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Uncharted and the Male Gaze on Male Characters (and on everyone else, really)

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

If like me you enjoy movies when they’re clever and entertaining but also funny and lighthearted, you might have been around the theater lately to watch the new Uncharted movie, starring well-known actor Tom Holland as the lead.

I like Tom Holland, I really do. Like most people, I discovered him in Captain America: Civil War by Marvel Studios, and fell a bit in love with him in Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’m also a bit in love with his girlfriend, Zendaya, for many reasons that should be in their own article. They’re great when on screen together.

I decided to watch Uncharted because I was interested to see our Spidey Boy get into some other clothes than his red costume. He gave me a good impression in In The Heart of the Sea (starring Chris Hemsworth and Cillian Murphy, directed by Ron Howard), and I was ready to give him another chance to prove that he is not “nothing without the suit!”

I texted a friend and asked him if he wanted to join. My friend was both excited and worried because it turned out that he is a great fan of the Uncharted franchise – yes, Uncharted is primarily a game! The first one came out in 2007 and the last one in 2017, developed by Naughty Dog Studios and Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation. The game (and the movie) follows Nathan Drake’s adventures as a young Indiana Jones seeking long-lost treasures with his partner and mentor (and brother figure?) Victor “Sully” Sullivan. They travel the world together, trying to resolve mysteries, as Nate Drake is supposedly the descendant of explorer Sir Francis Drake best known for his circumnavigation of the world back in the 16th century.

This is honestly the kind of story that would appeal to me – in truth I did not check the summary before I went. Anyhow, my friend and I went to the movies, had a huge bucket of popcorn and sodas, and we sat down in our comfy seats to watch.

We watched through the 1h56min of the movie. I went to the restroom once (which never happens usually), and my friend went too. He also spent some time on his phone, and to be honest, I cannot blame him.

Boy! What a disappointment. I wasn’t really expecting anything, but still. Tom Holland is great, loving his accent, and it seems like he’s genuinely having fun. Same for his partner, Mark Wahlberg, and the cast looked great. No need to blame the actors for this one. They did their best.

The one I’m blaming here is the director. Ruben Fleischer is not unknown to the big screen, having already directed Zombieland and Venom, which are two movies I genuinely enjoyed! So what happened with Uncharted?

Well, male gaze all over the movie, that’s what happened. Or maybe fitting too much in the cliché franchise movie that was pressured by video game fans to, somehow, make a full 20 hour game into a 2 hour movie. Who knows? The story in itself is not terrible, if just basic and rehashed. Issues were predictable, resolutions just as much, nothing very fancy here, but I could have gotten along with it because I wasn’t expecting much more. What I was not expecting, however, is to be shown so many points of view that just made me uncomfortable and wonder, “Why do we have to see that?”

I said I really like Tom Holland. It’s not a lie, and I’d even say he’s cute, for sure! But do I look like I care about his abs? We get it, he trained, he’s ripped – he played a superhero! So was the 5 minute scene of him training half-naked in his New York flat (which my friend’s been wondering how he could afford with his bartender salary), for a job that he agreed to do out of nowhere (just because his not-yet mentor Sully reminded him of his long-lost brother), really necessary? Not to mention the incoherence of this, but I find it very tiring how bodies seem to be shown in movies with equal fascination and sexualization when, really, I didn’t need that. I get it, Tom Holland is in the lead role, and he makes all the girls and boys go “ah!” but, really? He doesn’t need his abs for that, just his smile! Or that amazing video of him performing to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in lip sync battle! 

Why call it the male gaze then, since this is usually used to consider how women are perceived in the media? Well because here, clearly, the director thought that this is how women wanted to see Tom Holland. Like a reverse male gaze, the portrayal of the actor is seen through the view of what women would want – except that we don’t want that. Just like we don’t want our bodies to be exposed for the sake of satisfying the male audience, we don’t want male bodies to be handed to us like pieces of meat, just to hear men say that “it’s all we care about.” The toxic masculinity of such perceptiveness is wrong and should be evicted from movies and media in general.

Not to mention how the female characters of this movie are treated on top of that. Sure, Tati Gabrielle (Jo Braddock) and Sophia Taylor Ali (Chloe Frazer) are both amazing women of color, and they even interact together! Once. To threaten each other. But they’re still sexualized (unnecessary bikinis for Ali) and/or looked down upon (Gabrielle is the antagonist and keeps failing in ridiculous ways).

This male gaze and misogynistic point of view could be summed up with the last scene of the movie only. Basically, just two straight white men having the time of their lives making fun of everyone else: they’re in their copter, gold in their pockets, smiles on their face, alive and not even bruised (despite having fought with killers for half an hour, but I know I’m asking too much from a blockbuster action movie). Their last laugh is about Ali, who’s been looking everywhere to find the treasure and was completely out of the picture for the final combat scene. She’s standing up in her very fancy boat and wearing her very fancy bikini, and looking up to see them fly away, she mutters an insult. But it’s too late: Holland and Wahlberg leave, laughing because they wronged her again, and she will never reach out to them. Honestly, was that necessary? I know that she’s not part of the games and that the movie had to show how Nate Drake and Sully become partners, but there was no need to ridicule her like that. They could have made a team and split up later. That wouldn’t be so hard to make work, allowing the focus to still be on Drake and Sully.

It is all the more ironic that the movie tries to show you a depiction of trust – and Drake keeps scolding Sully for not being able to trust him, and yet, he is eventually becoming just like Scully by misleading Chloe when they could have certainly worked together to obtain the same results.

In all, I was more disappointed than enthusiastic when I got out of the movie theater. My friend keeps saying that the games are better though, and I think he’s right on this one. Dro, if you read this, I’m ready to play Uncharted now. 

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Tina Varutti

Gettysburg '22

History & English major, Tina wants to be a teacher, a writer, a historian, and a car racer all at once.
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