The Gaze and History of the Discovery of Cinema
The following are assigned articles for the next meeting. I will conduct oral recitations in the next classes based on the these articles:
Some of the topics here were already discussed previously, this will be part of the midterm examinations.
(2) Notes on "The Gaze" by Daniel Chandler (Click to download)
You must read also the original text "The Gaze" written by Laura Mulvey, she is a British feminist film theorist. You can look for the Ms. Mulvey's article here.
- What is "the gaze" exactly? -- describes the act of looking; began as the study of the objectification of women in visual texts.
- How does it impact women in particular?
- What are some of the issues involved in discussing "the gaze"?
- the objectification of women-- seen as objects
- the commonality of female nudity -- display implies subordination
- internalization of the gaze, changes women's perceptions of themselves and makes them think of themselves as objects
- shift to objectification as a source of pleasure (for both the looker and the looked-at)
- men as the dominant group have been the looker (the subjects; women the objects)
- ties back to another aspect of the feminist critique of Freud-- the degree to which Freudian theory is based on visual dynamics
Outline of Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
a) A Political Use of Psychoanalysis
- Film reflects the language of patriarchy by being bound up in the same story of sexual difference that all patriarchy is founded on. In film women is seen as Other, as an object not a subject. In a way she represents the unconscious of the male because she is always the object he is looking at and never is able to speak for herself.
- Phallocentrism -- a world view which sees the penis (symbolic and otherwise) as the defining center of meaning. In other words-- there is a central, stable meaning to things; that meaning is defined largely by men who associate their power to name and define and control reality with their masculinity.
- Symbolic Order -- the realm of meaning controlled by the Law of the Father (in Lacan's theorizing): the language of patriarchy. As opposed (by Kristeva) to the Imaginary -- the primal language of connection associated with pre-Oedipal bonding with the mother.
b) Destruction of Pleasure as a Radical Weapon
- Hollywood film reflects the dominant ideology of their culture. We get our pleasure from films from this presentation of the erotic. If we learn to make films which do not encode these ideologies, a lot of people will lose their pleasure in looking at film.
- Mise-en-scene means staging an action. It is historically to do with directing plays, and became later to do with film to express how the material in the frame is directed.
II. PLEASURE IN LOOKING/ FASCINATION WITH THE HUMAN FORM
- a) Film satisfies this primal pleasure we all get from looking at other people.
Voyeuristic scopophilia --
- b) Narcissistic scopophilia is looking at other people as seeing them as surrogates for yourself. We also identify with people in movies. So there is a tension here between the sense of power we get from observing others as separate from ourselves and the pleasure we get in imagining that we are the people we are looking at.
- c) tension between these impulses-- to see others as separate and to identify with them
a) Split between male, active gaze which looks and female passivity which is looked upon. Women are always on display in film. Seen as objects of sexual desire; this is transformed into exhibitionism. Visual presence of female tends to stop the story line to dwell on the image.
diegesis -- "In a narrative film, the world of the film's story. The diegesis includes events that are presumed to have occurred and actions and spaces not shown onscreen. "
Why are so many women in film showgirls, strippers, etc.
b) Gender split carries over into narrative of film--men carry the story, make things happen, while woman remains the icon.
c1) Problems with woman as icon:
c1a) voyeurism -- sadistic desire to punish woman for her lack
c1b) fetishistic scopophilia -- builds up beauty of woman in order to compensate for anxiety
C2) Examples: Sternberg's Dietrich films show fetishism. Hitchcock--SUMMARY
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The following will be asked during the oral recitation in the next class/ sessions. Please read the article “Notes on the Gaze” by Daniel Chandler.
a. Why does viewing a recorded image have a voyeuristic dimension?
b. What is the difference between a gaze and a look?
c. Why does a gaze of indirect address represent an offer?
d. Why does a gaze of direct address represent a demand?
e. Why do glamour photographers enhance their photographs by dilating the pupil of their models?
f. Why is it common for male models to look off or up?
g. Why do actors in conventional narrative film gaze very rarely directly at the camera?
h. Why is peripheral gaze more common to Asians?
i. Why is an expert presented in a profile or in an interview rather than in a direct gaze?
j. What is the intention of seeing the back of a depicted person?
k. Why does a frontal portrait have been associated with the working class?
l. In Michael Watson’s study what group of people chose to stand closest together? What group stood farthest apart from each other?
m. Why is BCU seldom used for important figures? – BCUs may emphasize interviewee’s tension, guilt, may suggest lying?
n. Why does the camera turn the depicted person into an object, thus distancing viewer and viewed?
o. What is photographic seeing? Why is it a “controlling gaze”?
p. Why is it the voyeuristic mode of gazing more intense for the cinema spectator than television viewer?
q. What constitutes the suspension of disbelief? – Identification of the viewer with the camera: my eyes are the camera.
r. Why does the film spectator re-enact the “mirror image” of Jacques Lacan? Why does a camera become a tool of self-reflection and surveillance?
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