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Film Studies 102 - Feminism and Marxism

U26 LO1 Lecture for 2nd year Media students

Scott Hayden

on 8 December 2017

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Transcript of Film Studies 102 - Feminism and Marxism

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
Theories 4 and 5 (of 7) for LO1
To understand and apply 2 more of the 7 theories for your Film Tutorial LO1 Assignment

1. Understood and applied Feminist film theory to a film example

2. Understood and applied Marxist film theory to a film example
Feminist film theory was influenced by second wave feminism.

1. First wave feminism was suffragettes

2. Second wave feminism was 60's/ 70's activists and the development of women's studies within education.
Marx argued that the history of society is the history of class struggle:

Freeman V Slave
Patrician V Plebeian
Lord V Serf
Oppressor V Oppressed
Bourgeoisie V Proletariat
Upper/Middle-Class V Working Class

These oppositions lead to a fight that each time has ended in either a revolutionary rebuilding of society or the ruin of the classes
In CAPITALISM the struggle is between...


Marx believed it was because Capitalism keeps people docile and happy with.....
Marxism goes against Capitalism.

Marx wanted us to look closely at what we 'take for granted' as 'natural'

Marx insists that we look at the hidden and disguised power structures that we 'live by'
Marxist film theory is one of the oldest forms of film theory.

Sergei Eisenstein and many other Russian filmmakers in the 1920s expressed ideas of Marxism through film.

The big complaints that the Russian filmmakers had was with the narrative structure of Hollywood filmmaking that pushed capitalist ideas.
Feminist film theorists like Laura Mulvey (male gaze theory) analysed how the women portrayed in film related to the broader patriachal historical context.
In his essay from The Imaginary Signifier, "Identification, Mirror," Christian Metz argues that viewing film is only possible through SCOPOPHILIA (pleasure from looking, related to voyeurism), which is best exemplified in silent film.
Mulvey went further and said that the female spectator is forced to agree with the male viewpoint (the Male Gaze) to enjoy a film.

In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics have pointed to the "male gaze" predominates in classical Hollywood film-making.
Laura Mulvey's influential essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (written in 1973 and published in 1975) expands on the PASSIVE role of women in cinema to argue that film provides visual pleasure through SCOPOPHILIA, and identification with the on-screen male actor.
Mulvey identifies three "looks" or perspectives that occur in film which serve to sexually objectify women.

1 = You watch the film through the eyes of the male character on screen and how he perceives the female character.

2 = You watch the film through the eyes of the male audience as they see the female character on screen.

3 = Joining the first two looks together: it is the male audience member's perspective of the male character in the film.

This third perspective allows the male audience to take the female character as his own personal sex object because he can relate himself, through looking, to the male character in the film.
Mulvey's argument comes as a product of the time period in which she was writing.

"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" was composed during the period of second-wave feminism, which was concerned with achieving equality for women in the workplace, and with exploring the psychological implications of sexual stereotypes.
Mulvey believes that Female spectators are encouraged to identify with the male characters/ observer rather than the female object of the gaze.

However, there are some thinkers like B. Ruby Rich who argue that women filter the images and messages they receive through cinema, and reprocess them to create their own meanings.

Coming from a black feminist perspective, bell hooks put forth the notion of the “oppositional gaze,” encouraging black women not to accept stereotypical representations in film, but rather actively critique them.

Janet Bergstrom’s article “Enunciation and Sexual Difference” (1979) uses Sigmund Freud’s ideas of bisexual responses, arguing that women are capable of identifying with male characters and men with women characters, either successively or simultaneously.

Carol Clover, in her popular and influential book "Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film" (Princeton University Press, 1992) argues that young male viewers of the Horror Genre (young males being the primary demographic) are quite prepared to identify with the female-in-jeopardy, a key component of Horror narrative, and to identify on an unexpectedly profound level.

Clover further argues that the "Final Girl" in the psychosexual sub-genre of Exploitation Horror invariably triumphs through her own resourcefulness, and is not by any means a passive, or inevitable, victim.
The growing female presence in the film industry since the 70's is seen as a positive step toward realising stronger representations of women.
Claire Johnston put forth the idea that women’s cinema is changing our views of women roles in our culture.

By making audiences conscious of the means of production and opposition of sexist ideologies, films made by women have the potential to posit an alternative to traditional Hollywood films.

It is key to "encourage audiences to critique the seemingly transparent images on the screen and to question the manipulative techniques of filming and editing".
What is a feminism?

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.
Feminist film theory explores films and how the producers and directors use the structures/ mechanisms of cinema eg the stereotypes depicted, the extent to which the women were shown as active or passive, and the amount of screen time given to women.

Does it affect the representation of women and reinforce sexism?
Budd Boetticher summarises the view thus:

"What counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does.

In herself the woman has not the slightest importance."
Mulvey argues:

"In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness," and as a result contends that in film a woman is the "bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning."
Laura Mulvey argued that the heterosexual female spectator can take two possible roles when watching a film:

1 = a masochistic identification with the female object of desire that is ultimately self-defeating

2 = or a transsexual identification with men as the active viewers of the text.

Miriam Hanson, in “Pleasure, Ambivalence, Identification: Valentino and Female Spectatorship” (1984) put forth the idea that women are also able to view male characters as erotic objects of desire.

Please spend the next 5 minutes tidying up your notes in Google Drive

Add an example that you could use with this theory
#mediastudentdebate ACTIVITY

Please tweet your response to these questions....

What does it mean to be a Feminist in 2017?
Are you a Feminist? Explain why you are/ aren't.
Marxist film theory has developed from its precise and historical beginnings and is now viewed in a wider way to refer to any power relationships or structures within a moving image text.
We live in a Capitalist economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production.

The goal is always 'making a profit'.
Capitalism means that investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations.....

The big guys own the means of wealth.

The rest of us work to get some of that wealth.
Marx asked people to question the disguises that rendered perfectly natural an economic means of production that is actually unfair and un-natural

Why do we, the 99%, work our lives to get money from the 1% who own everything?
However, supporters of Capitalism say it is more than a system which promotes greed while making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Capitalism promotes individualism, freedom and provides opportunity for big dreamers.
Capitalism creates innovators, pioneers and philanthropists.

Some argue that it is the fairest economic and social system mankind has ever created.

It allows people to go out and make something of themselves, to grab opportunities and change their lives.
It is fair to say that many Hollywood films promote a Capitalist message/ Ideology

After all - the USA is a Capitalist country.
Now we see Marxist/ anti-capitalist ideas expressed in many US films.

Although this is of course difficult in Hollywood as America is a capitalist country.

(Foreign films have expressed anti-capitalist sentiments more freely over the last few decades)
Anti-consumerist messages and Marxist ideas are present in many films.

If you look in to Marxism for one of your two theories for LO1 you need to explain them.
The philosophy of Karl Marx states that the concept of class struggle plays a central role in our lives.

Marx believed that society would inevitably develop from the oppression of the poor under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society.
We are currently living at a time when the capitalist system has failed some of us (Banking crisis of 2008).

Some are questioning the way things are.
Due to the rise of the internet we all have a voice and do not have to go along with ideology of corporations to get seen

Marx might have liked that


Marxists beg to differ
Work hard = Reward
Fighting against the odds
Rags to Riches
Buying things = Happiness
The American Dream
The idea that money could be earned by working class people if they work hard is now being questioned again...
This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

A feminist is a supporter of the rights and equality of women
In the US in the early 1970s a lot of sociological theory focused on the function of women characters in particular film narratives or genres and of stereotypes as a reflection of a society's view of women.
PATRIACHAL - (rule by fathers) is a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organisation and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children.
MALE GAZE THEORY - in a film the audience (male or female) is invited to see the world through and agree with the view of a heterosexual male ideology.

Laura Mulvey believed that in classic Hollywood films we see a world view that suits only straight men
Can you name a single film that passes the Bechdel test?

Please post image/ vid examples in the FEMINISM Padlet

Are there 2 or more females with names?
Do they talk to each other?
Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
In "The Master's Dollhouse: Rear Window," Tania Modleski argues that Hitchock's film, Rear Window, is an example of the power of male gazer and the position of the female as a prisoner of the "master's dollhouse".
Karl Marx
Please post what you consider to be sexist/ cliched FILM representations of females in the Padlet
Masochistic - a person who is gratified by pain, degradation, that is self-imposed or imposed by others. A person who finds pleasure in self-denial, submissiveness, etc.
Transsexual - a person having a strong desire to assume the physical characteristics and gender role of the opposite sex.
Please post positive representations of females in film in the Padlet
Please post any film examples with Marxist themes eg questioning the Capitalist way/ showing Revolution/ anti-Consumerism in to our Padlet
Can you post pics/ vids/ name any films that promote this Capitalist theme/ message in our Padlet?
Full transcript