‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Isn’t The Feminist Blockbuster You’re Looking For

Girl power is so hot right now.

The new trailer for Alita: Battle Angel emphasizes more girl power than the teaser trailer released back in December.

The new trailer focuses more on the female protagonist in action than a distressed damsel in love. While the changes seem like something feminists might applaud, it’s no less informed by the male gaze, it’s just that the men making Alita like hot girls who fight.

The added girl power isn’t the only noticeable change. In the new trailer for producer James Cameron’s (Avatar, Titanic) and director Robert Rodriguez’s (Sin City) cyberpunk action flick, the female cyborg’s creepily huge doe eyes have been scaled back to slightly less creepily huge. Instead of Alita telling her love interest “I’d do whatever I had to for you” we see additional scenes of her in combat.

I’m not mad about the tonal shift in the trailers but I am hesitant to praise Cameron and Rodriguez for the changes. Sure, women in action is better than women having action done to them by men, but the whole thing still reeks of the male gaze. The movie was originally slated for a July release but was delayed until December for unclear reasons. Given the content changes in the new trailer, they might be trying to appeal to the woman who packed theaters for Wonder Woman and The Last Jedi by foregrounding the movie’s feminism-friendly aspects. Of course, noting that both Cameron and Rodriguez historically like hot, half-naked, armed women, it might not be an intentional appeal to the girl power crowd so much as a manifestation of the filmmakers’ shared fetish for sexy women with guns.

Last August, Cameron came under fire for suggesting Wonder Woman is too femme to be feminist. He compared her to Sarah Connor in his Terminator 2: Judgement Day, to him more badass because she had dirt in her hair and wielded big cannons. The trailer rework could simply be an extension of his and director Rodriguez’s sexual preferences. Rodriguez also directed Sin City, a comic book adaptation overflowing with nudity and gore. Both men love dirty, fightin’ women so long as they’re thin and hot; in the case of Alita, unearthly thin with unreasonably big eyes. With her inhuman proportions and combat skills, she’s everything both men like in a woman.

I’m all too familiar with male creators trying to distract me from their sexism with throwaway lines like “I’m with her” (from the new trailer, spoken by her male love interest). She’s still created by and for men: her father figure who rescues her from rubble, her love interest who mansplains the dangers of street life, the men in the audience of the movie theater.

Male filmmakers like Rodriguez and Cameron create strong women based on the type of characters they’d like to fuck. That’s not feminist.