This is a very interesting article which probes the sexuality in both the movie itself, and the marketing. I think this could be an important thing to keep in mind as sequel talk begins to take root. Why did Legend of Tarzan outperform expectations? The article doesn’t address box office performance — but does parse the attractiveness of the film to both female and male audiences, and points to the clever way in which is provides a strong “come-on” to females, while remaining essentially a strong male story. Hard to achieve that — yet LOT does.
Ladies of Lust
The Female Gaze in Tarzan and Ghostbusters.
Commercials and trailers for Warner Bros. The Legend of Tarzan would leave you hard-pressed to find the story before you saw Alexander Skarsgard’s abs. Even the marketing material, with images of Skarsgard in the rain, begs for women to put the image on their cell phones with the tacit reminder that The Legend of Tarzan comes out in July. Even the marketing material, with images of Skarsgard in the rain, begs for women to put the image on their cell phones with the tacit reminder that The Legend of Tarzancomes out in July. Yet Twitter and Facebook was littered with women saying how horrible the film looked but that they were planning to watch it anyway because of its shameless promotion of male skin.
The rampant thirst was enough for me to dub The Legend of Tarzan theMagic Mike of 2016 for tapping into women’s yearning for male skin in a cinematic world where women’s bodies are part and parcel of moviemaking today. Director David Yates must have had an awareness of the desert wasteland that is male nudity, in any form, because nearly half the film surrounds Skarsgard half-naked, and when the shirt comes off, it’s drawn out like a striptease.
In 1975 scholar Laura Mulvey coined the concept of the “male gaze.” Used as a marketing device as well as acknowledging the tacit mindset of male-dominated directors, the male gaze sells women as possessions and sex objects; telling the, usually male, hero that the woman is their prize and telling women they should aspire to be what is on display.
A female gaze, simply enough, would be a gender-swapped definition of that, but the distinction lies in who is in the power position. The male gaze puts men in the dominant role they’ve controlled since time immemorial. Women are presented as property for male consumption. To possess a female gaze gives the power to the marginalized. Essayists have debated whether a female gaze can or does exist and what it means in furthering positive depictions of female sexuality. The female gaze, as I’ve interpreted and defined it, allows women to feel confident in their sexuality and safe to express it; it allows women to be sexual free of judgment. The Legend of Tarzan and the recent Ghostbusters remake definitely captured ladies’ interest on social media, but do they promote the female gaze in practice as much as they do in social media?
In Tarzan the female gaze manifests through the audience itself, opening the door to letting women indulge their sexuality safely in a movie theater. Though Margot Robbie’s Jane is meant to be the female representative for the film, Skarsgard’s body is presented to the female audience with camera angles illustrating his abs and inviting the female audience to lust alongside his wife.