Looking for the Arab Superheroine: Layla El-Faouly, Marvel’s Moon Knight, and the Imperial Gaze


  • Zvonimir Prtenjača Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek




Arab women, gender stereotypes, imperial gaze, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight, superheroine


Seen through Hollywood’s colonialist and masculinist lenses, the Arab woman is exoticized as a veiled, taunting belly dancer, eroticized as a licentious slave concubine confined to a harem, and monstrified as an alluring temptress or a conniving terrorist. Excluded from any possibility of a dialectical response, this Othered damsel in distress is reduced to a commodity first gazed upon and then (ab)used by the Western man. But, what happens when the Arab woman returns the Westerner’s voyeuristic and fetishistic gaze and avoids his gendered stereotypes? This paper pursues the answer to that question by scrutinizing Layla El-Faouly’s depiction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s sixth television series, Moon Knight (2022), wherein the Egyptian explorer, archaeologist adventurer, and superheroine engages in what E. Ann Kaplan terms “the looking relation” (1997, xviii, original emphasis) with the overzealous American leader of the Disciples of Ammit, Arthur Harrow. The paper traces Layla on her “complex intellectual/psychic journey” through Harrow’s “objectifying imperialist gaze,” concluding that she effects the “renewing process of inter-racial looking relations” (Kaplan 1997, 14) for the Arab woman by refusing to be perceived as voiceless, passive, and foreign.


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How to Cite

Prtenjača, Z. (2023). Looking for the Arab Superheroine: Layla El-Faouly, Marvel’s Moon Knight, and the Imperial Gaze. REDEN. Revista Española De Estudios Norteamericanos, 5(1), 4–24. https://doi.org/10.37536/reden.2023.5.2236



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