrayals-of-females-and-males-in-superhero-movies/
The Portrayals Of Females And Males In Superhero Movies. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-portrayals-of-females-and-males-in-superhero-movies/> [Accessed 24 Sept. 2021].
The Portrayals Of Females And Males In Superhero Movies [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2021 Sept 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-portrayals-of-females-and-males-in-superhero-movies/
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