There’s good news, and there’s bad news when it comes to the male gaze in Justice League. The good news is that the Amazonian warriors are not, in fact, scantily-clad for their fight scenes. The film faced criticism after images of the ladies in their battle gear started to make the rounds — and there was a lot more skin than in Wonder Woman. While yes, some of the costumes have changed, the fierce fighters aren’t over-sexualized. In fact, during the scene in which we see the most skin — a bare midriff! — the Amazonian warrior is in the middle of swinging a giant sledgehammer. It’s actually powerful AF.
However, Wonder Woman? Unfortunately, it seems this movie’s portrayal of the character is far more sexualized than the one we saw in her namesake film this summer.
Before we go any further, I’ll say that I did in fact enjoy Justice League, and I really enjoyed Gal Gadot’s performance. However, it became clear that the Wonder Woman we met during Wonder Woman wasn’t coming to save the world this time — rather, we were re-introduced to a token “lady” superhero who, frankly, doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment.
It’s important to note that Wonder Woman was directed by a female, Patty Jenkins, and her role behind the camera was applauded for many reasons. Just one — which is an odd thing to applaud, but promise it’s important — is that rather than hide a thigh jiggle when Diana lands on her feet hard, she kept it in. It was a tiny, tiny moment in the film, but for women who are constantly dealing with a society imposing “perfect” body norms, while also trying so hard to embrace body positivity, this little jiggle was powerful, especially on a female superhero in the middle of saving the world.
If you were hoping that treatment would carry over into Justice League, it sadly does not. At one point Diana’s thigh does jiggle, and we see it…but we also see her entire backside because she’s just jumped out of Batman’s ship and her skirt flies up (keep in mind, she’s still wearing bottoms). Maybe this scene completely went over your head, but it’s stuck with me because it’s 1) completely unnecessary as 10 seconds of movement that doesn’t further the plot whatsoever and 2) someone made a clear choice to leave it in, even though Diana’s butt is exposed.
That’s not the only “butt shot” of the movie. Twitter — always quick call something out — immediately took notice of the excessive focus on Wonder Woman’s butt:
If that’s not distracting enough for you, there are also boob shots. Wonder Woman’s battle armor from WWI has been replaced with low-cut tops and a stringy bralette. And just to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with low-cut tops and stringy bralettes — wear them! Embrace your body! There’s a problem with Wonder Woman wearing them, because the camera intentionally lingers far too long on her chest, making it impossible not to notice how she’s dressed.
Now, add in the fact that the movie makes it clear that both Aquaman and Flash are attracted to her, and in problematic ways. When meeting her for the first time, Flash stumbles over his words and at one point accidentally falls on top of Diana, only to quickly jump up (at the speed of light) visibly embarrassed. Aquaman, meanwhile, bluntly states that Diana is gorgeous — but it’s okay that he’s saying these things, because he’s sitting on the Lasso of Truth, and it’s funny because it’s true and he doesn’t realize he’s saying it! Ha ha ha!
Not so much. Diana’s appearance becomes a focal point for jokes, as if these comments will almost, in a sense, humanize her more. (They don’t.)
And we haven’t even discussed how clearly smitten Bruce Wayne is with her, to the point where Alfred is like “Come on, bro.” Alfred makes a joke about passing Diana a note, as if this is middle school and Bruce has a huge crush on her. He does, and that sexual desire is once again supposed to be “funny.” There is some sexual tension between the two of them, but it feels forced and comes off poorly. Diana looking at Bruce’s bruised backside? Nothing too romantic about that, and neither is the conversation that follows. It’s out of place, and just weird (and was possibly even added in during reshoots to give these characters another interaction).
By the end of the movie, at least it’s established that Diana, not Bruce, will be the one to lead Justice League from here on out (even though they’ll use his mansion as a meeting place). Hopefully with Diana sitting at the head of the table, she’ll start getting the respect and admiration she deserves as the one in charge — and all superheroes and metahumans will stop focusing on how she looks and dresses.