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REPRESENTATION IN ACTION
To e x p
A c ti o n
• Traditionally men have
held power in our society
– this system where men
have power and control in
society is called
• Patriarchy = society run
men for men
• The result of this is that
traditionally male qualities
and attributes have generally
been seen to be superior to
• Consider, for example, the
fact that traditionally it was
the eldest son who inherited
– even if he had several older
• This was often reflected in the media, as
most media companies were run by men!
• Masculinity was often represented in ways
that were shown to be superior to feminine
qualities. Men were often shown to be more
important and powerful than women.
• Women were often shown in roles that suited
men and which kept them from challenging
men for power.
• In other words, the media showed men and
women how men wanted them to be!
Write down a list of words under the heading, ‘Representation of men in film’ using
the images below:
Representation is a very important term within the genre of Action Adventure.
Men and women have very clear and stereotypical gender roles. These have
been enforced over decades of films.
Notice what physical similarities all of these characters have.
All are exaggerated examples of masculinity. They are role
models for the male audience to aspire to and want to be like.
Less ‘masculine’ heroes?
In the past the stereotypical role of the female character was
the attractive damsel in distress who would often either get in
the way or cause the hero to get into peril.
Naturally she would ‘fall for his oh-so-obvious charms’.
Most audiences are over-familiar
with the idea of the damsel-indistress female character so film
makers have adapted them.
We are beginning to see an increase
in ‘strong’ female characters –
some are even considered to be
important enough to be the lead role.
In pairs – re-arrange the diamond shape
putting what type of female character is
represented as being the strongest.
You’ll need to discuss with your partner
and perhaps compromise to reach an
agreement. Be ready to explain your
Allowed to be tough, but are still sexually
objectified as they wear very revealing
clothes to maximise their sexual appeal.
They are mostly (not always) controlled by
or need rescuing by men.
Angelina Jolie in Tomb
Raider and Mr and Mrs
Because of their target audience,
Action Adventure films are shot from
a male point of view.
This was called by Laura Mulvey the
Men are watching men on the
screen. Remember: the heroes are
role models for the male audience to
aspire to and want to be like.
The camera will often linger on a shot
of a woman’s body to gratify the male
Unnecessary shows of flesh or
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Represented as perfect
Female characters can be sorted into two
Write a response to the following question:
Some critics argue that action adventure films feed into
sexist stereotypes about the roles and men and women.
To what extent would you agree or disagree?
You should think about what we have talked about this lesson and make sure
you refer to representation in Charlie’s Angels.
For years, the roles of men and women are almost always very clear and defined within
Action Adventure films...
• Villains are often non-white or ‘foreigners’ in Hollywood
The Goonies – the
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
– Indians and Raiders of the Lost Ark Germans
• Asian (Chinese, Japanese etc) characters
are often wise or skilled in
martial arts (Karate Kid,
Jackie Chan/Jet Li/
Bruce Lee films).
The 1970s also saw the emergence of black
action cinema (sometimes called "blaxploitation")
with both male and female heroes deploying
violence, gun power, and martial arts against
oppressive enemies and institutions.
YouTube - Shaft trailer (1971)
•Many critics regard blaxploitation as a problematic mode
of film production because it typically employed familiar
but unwelcome racial and sexual stereotypes.
Significantly, though, black action films of the 1970s
strongly evince the influence of Hong Kong filmmaking on
American cinema. In particular, the international stardom
achieved by the Hong Kong cinema martial arts icon
Bruce Lee (1940–1973) suggests the possibility of shifting
the seemingly fixed association between heroism and
whiteness in US cinema. Lee's premature death, in the
same year that his first (and only) American production,
Enter the Dragon (1973), scored a huge commercial hit,
reinforced his iconic status.
Just as 1970s blaxploitation deploys uncomfortable racial and
sexual stereotypes, the 1980s variant of biracial buddy movies, such
as 48 Hours (1982), the Lethal Weapon series (1987, 1989, 1992,
1998), and the Die Hard series (1988, 1990, 1995), has been read
as a strategy to exploit and contain black male stars, such as Eddie
Murphy. These films pair black and white stars in order to appeal to
the widest audience demographic, and in the process black
characters are typically portrayed within primarily (or entirely) white
institutional contexts. More recently, Mary Beltrán considered
Hollywood's deployment of biracial and multi-ethnic stars such as
Vin Diesel and Keanu Reeves in terms of economic and cultural
black side kick
• Chris Tucker as Ruby
Rap in The Fifth
•Snails in Dungeons
and Dragons (Marlon
More recent improvements
Samual L Jackson