I caught the movie Thor this weekend, and boy, did one scene jump out at me. Behold:
|It's glorious, like a sunset or an infant's first smile.|
Thor, having just landed on Earth after being expelled from Asgard, is changing into mortal clothes. Shirtless, he emerges to talk to his two women rescuers, who both stop and stare. Then the camera does something strange: It lovingly pans up Thor's naked torso. It lingers. It practically leers. The shot is pure beefcake, and it is definitely there for an admiring sexual gaze — certainly not typical for an action/superhero movie, where an unclothed dude is not intended to be a sex object.
|This was the most work-safe image of this scene that I could find.|
Wow, did this shot in Thor invert that. Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings both turn their gazes on Chris Hemsworth, whose gleaming torso becomes an object of titillation. We, the audience, gaze, too. Not to sound like Carrie Bradshaw (man, do I not want to sound like Carrie Bradshaw), but I couldn't help but wonder what this shot says about superhero movies in 2011. Are filmmakers finally acknowledging that women are audience members for these types of films, too?
Certainly, there have been plenty of unclothed men in superhero films of the past, but never in such a straight-forwardly admiring way. Tobey Maguire stands shirtless in front of a mirror after his transformation in Spider Man, but the point of the shot is to marvel at his overnight muscle growth. Robert Downey Jr. often works in his lab in tight tank tops, but he's building machines — manly man's work. Ryan Reynolds is shirtless during a prolonged torture scene in Blade: Trinity, but Mulvey would argue that the violence being done to his body mitigates any sexualization in the scene. All the diaper-wearing fellas in 300? Their bodies are fighting machines, meant to cut and to bleed, not merely to be gazed upon. Hugh Jackman is frequently shirtless as Wolverine, but he's also frequently fighting. He isn't merely filmed in all his hairy-chested glory as a sexual object. (To be fair, I've pretty much blocked out the Wolverine movie, but I think I would've remembered if such a blatant eye candy shot was thrown into that film.)
|That helmet really complements his biceps.|
|These were not here yesterday.|
|How much of this scene is CGI?|
|I'll be honest; I've been looking for an excuse to|
post this picture for a while now.
No, the scene in Thor was markedly different. The camera treated actor Chris Hemsworth's body with the reverence typically reserved for Megan Fox in Transformers or Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2. If the camera could've wolf-whistled, it would have.
So director Kenneth Branagh has given the ladies something to look at without violence marring the shot and with no other actions like robot-building or firing a gun or punching an enemy to serve as a distraction to the naked male torso. At last, we have an acknowledgement that women make up a large percentage of the audience for action-heavy superhero movies.
|Kat D. is literally behind the wheel in Thor.|
To summarize, the loving camera caress of Thor's Norse pecs? It may be a good start. (And if we are very lucky, it's a shot that will be repeated in Green Lantern later this summer.) But the women who love superhero movies will respond even better to more parity in casting and writing.
So did anyone else see Thor this weekend and notice this? And am I forgetting about any other shots of male superheroes in other films that are clearly intended for the female gaze?