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Treacherous, deviant, and submissive female sexuality represented in the character Catwoman /

by Lecker, Michael.

Abstract (Summary)
Dr. Jeffrey A. Brown This thesis is an examination of sexual and gender representation of the DC Comics character Catwoman throughout her more than sixty-five years. The main goal was to gain insight into America’s view of female sexuality through the examination of numerous popular texts involving the highly sexualized Catwoman. This thesis investigates what made the character stay popular for such a vast amount of time. It also examines why the cat motif was chosen and why so many other female characters in the superhero genre embody this animal. In addition to looking at Catwoman, it was necessary to explore her relationship with Batman and see how this strong female character was depicted when placed within the same narrative as Batman, the strong patriarchal figure. Finally, I wanted to see how Catwoman’s sexuality was a source of empowerment for her and if this was a legitimate source of power. This study was a textual analysis of comic books, television shows, and movies that the character Catwoman is in. There were several methods used to study these texts for their sexual and gender representations. The fashion theories of Roland Barthes and Vikki Karaminas were utilized in the first chapter. To explain the popularity of Catwoman, the psychoanalytical theories of Marc O’Day and Jeffrey A. Brown, in addition to Mary Anne Doane’s theory of women in film, were utilized. The third chapter’s look into the power relations between Catwoman and Batman relied on the psychoanalytical theory of Laura Mulvey and the genre theory of Jane Tompkins. The final chapter utilized Audre Lorde’s feminist theory on the erotic as a source of power. iii The major findings of this thesis are as follows. The female characters of Catwoman, Blackcat, and Cheetah, and their association with felines, is important in spreading anti-women and feline messages. The connection between the two has been used for centuries to demonize both participants. In the superhero genre, the correlation is used to depict powerful women as evil, treacherous, and sexually deviant. This idea of sexual deviance leads to my second conclusion that Catwoman’s popularity is largely due to her hypersexualization, which is the constant core aspect of this ever-evolving character. Connected to this is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which is highly patriarchal. Batman has massive amounts of power over Catwoman in their relationship, which is seen through the utilization of language and the emotions of love/lust, stories surrounding the creation of Catwoman, the depiction of access to knowledge and information, looking or “the gaze,” manipulation, and the many patriarchal roles that Batman fills. Finally, the use of erotic or sexuality as a source of power, as defined by Audre Lorde, has had a growing effect on Catwoman and lends the character’s sexuality to the possibility of a more positive and less patriarchal reading. iv
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:catwoman fictitious character batman women in literature motion pictures sex role

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