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Laura Mulvey-Feminism & The Male Gaze Theory

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Airmeen Arif

on 18 November 2013

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Transcript of Laura Mulvey-Feminism & The Male Gaze Theory

Male Gaze Theory
She was famously known for her article
“Visual and other Pleasures”
that helped shift the orientation of film theory towards a psychoanalytic framework, influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Prior to Mulvey, film theorists such as Jean-Louis Baudry and Christian Metz attempted to use psychoanalytic ideas in their theoretical accounts of the cinema, but Mulvey's contribution was to inaugurate the intersection of film theory, psychoanalysis, and feminism.
Her article revealed classic Hollywood film as an expression of the patriarchal ideology.Where the view can be offered identification by one of the characters (e.g. a male character), through which to experience the scenes. The
‘gaze’
is ‘constructed’ by the film. Mulvey takes the stance that the gaze of a male heterosexual is increasingly adopted by the mainstream cinema. This is when film directors represent woman as sexual objects and therefore in some way or another all films with women in are directed at men.She believes that the ‘male gaze’ dominates the ‘female gaze’ in this way. Mulvey argues that the relationship between the viewer and what is on screen is unbalanced by this.
Laura Mulvey-Feminism & The Male Gaze Theory
Visual and Other Pleasures (Language, Discourse, Society) (Mar 17, 2009)
Citizen Kane (BFI Film Classics) (Sep 4, 2012)
Jimmie Durham (Contemporary Artists) by Editors of Phaidon Press (Oct 19, 1995)
are books written by her.

The person ‘gazed’ at are objectified – treated as an object whose sole value is to be enjoyed or possessed by the
voyeur
(voyeuristic is the mode of the male gaze - an obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects). Objectified characters( such as women) are devalued and their humanity is removed and may encourage women to see this is as the hegemonic norm for the benefit of men.On the other hand
Fetishism
is another mode of the male gaze which is an excessive attention or attachment to something. According to Mulvey Hollywood female characters of the 1950s and 60s were coded with “to-be-looked-at-ness”.
Three parts to the Male Gaze
Men tend to look at the ‘curvy parts’ of women. Like the idea that men don’t tend to look women in the eyes,but at other parts of their bodies . (Camera in films sometimes focuses more on the women’s bodies)
Men looking at women
Women looking at themselves
Some have argued that the female gaze is only whereby women act as men in their objection of others.Women are made to look at themselves in a negative way,picking fault with parts of their appearance when they see how women look in the media;when they have been airbrushed. It triggers a lack of self esteem and makes women aspire to be like models in magazines or on TV. Women become reflective.
Men are often represented as active and women as passive.
Camera lingering on the curves of the female body.
Anything that happens to a woman is presented largely in the man’s reactions to this event.
The film degrades the woman to the extent of making her an object or possession. Moreover female roles are sidelined and scarce lead roles.
Female viewers must experience the narrative secondarily by identification with the male
The gaze suggests that women are weak and defenseless.

Stereotypes
attached to women are Bimbo,easy,weak,housewife,mother,defenseless,intelligent yet willing to settle down.

Hitchcock was known as controlling director, particularly when it came to women. His female characters reflected the same qualities over and over again . They were :

Blond
Icy and remote
They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism
They were mesmerized their men, who often has psychological problems
Sooner or later they were humiliated/ killed

Movie making and movie viewing have long been analyzed as socophilic practices (which literally means ‘love of watching’). The term socophilia derives from Freud’s study of the psyche.
Socophilia and the gaze are key themes of Hitchcock’s work-especially in Vertigo.The main characters are a detective (who watches others without their knowledge ) and an actress of sorts (judy/Madeleine) whose role is to be watched by Scotty

TV serial "Two and a Half Men" episode
Starring Megan FOX
Mid-shot/close-up shot of Prudence Shots focus on her looks and figure
Clothing-revealing/figure hugging
Charlie and Alan-Men are literally drooling over her
Staring at prudence….cant keep their eyes off her
Even Jake (young boy) is shown looking at Prudence….implies all men treat women like objects

Criticism
Critics of the article objected to the fact that her argument implied the impossibility of genuine 'feminine' enjoyment of the classical Hollywood cinema, and to the fact that her argument did not seem to take into account spectator ships that were not organized along the normative lines of gender (for example, a metaphoric 'transvestism' might be possible when viewing a film -- a male viewer might enjoy a 'feminine' point-of-view provided by a film, or vice versa; gay and lesbian spectatorships might also be different).
Changes In Society
As women's roles change so does media representation. Still objectified but also likely to be…
Career driven
Intelligent
Confident
Empowered
Able (violent)
Remember changes may be made cynically and in order to make money rather than change ideologies
A Terminators Feminist Timeline
T1 – Sarah Connor is hysterical, screaming, in need of rescue
T2 – Strong, empowered, able to hold her own against Arnie
T3 – We have female terminator TX (uses femininity to advantage)
Terminator: Sarah Connor chronicles – save the world

However movies and TV still continue to portray women as weak and helpless. Hollywood hasn't progressed much with how it characterizes women; women are scripted to be weak, easily frightened, crying, shrieking, screaming, sobbing, hysterical and never able to throw a decent punch.

Ever see the character
Ripley
in "
Alien
"? That sure threw the audience for a loop: a woman grabbing a man at the collar and ramming him up against a wall. And she wasn't even bionic! Gasp! I thought this scene would be the start of a whole new trend for Hollywood writers. But sadly, it had no effect, and Hollywood has since continued to portray women as weak, whimpering, retreating and crying

Like most common scenes are:
Man grabs woman by upper arm. Woman exclaims, "You're hurting me!" (Err, isn't that the idea?)


Man suddenly appears from around corner. Woman gasps and exclaims, "You scared me!"
Man and woman are arguing. Man's voice raises and he steps towards her. Woman backs up. Man continues slowly moving towards her (no weapons, by the way, not even a raised fist) and woman continues backing away.

Hollywood heroines are being increasingly portrayed as neurotic, idiotic and obsessed by men, weight and weddings, a professor at Oxford University has claimed.
Dr Diane Purkiss argued that over the past five decades the film industry has made its female characters "dumber and dumber". The latest slew of chick-flicks, including He's Just Not That Into You and Confessions of a Shopaholic, fall prey to the "worst kind of regressive, pre-feminist stereotype of misogynistic cliche," she added.
Purkiss points to the shortlist for leading actress at the Bafta awards. Moreover there have been some suggestions that some artists objectify themselves as a fashion statement as they strive to become an icon. Lady gaga and Katy perry are perfect example of this.They play with and create crude innuendos through such explicit sexual content.Although this is sometimes used for a humorous/iconic effect.

Misogyny
is also the reason of women representation in media, which is the contempt or hatred of women and girls.
Women looking at women
Women can look it other in a sexual way.But mainly they judge and compare themselves to other girls. E.g. looking at what another girl is wearing and then comparing it to your own clothing.
Inane decline: Female leads like this one played by Jennifer Aniston (alongside Ben Affleck) in He's Just Not That Into You are getting 'dumber and dumber'
Changing times: Characters like Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellweger) were less intelligent than characters of the golden age portrayed by Audrey Hepburn
Light and fluffy: Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic
Laura Mulvey is a British feminist film theorist and film maker and currently professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck College, University of London.Between 1974 and 1982 Mulvey co-wrote and co-directed with her husband , Peter Wollen , six theoretical style films ,dealing in the discourse of feminist theory,semiotics , psychoanalysis and leftist politics which include Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons (1974), Riddles of the Sphinx(1977 - perhaps their most influential film), AMY! (1980), Crystal Gazing (1982), Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (1982), and The Bad Sister. In 1991, she returned to filmmaking with Disgraced Monuments, which she co-directed with Mark Lewis.
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