Publication Date

Spring 5-7-2023

Document Type


First Advisor

Sandberg, Brian

Degree Name

B.S. (Bachelor of Science)


Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality| Department of Communication| Department of History


Film and reality often play off of each other and shape the way in which we view the world. That being said, it’s important to understand how film and genres shift with changes in society. Especially since younger generations often use the internet and film as a way to view the world: it is important to understand the portrayals they experience through the screen. World War II espionage thrillers have been around since the war itself and films continue to be made depicting this historical era. Although WWII spy and intelligence films can be considered their own genre, they arguably still fall under the larger umbrella of WWII films in general. Thusly, tropes and themes within a larger body of WWII films often carry over into the subgenre, including gender-related tropes and themes. In recent years, espionage films have tried to break female characters out of stock typologies, two notable examples being Female Agents (2008) and A Call to Spy (2019). These films succeed in reimagining a number of tropes, but many underlying themes related to women maintain conventional gender stereotypes. My research examines Female Agents, Black Book (2006), Enigma (2001), A Call to Spy, Allied (2016) and The Imitation Game (2014) in the context of a broader body of WWII espionage films in order to analyze changing gender representations and stereotypes in contemporary historical film. The films were grouped up into two: one group of films from the early 2000’s to represent war film before the fourth wave of feminism, and the other consisting of films from the late 2010’s, after the movement's conclusion. This study examines both visual and thematic changes across the two groups in relation to values associated with fourth wave feminism such as: diversification of feminism, a greater focus on female ability instead of oppression, redefining womanhood, and focusing on ways women are communicated in media. It was discovered that the more recent films do, in fact, depict women in a way that is more in line with these values. Women on screen are given more agency, are less stereotyped, are more diverse in background, goals, and race, and have less ties to traditional feminine roles. They are more active characters, breaking free from the overly sexualized male gaze. Overall, this study aims to detect patterns and contradictions in WWII espionage film’s portrayals of women, gender, and cultural constructs in relation to modern feminism.