Disciplining Feminine Performing Bodies in Stephen Norrington’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)


  • Phillip Zapkin Pennsylvania State University


adaptation, feminism, gender performance, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore, Stephen Norrington, Kevin O'Neill, queer, sexuality, steampunk


Stephen Norrington’s film version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) encodes a reified depiction of gender roles, punishing characters who blur boundaries between male and female gender performance. The primary non-conforming characters are Mina Harker and Dorian Gray. Gray’s death scene exemplifies his campy femininity and her penetrative masculinity: after Gray stabs Harker with his (phallic) sword cane, she in turn stabs him, putting him in the feminised position of being (sexually) penetrated. Harker and Gray’s relationship might suggest a condemnation of queer identities/sexualities, except that the eroticised homosocial relationship between Allan Quatermain and Tom Sawyer is presented positively. The ‘manly’ Quatermain and Sawyer are rewarded for their gender performance: Quatermain dies heroically, while Sawyer kills the bad guy. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen thus reveals an on-going challenge for queer neo-Victorianism: to avoid re-encoding Victorian gender and sexuality binaries and hierarchies that still shape patriarchal and heteronormative repression.