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Same Image, Different Lens: Revisiting the Critical Reception of Two Different Generations of Cinematic Superheroism

Kaitlyn Adier Cummings

What does a superhero film have to be in order to be celebrated as a ‘feminist’ text? This essay aims to answer that question by surveying the critical reception surrounding four superhero films: Catwoman (2004), Elektra (2005), Wonder Woman (2017) and Incredibles 2 (2018). Each led by female characters, these films received grossly different appraisals of their feminist messages. Close analysis of each film sheds new light on what cultural changes may be responsible for the disparity in reception; bridging the gap through interrogation of the contemporary sociopolitical climate.

Keywords: female superhero, feminism, postfeminism, film criticism, genre studies

Kaitlyn Adier Cummings is a master’s student at Syracuse University studying Arts Journalism with a primary focus in feminist film criticism. She was born and raised in Brooklyn and received her undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College with a major in film studies. Inspired by writers like Carol J. Clover, Karen Hollinger, and Molly Haskel, her work aims to dissect female roles and tropes expressed across popular film genres.