We here at Citizen Dame are determined to give you the straight truth on what’s going on in Hollywood, through four very diverse, yet completely feminist, lenses. That’s not to say, however, that we don’t fall into a thirst trap every now and then. So in one of our countless Slack sessions Lauren and Kim decided we should do a Citizen Dame 5 devoted to that thing we love best: male objectification. We don’t condone objectification regardless of sex, but considering how many centuries women have been dragged in front of the male gaze, we figured we’d attempt to even the scales. Feel free to give us your own thirst traps in the comments.
I might use “female gaze” a bit too heartily to justify my thirst for certain people. The five men assembled here have all left me clutching my pearls and I don’t care a whit. (By the way, honorable mention goes out to John Garfield for his perpetual half nakedness in 1939’s They Made Me a Criminal. Seriously, 1930s bathing suits worked for that man!)
Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank (2009)
Fish Tank is a movie that totally adheres to the female gaze. Directed by Andrea Arnold, it follows a fifteen-year-old English girl as she struggles to find her identity and her increasing interest in her mom’s new boyfriend, played by man you should expect to lure women from all corners of the globe, Michael Fassbender. Most gazes aren’t female, even though they’re on this list, because the male director is putting the male in a power position despite the sexual feelings the female audience might have. This is a fancy way of saying that Arnold’s camera gives us the view from her female protagonist. So when Fassbender’s character is first introduced, shirtless with a pair of perfectly placed jeans, it’s intentional for the camera to be where it is. The eyeline is the leading ladies and Fassbender is only there to convey lusty thoughts. The entire movie is dark and uncomfortable, but so damn good, and it all starts with some lady leering and strategically placed jeans.
Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
I know Brando was kinda sorta a terrible person, but back in the ’50s the man was the living embodiment of beauty. It’s amazing to realize that Streetcar Named Desire was his screen debut! As Stanley Kowalski the man is loud, garish, and a straight-up asshole. But he knows he’s pretty, and that’s what makes him so dangerous (and, dammit, attractive). He meets his sister-in-law Blanche (Vivien Leigh) after a long, hot day working and asks if he can “get comfortable.” He eventually decides to take his shirt off – which inspired men everywhere to start buying t-shirts en masse – and ladies everywhere swooned. I actually think this scene is hot before and after the shirt comes off, with Brando replying to Blanche’s comment that she never touches alcohol with “there’s some people that rarely touch it, but it touches them often.” Even later scenes are meant to give us glimpses at the female gaze, like the crooked smile he gives to Kim Hunter’s Stella. You seriously understand why some couples stay together despite all the crap, whether you agree or not.
Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Armie Hammer is a Greek god, pretty sure this has been definitively proven. Or at least it’s proven in Call Me By Your Name whose gaze, I argue, is pansexual. Whether you’re male, female, or otherwise the camera’s intent is to make you lust after Hammer’s Oliver. The shorty-short scenes aside, the camera always finds ways to look up at him, lingers on him, and lights him in a way that he gives off a golden halo. He literally freaking glows! But, of course, the lustiness is in every scene. The way he leans on things, lays on things, looks at things, is compelled to make you sweat…..can I watch this movie again?!
Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther (2018)
Remember my fancy analysis of the gaze at the top? I said because I think Black Panther is a prime example of how different genders misconstrue what “female gaze” is. Of course you all know I’m talking about Killmonger’s legendary “let me take my shirt off and fight” sequence. The distinction here, compared to Fish Tank, is how the gaze is implied. The camera wants to situate Killmonger as a tall, intimidating, aggressive figure. He’s in control; he has power, and the camera knows this. It doesn’t focus on his body to objectify it, but to revere it, especially considering what it ends up doing to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challah. That’s not to say though that it doesn’t drive me insane. I mean, this is a scene so sexy little girls’ retainers were being cracked! I believe it because it caused me to spontaneously fling my pen in the theater. Yes, I lost motor function for a second. Thanks Michael B. Jordan!
Oscar Isaac in Robin Hood (2010)
Robin Hood is not a good movie. It’s not even a good Oscar Isaac movie. He’s actually pretty bad in it. Very shouty, and his English accent leaves A LOT to be desired. That being said there is one scene, just one, I’m fairly confident Ridley Scott directed with me in mind. And that’s when our villain Prince John stands up in bed, in front of his mother of all people, stark naked. We get a bit of Oscar Isaac backside but I always smile at just how much this scene is all about “Ladies…..” It’s just reveling for the sake of it, more so for the character but you know the audience was into it. I wasn’t because I made fun of him for YEARS after this movie came out, but I still giggle every time I see it.
The thing about female gaze (or male objectification, whatever) is that in the scenes listed here (and by all of my colleagues), you get the sense that the men fully enjoy the fact that they are being objectified. They want you to look. They love that you’re looking. And that’s why I don’t feel bad about it. The difference is that it is appreciative, rather than exploitative. That is an VERY important distinction, folks.
Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
I was very determined to avoid using anyone that any of my ladies picked, but, come ON. It’s Brando at his very hottest. It’s easy to see why he became one of the most iconic stars of the ensuing decades. Regardless of what ultimately became of the guy in this photo.
ALL the Naval Aviators in Top Gun (1986)
If you know me at all, you were absolutely waiting for this scene. You know you were. I’ll just let Kenny Loggins (and Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, etc) do the talking for me.
Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park (1993)
We all know the ONLY reason this shot exists is so that 25-ish years later, we could have Sexy Jeff Goldblum memes.
Chris Pine in Wonder Woman (2017)
What’s so perfect about this scene is the way Patty Jenkins and Allan Heinberg wrote this scene so that it gives us plenty of gaze, but also gives us some insight into both Diana and Steve. It’s also very funny, beautifully lit, and endearing. You know what? Here, watch it again. You know you want to:
Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)
And if the beach volleyball scene was added to Top Gun just for the ladies, and if the Goldblum shot was added just for some sexiness, the entire EXISTENCE of Kevin in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is specifically created for gaze and we are here for it. Every scene he’s in is a great example, but I chose this image for the simple fact that Chris Hemsworth is so in on the running joke that he is actually holding up shirtless pictures of himself. Once again, it’s acceptable because it’s appreciation, NOT exploitation.
Paul Newman in The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
Paul Newman’s entire career is basically a catalogue of the female gaze, but The Long, Hot Summer and Sweet Bird of Youth most clearly showcase the actor’s sexuality and response to women…looking. Newman spends most of Summer gazing soulfully at Joanne Woodward, well aware that her “frigid” act is just an act. Newman’s Ben Quick is that heady combination of arrogant and passionate; he knows that he’s going to get the girl in the end, and what’s more, he really does want her. The scene where he stands on her balcony, arms stretched over his head, putting his body on display, and chuckling as she tries to resist looking? Well, holy shit, girl, if you don’t want him…
Clark Gable in It Happened One Night (1934)
Clark Gable’s notorious “stripping” scene in It Happened One Night supposedly inspired a generation of men to stop wearing undershirts. Thank God. The scene is played for laughs, as Gable makes jokes about “how a man undresses” while Claudette Colbert looks on, half in horror and half aroused. The scene is almost tame now, but there’s no denying that Gable is one fine figure of a man and that the camera really does appreciate him.
Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
If It Happened One Night made men take off their undershirts, A Streetcar Named Desire made them put ’em back on. Brando’s performance as the brutish and terrifyingly hot Stanley has now had generations to mature, and the screen still burns up when he appears. He struts, strips, and howls. He’s gorgeous and terrible. Do we understand why Stella is so obsessed with her husband? Hells yes. Is it horrifying when the film lays bare what kind of man he is? Also yes. I don’t know of any heterosexual woman who isn’t all kinds of confused by the end of Streetcar.
Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
Yes, my entire list is about classic film thirst. You wanna make something of it? Anyway: Tarzan. Johnny Weissmuller in a loin cloth for the entire film. He might not be very talkative, but he’s sweet and sexy and protective, and talking is overrated. Maureen O’Sullivan’s entire reaction to him is just to…look. And look again. And then she gets to touch.
Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Tyrone Power in ridiculously tight pants. That is all.
Steve Reeves in Hercules (1959)
Steve Reeves was my first Hercules… What was I saying? A career running around in little more than an itty-bitty toga for the entire movie. As Iole’s (Sylva Koscina) glance from the back says, a lady can’t help but look on in awe and wonder.
Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
My Marvel awakening. Y’all can keep your Iron Man’s and (I guess) your Thor’s. Steve Rogers is my adorable, 1940s jam. This entire sequence (as this screen cap demonstrates) caters quite directly to the female gaze. I mean, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) can’t help but sneak a little touch.
Charlie Cox in Daredevil (2015-)
I’m sneaking one more superhero on the list. The first season of Daredevil was a revelation for yours truly, and that’s not just because Charlie Cox looked like a badass. However, it didn’t help at all.
Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins in Supernatural (2005-)
Supernatural might as well be called “Female Gaze, the CW series.” These boys, clothed or not, are a smouldering feast for the eyes.
Robert Conrad in The Wild Wild West (1965-1969)
Sometimes you just have to fight crime without a shirt! It was between Clint Walker in Cheyenne and the joy that is Robert Conrad in The Wild Wild West for this final spot. The delightfully spunky Jim West won out by a pectoral.