The Role of Women in Luhrmann’s Films: Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Baz Luhrmann can be seen to have both evolved and devolved in certain aspects of his directing style. Regarding the role of women from Moulin Rouge! To The Great Gatsby, it can be argued that Baz has not evolved in his portrayal of women. From the similarities and contrasts of the main female characters in both films such as Satine and Daisy, through to the similarities and contrasts of side female characters such as Nini and Jordan, Luhrmann’s film techniques fail to display a change in the role of women through personality stereotypes, costume choice, and contrasting side characters, despite the films being made 12 years apart.

In Moulin Rouge!, Satine is constantly objectified and made out to be a prize amongst men. Baz’s film techniques in Satine’s opening scene such as the extreme zoom in on her face as the music halts and her voice is breathy, sets the intimate mood displaying her sex appeal almost immediately. Throughout Satine’s opening scene, the male gaze is set upon her both literally and figuratively, with all attention drawn only to her and her overly seductive moves. Baz’s choice of outfit and song such as ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ plays into the idea that Satine is merely a personification of materialism and is seen as a trophy to men as they constantly throw money at her as if bidding for a product. Myrtle of The Great Gatsby shares the stereotype with Satine that materialistic items are the only substance to a women and makes decisions purely based off of materialistic things. Both Myrtle of The Great Gatsby and Satine of Moulin Rouge! constantly have a type of red undertone with an item on them red whether it be their outfits or their lips. The use of the colour red when referring to Satine and Myrtle portrays their emotions of Passion and is also used as a signal of danger, which is appropriate in the context of these films as both women have to keep their love hidden.

With the opening camera angles being high when looking at Satine, it gives the viewer a sense of superiority reigning over her as we as the audience look down on her. The limited amount of eye level angles with men other than Christian proves how the viewers, who are portrayed as a stereotypical heterosexual cis man fails to see her as equal. Much like Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby also has its fair share of objectifying women. Daisy, the main female character is a complete stereotype of what a women is made out to be in a patriarchal society. Daisy is looked at as a prize to both Tom and Gatsby, with this being said they constantly compete for her throughout the movie as if competing for a trophy. In Daisy’s opening scene the first shot we get of her is a close up of her hand with her ring on it. This alludes to the stereotype of materialism and that being a basis of her marriage. The costume choice in both Moulin Rouge! And The Great Gatsby shows both females covered in diamonds adding onto to their ‘wealth’ which feeds the greed of the male gaze. Although Daisy and Satine share the same stereotypes, there are also many differences in the type of women they are portrayed to be.

Throughout majority of the film The Great Gatsby, Daisy is cast in a bright light with mainly white clothes symbolizing her innocence and beauty. Baz uses Daisy to portray a typical submissive, patriarchal women who fully depends on her husband and fails to provide more to her character other than her looks. This implies that women should be seen and not heard falling into the constant inequality females have had to deal with in the past and still deal with now. On the contrary Satine in Moulin Rouge! Is portrayed as the seductive, materialistic type of women which is also a great stereotype. Baz uses 2 contrasting portrayals of women yet still classifies them through stereotypes of what the man would want them to be like. The lighting Luhrmann uses when filming Satine is usually a dark colour with some sort of red constantly present. Both lighting techniques used to emphasize the females characters who seem to have no other traits but their beauty as seen in the films. The theme of the patriarchal women is present in both movies and is enhanced through certain characters. Although there are side characters who brake the stereotype by being confident and not afraid of saying what they think like Jordan and Nini. Baz fails to show his evolution as this side character who foils the main character is shown in both movies and ultimately does not influence the main female characters to break out of that stereotype at all.

Through Baz’s distinctive style of lighting, costume choice, camera shots and angles, and general composition, the role of women has stayed constant from Moulin Rouge! Through to The Great Gatsby through, stereotypes, costume choices and foil characters showing no progression in Baz Luhrmann’s portrayal of women and thus fails to show his evolution of directing styles over the 12 years.


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