DC Comics recently relaunched their entire line of comics in hopes of revitalizing their brand and attracting new readers. With The New 52 came a lot of controversy surrounding female creators and characters. The loudest public outcry has been over the perceived objectification of women in Red Hood and the Outlaws (by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort) and Catwoman (by Judd Winick and Guillem March). Here, I intend to prove that the protests are justified and that the depictions of Starfire and Catwoman are indeed objectifying.
Historically speaking, the typical viewer of a work of art was a male, just like the typical comic reader is a male (heterosexual with disposable income). It wasn’t until fairly recently that the term “male gaze” was coined to give voice to these assumed eyes that were viewing works of art. It not only describes the perceived viewer but it also comments on how the work of art was, and still is, constructed in order to please this assumed male patron. A female is thus turned into an object when she is there solely to give pleasure to this male gaze. Conversely a female is treated as a subject when she is a fully-formed, three-dimensional character that is an active and vital participant in the story or image. In a single image a female can be turned into an object or treated as a subject. Women throughout art history have been objects meant to be looked at. Just like the Barbara Kruger piece on the right states: “Your gaze hits the side of my face.”