The whole discussion of the Male Gaze in the DCEU came about by comparing Wonder Woman’s appearance in her own film, a financial and critical success with her appearance in Justice League, a critical and financial failure. The idea that not applying the Male Gaze to your characters alienates the audience is not borne out by the evidence.
Secondly, the Male Gaze does not state that “sexualisation is bad”, it says that in popular culture, women tend to be sexualised in a way that is attractive to men, but men are also sexualised in a way that is attractive to men, rather than women. A male character being shirtless does not invalidate the Male Gaze, it often confirms it.
This is bad for all genders - because, well -
The point the Male Gaze would argue - or more accurately that Laura Mulvey argued in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, and others built on in the intervening 42 years, is that Gal Gadot and Chris Evans’ appearances and portrayals in superhero movies are both products of the male gaze. And let’s leave Gadot aside for a second and talk about men.
Chris Evans is portrayed as a physical adonis in Captain America - the way the Camera pans over him when he comes out of Doctor Erskine’s machine is designed to make you in awe of him, and his now fucking huge muscles.
And this is not a movie that sexualises any women, but it’s still doing the Male Gaze right there. Compare it to the bus scene in Fight Club, when The Narrator calls out underwear models for their physique
Fight Club is at its core a critcism of what we now call Toxic Masculinity - which the Male Gaze would be considered part of - in that we as men have a set of social pressures pressing down on us that are at their core unfair and serve to exclude those of us who don’t match up - men don’t cry, we’re big and strong, we provide for our families, we like tits and explosions and sports and we don’t talk about our feelings.
(ignore for a second that the loudest contingent of Fight Club fans don’t understand the book or movie at all)
Lindsay Ellis, a film theorist and video essayist is in the middle of a deep dive into the Michael Bay Transformers movies and recently did a video on the Male Gaze and specifically how it’s used to idolise some men and demean others. If you have 15 minutes to spare I recommend it:
It’s worth noting as well that the idea that someone can’t talk about unrealistic/exceptional physiques unless they also posses them is quite reductive. It’s the same as demanding that someone make their own successful superhero movie before criticising one they don’t like. Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder put the effort in, after all. It’s also very unfair, as Gadot and Evans are able to afford the time and money it takes to cultivate and maintain that physique. Again, this isn’t an inherently bad thing, it’s part of their jobs just like I spend time and money to maintain my technical knowledge and expertise - but should my co-workers not be allowed to call me out when I underperform because they don’t know how to patch a network port?