February 10


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Mise-en-scène (notes)

Week 5-

– READ: Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema”

  • ___________leads discussion

And New Lesbian Film (Anat Pick) Chapter 8 (NQC)

– In class discuss: Women and cinema: pleasure, spectacle, narrative, and objectification

– RJ: What are the linchpins of Mulvey’s argument?  What is its value? In what ways does Mulvey overstate her argument?  What is the value of overstatement?  How can we envision her “radical cinema”? How does this work in High Art?

– Screening of Hairspray (dir. John Waters, 1988, 92 min) after class.

– Screen together for 2/17: My Own Private Idaho (dir. Gus Van Sant, 1991, 104 min)

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15 Responses to February 10

  1. Alyx Smagacz says:

    Mulvey explains the views of women and how the gaze of men forms the woman’s being. She overstates her argument by explaining all of the different ways that this has been followed through while growing up; when the baby forms the ego by noticing itself in the mirror. She goes through the sexual aspects of the act of watching a movie, or something on the screen and how that could be the natural sexual curiosity of humans. She goes through the roles of men and women in different movies as examples and shows how dominating the male role is and if there is ever a woman who might seem to be dominant, once she falls in love with the man, she falls under his domination, by force, or naturally. She points out how the woman is always seen as the sexual object, something to be looked at. This is shown through the examples given from the different films. From her argument it seems that it this obsession to watch makes people watch these movies and by doing so, the movies reinforce the male dominance between the genders.

  2. Elyse Kraft says:

    The linchpins of Mulvey’s argument are that we live in a phallocentric, patriarchal world and this representation is present in our unconscious. Mulvey begins by noting that psychoanalysis can be used as “political weapon” to understand how phallocentrism is reinforced. In the status quo, women represent the threat of castration and this threat contributes to the unconscious understanding of women. Since we are in a patriarchal culture, women are “tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning” and this pattern is seen in film. Mulvey’s argument is also held together by the idea of cinema reinforces the dominant, patriarchal “obsessions of the society which produced it”. This means that films have “coded the erotic” and the only way to destroy it is through destroying this pleasure in film and creating a “total negation of the ease and plentitude of narrative fiction film”. Mulvey proposes a “new language of desire” instead. Mulvey notes cinema offers pleasure to people through the opportunity to look at others and can help promote the “illusion of voyeuristic separation”. Cinema also fulfills the narcissistic aspect of looking because of the identification one feels with the character and the long “love affair/despair between image and self-image”. These contradictions between ego and libido show pleasure of using a person as “an object of sexual simulation through sight” and through an identification with the people seen in the film. Mulvey’s last point focuses on women as passive and males as active. Mulvey notes that women in film are frequently seen as passive, erotic objects whose “visual presence tends to work against the development of the story line” for spectators and the other men in the film. The fact that women do not have a penis and their presence leads to castration anxiety which can only be removed through voyeurism or fetishistic socophilia.

    The value of Mulvey’s discussion of the patriarchal unconscious that are encouraged through narrative film is that it discusses the value of the pleasure derived from film. By noting the power the of the form of cinema combined with the unconscious understanding by spectators, Mulvey notes what must be challenged in order to reassess the pervading female image. It is possible that Mulvey overstates her argument with the examples that discuss the “pleasures in looking/fascination with the human form”. In this section, each element that causes the voyeurism and socophilia is noted in addition to the contradictions in these aspects of looking at the “cinematic situation”. This was present to reiterate the psychoanalytic lens with which cinema was examined and to connect the point back to the castration complex.
    Mulvey’s view of “radical cinema” can be envisioned through breaking down the “cinematic codes and their relationship to formative external structures”. The “looks” associated with cinema must all be present including the “camera as it records” and the “critical reading of the spectator”. In order to create Mulvey’s view, films would need to recognize the presence of the camera and the audience while eliminating the dominant male gaze. Although High Art is made by a woman who we would assume does not have castration anxiety, it is difficult to fully realize Mulvey’s view in any narrative form. The narrative presented in High Art does give the sense of voyeurism that Mulvey is arguing against and likely does not fit into her categorization of radical cinema. The elements of the plot that encourage the radical view are the fact that the females are major elements in the plot and do not take on the man’s need for sexual objectification.

  3. Alex Andorfer says:

    Mulvey is quite the adament film critic in that she repeats and repeats and repeats her film theory in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” However, her overstatement serves the reader because it allows Mulvey to state her complex theory in several different ways. One of Mulvey’s overarching themes in her work is the idea of the male look or “gaze.” In order to envision her idea of “the gaze” and the “woman as image” in movies, Hollywood films in particular, she expands on three principals which sexually objectify women on the screen. She claims that:
    1. male actors perceive the women with “a look”
    2. the person watching the film then watches the woman in his/her own eyes
    3. the person watching the film aligns their view with the male characters in order to identify with the heroic/good/role model
    Mulvey compares this look to voyeurism, arguing that it is important to remove all aspects of spectator voyeurism to cease objectifying females in films.

    A little outside research helped me understand where Laura Mulvey was coming from with this research. Her feminist argument is a product of the time period. During the 1960s and 70s second-wave feminism took hold in the country. While the first wave of feminism argued for equal rights and overturning laws that governed gender inequality, the second wave of feminism was concerned with more unofficial and controversial issues – sexuality, family, reproductive rights. Essentially, second wave feminism sought to put an end to the image of a 1950s sitcom housewife. Thus, Mulvey posits that women must be represented without sexuality. Mulvey writes, “The first blow gainst the monolithic accumulation of traditional film conventions is to free the look of the camera into its materiality in time and space and the look of the audience into dialectics, passionate detachment.” Her feminist view calls for female sexual objectivity to be utterly eradicated from movies altogether; women cannot be portrayed as “the other.” Yet, there is an obvious flaw to this theory. And it is quite simple – I find men in movies sexy too! In fact, girls and women can have an equal amount of infatuation with a movie star that they find sexually attractive. Men are frequently portrayed as objects of desire. Case in point: Fabio (my mom had him on her airplane once and she said he spent the whole time grooming himself in the bathroom, but what else is he necessary for?) Isn’t there a “woman’s gaze” in watching film as well? In fact, when I typed “male objects of desire in film” into Google, I found a website titled allwomenstalk.com that only had pictures of the hottest celebrity men to love after. Quite clearly, her theory goes both ways. But whether objectifying men is a result of women’s liberation could be up for debate.

    Lesbianism on the big screen seems to allow no room for the traditional male gaze defined by Mulvey. Instead, the relationships in High Art provide the spectator with a unique “gaze.” Excluding Syd’s wimpy, doe-eyed boyfriend, there are virtually no other male characters attracted to females in the film. There are only female-female relationships. The viewer witnesses a woman objectifying another woman, and this is done very differently than the way a man looks to a female. Since neither Syd, Lucy or Greta are what one might call “traditionally beautiful,” the viewer begins to understand that sexual desire by a female does not follow the usual prescriptions of erotic desire. Furthermore, when Syd claims that she is a little bit in love with Syd and that her feelings are “intense” the viewer begins to understand that their connection runs deeper than mere outward appearances of which Mulvey dissents. Lucy’s photographs of her lovers in imperfect, realistic stages of life – underwater, first thing in the morning, sitting in a hot car – are like tangible assertions of her sexual desire, or in this case, love. High Art is a demonstration of female desire for the female body and mind.

  4. Amy Slay says:

    In her article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Structure,” Laura Mulvey uses psychoanalysis to break down the structure of narrative film and claims that scopophilia and ego formation through identification with image work simultaneously to counter the damaging effects of the so-called “castration complex.” Her argument is centered around “the pleasure and unpleasure offered by traditional film” (208). She claims that women portrayed on screen are passive entities who exist only to serve as objects to be beheld (and literally held) by the active male protagonists and the audience. Women are presented this way because they represent “castration, inducing voyeuristic or fetishistic mechanisms to circumvent [their] threat” (208). Therefore, women are “in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his fantasies” (199). Mulvey notes that the “conventions of mainstream film focus attention on the human form” (208) and compares this fascination and elation with “the moment when a child recognizes its own image in the mirror [which] is crucial for the constitution of ego” (201).

    Mulvey’s argument is overstated to the point of being counterproductive. The article is broken down into a serious of sections of subsections. After sections A and B, section C is in place to summarize and restate what has been previously proposed. I find it difficult to consider Freudian theory legitimate in any context, but Mulvey’s multiple references and allusions to “castration complex” and “pahllocentric theory” can hardly give new life to an already beaten to death horse. However, the value of her repetition and overstatement is that her argument is hard to miss.

    At the end of her article, Mulvey refers to radical filmmakers that have begun to deconstruct the “monolithic accumulation of traditional film conventions” and “free the look of the camera into its materiality in time and space and the look of the audience into dialectics, passionate detachment” (209). Earlier in the text, she discusses the problematic lack of distance between audience and narrative. The darkness of the movie theater gives every viewer the feeling that he (or she? Mulvey doesn’t appear to account for female viewership) is alone, giving way to a perverse voyeurism which is reflected back at him through the actions of the male protagonists in relation to the objectified, meaningless heroine.

    This “passionate detachment” manifests itself in Lisa Cholodenko’s film, High Art. Anat Pick references Sandy Stone, who (similarly to Mulvey) claims that, “reductionism is rigorously practiced throughout our culture . . . we need to relearn how to see” (112). High Art echoes Mulvey’s thoughts on action and passivity in “experiments with the ‘motionality’ of pictures, and with the opposite ‘frozenness’ of narratives” (113). However, Cholodenko removes the oppressive male presence and creates a narrative by subtly weaving “female sexuality and creativity intimately together” (114).

  5. Kaneja Muganda says:

    Mulvey’s overall linchpin was that women through cinema are viewed as objects. In particular she goes as far to say that they yearn for physical pleasure more if not the same as men do. I believe that women have this premeditated perspective in life as a whole. After taking a woman’s gender studies course last semester, I really understood how the world view and think about women. Mulvey states that men bare the look while women bare the image. Society insists that men and women must physically look attractive in order to sustain credibility. In our recent film High Art our main character Syd struggles with her personal temptation. She is physically drawn into her building mate Lucy as the two build an intimate “closeted” relationship.
    Mulvey defines her point by stating that men are the aggressor and women are simply passive entities that are supposed to wait for men to consume them up. This notion has a strong value in the world of women I believe. This puts lesbian women in a tight bind because the ideal “man” may not even have anything to do with her relationship. In our film we see how Syd takes on the role as the aggressor while her secret love Lucy remains the passive masculine figure. I believe Mulvey’s point surfaces around the idea that women will always be subjected to sexual pleasures. Regardless if it’s a heterosexual relationship or a homosexual relationship, they’ll always remain inferior to this social stigma. The film High Art allows us to see how one heteronormative individual acknowledges her feelings and doesn’t think about how society looks at her. The still images caught throughout the film shows us this transition from heteronormative to queer. The film becomes a queer cinema once Syd disassociates herself with the life she once lived, to the passionate sexual and exciting life she begins living with Lucy at the realm.

  6. João Gomes says:

    Laura Mulvey introduces psychoanalytic theory to demonstrate the existence of a patriarchal society. She establishes phallocentrism as a social sphere that proliferates in Hollywood, privileging masculinity. Mulvey’s emphasizes the subordination of women, demonstrating a binary of gender. The scholar highlights the limitations of women and its subjection under the phallocentric order. As she notes, “woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can only exist in relation to castration and cannot transcend it” (199). Hence, the film theorist refers to the castration of women, underlying their passive role in comparison with male supremacy in the classical Hollywood.

    Mulvey establishes cinema as a platform that structures unconscious ways of “looking and pleasure in looking” (199). She discusses film eroticism and pleasure, reflecting on the role of women. The feminist argues that film provides multiple pleasures primarily introducing scopophilia. The later literally means love of watching, and provides the film spectator the “illusion of looking in on a private world”(Mulvey 201). Beyond screen voyeurism, cinema also develops an narcissistic aspect, introducing the idea of ego libido. The film theorist overstates the predominance of the male gaze in Hollywood, in which women are presented as objects. As she notes, “the woman as icon, displayed for the gaze and enjoyment of men, the active controllers of the look, always threatens to evoke the anxiety it originally signified” (205). Hence, Mulvey stresses the male gaze from spectators to male protagonists in the film industry as fetishistic scopophilia.

    Mulvey’s radical cinema is established as an alternative cinema which “is radical in both political and an aesthetic sense and challenges the basic assumptions of the mainstream film” (200). Her radical cinema would “blow against the monolithic accumulation of traditional conventions,” defying Hollywood in terms of narrative, form and structure. This cinema would eliminate a patriarchal society, erasing the phallocentric male gaze.

    The British scholar overstates her argument, allowing the reader to fully understand her complex premises. Her repetitions enhances her main argument through various explanations. Although she compares women cinematic representations with castration, she fails to reflect upon the opposite view. How about the female gaze? How about the image of ‘man as (passive) raw material for the (active) gaze of women’? Mulvey’s theory underestimates the power and sexuality of women.

    “High Art” challenges Mulvey’s theory by presenting a pair of women lovers. The film departures from a heterosexual scenario, eliminating male supremacy. “High Art” defies the traditional male gaze, placing female desire center stage. Here, the image of ‘woman as (passive) raw material for the (active) gaze of another woman, celebrates the film’s lesbianism. Interestingly, the movie introduces fetishistic scopophilia by considering the innumerous photographs taken by Lucy. This voyeurism leads to a certain fascination, as the camera records the love and lust between the two women. Cinematography and mise-en-scene accentuate the power of photography, demonstrating Mulvey’s scopophilic instinct in a queer scenario.

  7. Syndhia Javier says:

    Laura Mulvey’s arguments in her essay “ Visual Pleasure, Narrative Cinema” build up to some very profound conclusions. She begins by breaking down the reason behind why the act of viewing a film is enjoyable or not. This is due to two main points: the sopophilic instinct or the desire to watch others, and the ego libido, or the desire to identify with the characters on screen. This pleasure is then compounded by the role of women as the object of erotic desire and beholden to the gaze of men. “ The man controls the film fantasy and also emerges as the representative of power in a further sense” (204). To illustrate this point she uses the over sexualized images of women and the often done shots focusing on body part, fragmenting the subject into nothing more than an object to be seen and enjoyed. However, she overstates her argument in its final layer where she attributes the same female form that is looked at as a desirable object, also represents a real threat as an image of castration. While this overstatement may take her argument further than most are willing to go in agreeing with her, I believe it does an interesting thing to her points leading up to it. At first, being that her position is at times so hard to approach and understand because it is so different than what one is accustomed to the first few points do not really resonate as valid. Not until we are presented with the very extreme, can we look back and actually entertain the space of her first two explanations, and see them with some sort of validity as well their applicable truth.
    Mulvey’s view on radical cinema is one that is not solely done for the passive pleasure of the male gaze. Radical cinema requires an awareness of the audience as to what mechanisms are being used to manipulate the voyeuristic quality of a film, and an awareness of the director as to what they are trying to accomplish. “The first blow against the monolithic accumulation of traditional film conventions…is the free the look of the camera into its materiality in time and space and the look of the audience into dialectics, passionate detachment” (209).In High Art, I believe we see some of these ideas at play. First the irony of the gaze comes in at full force, because the world of the main characters is that of photography and how to understand what would make a pleasing experience for the audience. In addition I think it counteracts the set standard in that the supporting character of the boyfriend is anything but powerful, he is overthrown and dismissed in his own relationship, leaving Sid, the protagonist to finally explore the world for herself.

  8. Elyse Brey says:

    Elyse Brey
    February 10, 2011
    Queer Cinema
    Weekly Response 4
    Desire. Mulvey discusses how desire dictates how we view women in cinema and women in general. It is what draws the viewer into the story, the characters telling the story, and the themes that they are trying to share with us. Desire is what the man feels for the woman’s body, the curves and everything else that defines a woman. Women themselves desire the perfect, sculpted bodies that they see on the actresses in the cinema we watch. We all desire many things: success, happiness etc. But as humans, what we all really desire is companionship. We desire to have another body to share our lives with. Yet the downfall of having such a strong desire like that is that we tend to then make the person we desire an object rather than the person that they are. Women especially become objectified in cinema and reality to a point where we only see them as body parts or even just what ideas they represent in our lives.
    Mulvey really beats this idea into the ground because it is so prevalent in our society. And it isn’t like women are some kind of minority, they are half the population. So for that many people to be under this objectification is almost ridiculous. In High Art the Lucy character initiates this sense of sexual tension between her and Syd. Syd is attracted at first to Lucy’s work as a photographer but then becomes engulfed by the drug-filled, lesbian lifestyle that Lucy lives. Both characters cheat on their significant others to have a brief encounter with each other and both end up becoming hurt. But the fact is that both characters were an object of desire to the other. Lucy was the accepting person that Syd desired in her life, and Syd was the drug and drama free person that Lucy desired in her life. The entire film dances around these two characters and the desires that they themselves have to accommodate for and accept for themselves. Which is a theme that every person deals in their daily life.

  9. Caroline Tibbetts says:

    What are the linchpins of Mulvey’s argument? What is its value? In what ways does Mulvey overstate her argument? What is the value of overstatement? How can we envision her “radical cinema”? How does this work in High Art?

    In the second paragraph Mulvey mentions linchpins in saying, “An idea of a woman stands as linchpin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies”I think by her lack to is referring to their lack of a penis, because our society is in fact a patriarchical society. This concept in regards to cinema, she believes this is present in contemporary films; explaining how the world of cinema has changes drastically with the rise of technology allowing for this idea to be present, women serving as the “linchpins” within the films, not the mainstream films of course., mirroring the “obsessions” of society. She talks about this preverse pleasure people get from watching, like peeping Toms, which is why films are so intriguing for people because it is really just observing and the world of “unknowing” with the illusion of looking into a private world.
    She notes how the viewers fascination with the human, the body, their physicality and their relationship with their surroundings coincides with humanity’s desire for likeness and recognition, in association with Freud’s description of the ego. She talks about the mirror image creating misrecognition, because it is more perfect than he perceives himself, a moment of self awareness. This is done by centering the film around a central figure the spectator can identify with. One way that I noticed how High Art corresponds to this theory is with the film noir aspect, which this film definitly conveys. In terms of castration theory I am not really sure how that links with the film’s plot. I can also see how the central figure in Syd’s case Lucy, becomes a transformed fetish for Syd, almost dangerous due to her heterosexuality orientation and relationship with her boyfriend and Syd’s physical beauty for Lucy, her pureness and innocence, building up to a climactic ending. Also the guilt Mulvey associates with it, the guilt that comes with the fetish the women feel, in temrs of the affair affecting their actual lives.

  10. Sam Herron says:

    The main elements of Mulvey’s argument in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema start off with psychoanalytic theory in which she claims that the unconscious of patriarchal society can be seen in film (Mulvey, 198). There are two main points of interest in Mulvey’s article: The woman represents a threat of castration and this therefore brings her child to be sumbolic (Mulvey, 198). Other important elements are scopophilia in which looking at a person results in pleasure and the second is looking at human form and therefore at human beings as objects (Mulvey, 200). WHen a person is seen as an object, they are getting pleasure out of looking, which is scopohilic and when people identify with the image seen, they are being narcissistic (Mulvey, 201). Therefore, scopohilia is related to a person’s sexual instincts and this formation of the ego through identification is considered to be related to the ego libido (Mulvey, 201).
    In Mulvey’s argument, she claims that the camera plays a role in the patriarchal society. She explains that men control the story in film and also the camera is able to control where the spectators look (Mulvey, 203). There are three different types of looks that Mulvey talks about in relation to film. The first is the camera that records the event (Mulvey, 209). The second is the audience as they are watching the film (Mulvey, 209). Lastly, are the characters that look at each other throughout the film (Mulvey, 209). This represents how women are usually gazed at by the man and the man is usually the one who is gazing at the woman. This plays back into the idea of film representing patriarchal society. I think Mulvey may be overstating her argument because she is basing much of her argument on the ideas of Freud. In my psychology courses, we learn a lot about Freud, but we are really unsure about them. But it does seem that there is some sense of scopohilia and ego libido that come out of watching films, which are also related to the patriarchal society.
    In looking at High Art, New Queer Cinema talks about the relationship between Lucy and Syd. Mulvey brought up the point that the male is usually the one that seeks out the female, and the female is more passive. In this relationship between Syd and Lucy, Syd seems to be the more feminine character in the relationship, but she is the one who is seeking out Lucy more (Aaron, 114). Also, Aaron brings about the interesting fact that Lucy is the more masculine character with the feminine name, but Syd is the feminine character with the more masculine name (Aaron, 114). The radical cinema that we see in High Art is seen when she switches the roles that we might traditionally see: the masculine character pursing the feminine character. As previously, explained we can see this was not the case.

  11. Courtney Faulstick says:

    Courtney Faulstick – Reaction Journal #4
    The first argument Mulvey makes in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is the relation between scopophilia and narcissism. She says women especially portrayed in film, either are objects of scopophilia or the ability to get sexual pleasure from looking, or they are objects of narcissism or ego libido of the individual. This idea of the relationship between these two types of object creating of a woman is overstated in the first part of this article. Mulvey explains both sides then goes into explain each side again as they relate to each other. One reason she might be doing this is because it is a hard subject to relate to an audience. By going into the subject in a couple of different ways, it helps the reader understand the different ways this can be applied. She also says that women are shown in cinema as objects to be looked at by men. The women’s beauty is developed by the producers and directors of the film to meet the audiences’ demands. In other words they must be attractive to the male counterpart and allow for a sort of erotic fantasy to take place in the eyes of the man because of this objective beauty.

    Even though many women appear in films they seem to be passive characters used more as objects rather than the active audience of male viewers. It is interesting that the picture on the screen is the passive part and the off screen viewers can become the active part of a film. The character is portrayed as a symbolic entity being able to relate to the way the audience wishes to interpret it. This makes the audience the active component.

    I believe the way this article relates to the film, High Art, is by understanding the actors in the movie were representing the possibility of connecting the passiveness of the characters with the audience actively creating a connection to our everyday lives. The reason this is active is because each person is going to relate the relationship between Syd and Lucy and between Lucy and Greta and between Syd and her boyfriend differently. Another example I can connect to High Art is using Mulvey’s ideology to understand how the images Lucy takes of Syd is portrayed as Syd being an object to the audience. I think the entirety of this article about film could be applied to the photographical ideology Lucy used in her art. The photos are sexual and could derive a sense of scopophilia to their onlookers. This idea obviously cannot become fully incorporated because it is stationary rather than in a film setting, but her theory can be applied on a basic level.

  12. Brittney DeBo says:

    Mulvey was most influenced by the theories of Freud and Lacan, which she used to shift the orientation of film theory towards a psychoanalytic framework. She believes that this alternative form of cinema provides a space for cinema to be born, in that it challenges the basic assumptions of mainstream filming. Her main idea I found to be how women are viewed as objects rather than humans. She says that in order for this alternative cinema to be born it must start by reacting against the assumptions and obsessions of society, and with this the spectators get an illusion of looking in on a private world. Mulvey argues that we live in a phallocentric, patriarchal world and we can only understand in our unconscious-ness, which brings us to the psychoanalytic framework. In taking a psychoanalytic approach to film we can begin to understand the unconscious. One other thing that Mulvey mentioned is that some get pleasure in just looking. Known as an active instinct, it exists as the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as an object. She believes that in this males are active and females are passive. The male is said to have the dominating force making him the active one, while as the girl falls in love with him, through this dominating force, it all just happens naturally, making her the passive one, meaning that the environment was the main determinant in her feelings and she had no control over it. Women are just seen as an object of desire. She discusses two codes for this male “gaze” which projects fantasy on the female figure of desire, which are “voyeuristic” or seeing women as whores, and “fetishistic”, seeing women as madonnas.
    In the film “High Art,” I was a little confused when trying to relate it to Mulvey’s ideas in that she focused on heterosexual relationships, and in the film the only heterosexual relationship is with Syd and James, which ends up taking a drastic turn when Syd goes upstairs to fix the leak in her ceiling, leading her to fall in love with a drug-addicted photographer. In this highly intense lesbian film, one might not think there is much room for this male “gaze” considering there seems to be no interest in the heterosexual life. However, a male could view this in the “voyeuristic” gaze in that the complication in “lovers” is tangled between three women at one time, Syd, Lucy, and Greta. After reviewing the Mulvey reading, I also found in relating it to the sense that in this alternative cinema the spectators get an illusion of looking in on a private world. In the film “High Art,” between the drugs and lesbian relations, especially Syd and Lucy being kind of a secret since Syd is in a heterosexual relationship, it would seem that we are looking behind closed doors. This film also accomplishes going against the assumptions and obsessions of society, which would be for men and women to be together, and then anything outside of that is not considered normal.

  13. Sean Biggs says:

    Mulvey’s article basically talks about the formation of gender roles in society and how men form the role of women. She also discusses the innate voyeurism or “scopapfilia” that humans experience. She describes movies as a sort of sexual experience, viewing the gender roles of society in action, men dominating over women, and if this pattern is ever lifted. Her arguments to an idea that is prevalent in marketing, entertainment and society that the woman is meant for shop, an attraction that can make men stop in their tracks. In nearly every Hollywood movie, there is the quintessential element of the “hot chick” or the attractive woman that is a staple in the plot of the movie in some way. She overstates this argument by claiming that women feel inferior in that they do not have male genitalia and fear castration and raise their kids to fit societal gender roles. This overstatement is sort of a window into her personal views on the subject. I feel like “High Art” is a queer film in that it sort of shatters this idea, by flipping gender roles upside down. For example, the primary source of dominance is women in the film, it isn’t the man cheating on the woman, it is the woman cheating on the man in Syd’s case. Also, it’s not the man going upstairs to fix the leak, it’s the woman, standing in for the typical sexual “plumber’s fantasy” where the man comes to fix a leak and ends up engaging sexually with a woman. Also, one of Lucy’s friends is attracted to Syd and acts in the typical manner of a male hitting on a woman but this never becomes realized.

  14. Emily Weber says:

    Laura Mulvey emphasizes how the impact of our patriarchal societal structure affects cinema and the way it documents and portrays women. Women are the linchpin to this systematic degradation and are used to exemplify the castration threat and that is as far as her existence transcends. Women act as enablers to men’s fantasies and obsessions and Mulvey provides the psychoanalytic analysis of the patriarchal structure to explain where the roots of women’s oppression comes from. She introduces the idea of necrophilia from a looking aspect and an identifying aspect as fantasies fulfilled by the spectators through the film. This pleasure in looking and objectifying women is erotically based while the pleasure that come’s from identifying with a character (who controls the women) in the film is narcissistic and plays on egotistical satisfaction. While these looking and identifying pleasures are dichotomous contradictions they are also huge threats to women.

    This type of pleasure is what fuels the male gaze and reduces them to objects enjoyed by the audience and by the characters among them in the film. This male gaze is consistently accounted for and catered to in mainstream film. As women act as a pleasure source for spectators, they can evoke anxiety in the form of the castration threat. However, this is dealt with and escaped swiftly by men either devaluing women or turning the women into a fetish that reassures their manhood rather than threatens it. Mulvey is very passionate and convincing in her argument due to the overstatement of it. She introduces the aspect of pleasure in film and from the introduction to the conclusion is specific in her testament to the power of looking. She is highly critical of the role of the patriarchal society and its impact on women and the male gaze and how it favors the control and power of men. The multiple ways she goes about providing evidence consistently tie back to the passive irrelevant role of women and their continuous relentless objectification in the face of man dominated society.

    In terms of the alternative and radical cinema she proposes as a solution it directly opposes the mainstream which has been both produced and poisoned by societal standards. It is a radical reaction against all of the things I mentioned earlier. This new type of film aims to redefine what is erotic. It destroys the mainstream view of beauty as we know it in order to expand and equalize what we are predisposed to from the mainstream. Radical film seeks also to eliminate the dominant male gaze that is so prevalent in the mainstream by accounting for the audience and the presence of the camera instead of subordinating them to the male protagonist. In High Art we can begin to see atypical manifestations of beauty through the photographical art that is created literally and figuratively between Syd and Lucy. Furthermore, in High Art there is lack of narrative driven by the male gaze as the relationship between Syd and Lucy is the consistent element throughout the plot.

  15. Alicia Fischer says:

    Mulvey argues that “the function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious” consists of two things. Mulvey states that the woman represents the castration threat by not having a penis. Mulvey also argues that the woman raises her child into the symbolic (199). Mulvey argument is a heterosexual model. She argues that women are to be looked at and eroticized and men bear the looks. This is an extreme overstatement because men are gazed at too. This perspective labels men as the aggressors/active ones and women as the passive ones. This film is fascinating because it inverts this perspective. Instead of a man leaving a woman for a woman, Syd leaves her boyfriend for another woman. The dynamics between Syd and Lucy are interesting as well. It is difficult to tell which is more masculine or feminine. I think the director purposely does this to play with labels and demonstrate that individuals don’t have to fit into categories of butch and femme or masculine and feminine. Mulvey’s theory on gaze is demonstrated in the film in a unique way because everyone gazes at everyone and sexual orientation is entirely fluid in this film.

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