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Gazing at Otherness: Exploring Representations of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Alawadhi, Dina H A M A A; (2023) Gazing at Otherness: Exploring Representations of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Otherness is embedded within Hollywood’s most successful superhero franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Using innovative readings of the gaze, this study executes close textual analysis of the MCU film cycle’s first arc of films, the Infinity Saga, examining the saga’s representational politics and arguing that the MCU’s generic foundations inform its portrayal of race, ethnicity, and gender as other. The MCU film cycle is analyzed via three recurring components: Manicheanism, the superhero as hegemony, and Marvel Studios’ industrial practices. These underlying processes build upon one another in order to construct the self/other discursive system, instilling various gazes within the saga’s films and heavily impacting its portrayal of race, ethnicity, and gender. In terms of race, the White gaze is prominent within the film cycle, casting the white superhero as the self while othering and marginalizing non-white characters; this look is most evident when analyzing the racialization and othering of the alien body and the Oriental body. The portrayal of gender is similarly impacted, and it is largely shaped by the male gaze which centers the heteronormative, cisgendered male body of the superhero while decentering and objectifying the female body and vilifying or simply erasing the queer body. Though later entries into the franchise provide a glimpse into an evolution of the MCU film cycle and its core components with texts that challenge and restructure the system, the Infinity Saga still heavily relies upon a self/other dialectic. As there is a gap in MCU literature, this study of representational politics examines the franchise, proposing new and insightful readings of the gaze, while helping the reader gain a more nuanced understanding of the underlying systems at work within one of the most widely disseminated cultural phenomena of the past two decades.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Gazing at Otherness: Exploring Representations of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: superhero, MCU, Marvel, otherness, the gaze, race, gender
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > CMII
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10172892
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