Announcements • Luna Fest - March 4th - 6pm-9pm in the Price Center Ballrooms. Lunafest is a film festival fundraiser for, by, and about women. 7 short films, refreshments, and a raffle. Tickets are $6 for students/$7 general public. All proceeds go to The Breast Cancer Fund and the UCSD Sexual Assault Center.
Gender and Media • What do we mean by gender? • Do films construct or reflect gender?
Early Feminist Critiques • Early criticism focused on stereotypes of women and their negative impact on female spectators • Advocated for corrective positive images of women.
Feminist Theory: Structural Theory and Psychoanalysis In the early 1970s Claire Johnston was one of the first to draw on semiotics and Lacanian psychoanalysis suggesting: • Cinema provides a male myth of “woman” • Woman in classical cinema serve as an “empty sign” exchanged by men; the object rather than the subject of desire. Johnston was critical of Hollywood cinema, but also saw it as an important site for study and intervention. She called for an alternative narrative cinema.
Feminist Theory: Structural Theory and Psychoanalysis Together these two frameworks provide film theorists with ways for thinking about how the viewer as a subject participates in the meaning of the film. • Semiotics--theory of signs. A tool for analyzing how meaning is produced through language and idoelogy. • Psychoanalytic theory. A theory of the subject as constituted through sexual difference.
Feminist Psychoanalytic Film Theory • Laura Mulvey’s groundbreaking 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” initiated a sustained dialog on how sexual difference is reproduced in the act of watching classical cinema. • She argues women have been placed in a specific, powerless position in cinema. • How does the cinematic system actively, and passively, make this so?
Feminist Psychoanalytic Film Theory • Mulvey looks to psychoanalytic theory for an explanation of how cinema reproduces gendered subjects: Men=active Women=passive It was a powerful argument insofar as it shifted analysis to the relationship of the spectator to the image. Theory of Spectatorship: Not an approach to analyzing the psychological relationships represented in the film, but the ways in which cinema positions us as viewers.
“The Gaze”: three looks More than the act of looking, the gaze is a viewing relationship characteristic of a particular set of social circumstances. Mulvey argues that the cinema spectator is made to identify with the male look, because the camera films from the optical, as well as libidinal, point of view of the male character. It does this through the ways that: • The characters in the film look at each other. • The viewer looks at the screen. • The camera looks at the event being filmed.
Mulvey’s example: Hitchcock • Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, 114 min. • Alfred Hitchcock - 1899-1980, The “Master of Suspense”, Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960)
Mulvey • Looks at cinema as a system of erotic spectacle • Examines how cinema works within patriarchal structure of society • Aims to disrupt pleasure through analysis: “It is said that analyzing pleasure or beauty destroys it. That is the intention of this article.”
Mulvey and Psychoanalysis “Psychoanalytic film theory is thus appropriated here as a political weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form” Psychoanalytic film theory: • Uses Freudian and Lacanian frameworks for understanding how identity is structured and applies them to cinematic experience. • Examines desire in film: construction and regulation
Mulvey and Pleasure Pleasure functions in two ways: 1. Scopophilia: Pleasure in looking at objects (Voyeuristic gaze) 2. Narcissism: Identification with on screen (male) protagonist as a controlling figure
Mulvey and Scopophilia • Objectified Others subject to controlling and curious gaze • Voyeurism: desire to see • Freud: a basic drive; pre-genital auto-erotic stage • Film : dark space, viewers separated • Bright screen - attraction, promotes voyeuristic separation • Repressed spectator projects desire
Mulvey and Narcissism Lacan: the Mirror Stage and becoming a subject Lacan uses this term to refer to the way in which our egos are constituted • Child looks at mirror and enters into the symbolic order (language). • It is a recognition / misrecognition : Identification with reflection different from person reflected • First identification of “I” and subjectivity • Subjectivity is always relational and unfixed.
Mulvey and Pleasure • Pleasure derived from looking at an erotic object (scopophilia) • Pleasure structured through identification with screen (narcissism) Type of cinema is important - Hollywood Cinema
Mulvey: Image of Woman as Ambivalent Mulvey suggests that the image of the woman is at once an object of desire and a threat. Castration anxiety - woman as bearer of the look sparks fear because she represent the lack of a phallus. Resolved through one of two ways: • Sadistic narrative: woman must be punished (usually death or marriage) • Fetishism: woman serves as polished phallic object (denial)
Example of Rear Window How are we encouraged to identify with Jeffries? How do we view Lisa Freemont?
A Feminist Counter-Cinema Mulvey advocates for an alternative Cinema. One that doesn’t adhere to narrative representational conventions. • Feminist filmmaking - must deconstruct and destroy the gaze • Destroy the satisfaction, pleasure and privilege. • Employs techniques of distanciation (limiting identification). Why not just have active female protagonists? (The gaze is masculine within patriarchal logic.)
A Feminist Counter-Cinema Why not just have active female protagonists? • The gaze is not essentially male, 'but to own and activate the gaze, given our language and the structure of the unconscious, is to be in the "masculine" position' • The gaze is masculine within the terms of patriarchal culture.
Feminist Filmmaking What are techniques of distanciation? • Film About a Woman Who…,Yvonne Rainer, 1974 Story of a woman whose sexual dissatisfaction masks an enormous anger. • Removed, 1999, Naomi Uman 1970’s porn film - found footage - painted on Eliminated images of women Replaced the sound
Response to Mulvey What are some of the problems of her argument?
Response to Mulvey Mulvey’s essay has inspired many challenges and critiques within feminist film theory: • Is her argument complicit with normative heterosexual order insofar as it denies the possibility of other forms of spectatorship? • How can she deny forms of female spectatorial pleasure in cinema? • Is the spectator always straight? • Do men see women as representing their castrated selves? What other psychoanalytic models are available? • Does the emphasis on psychoanalysis overemphasize the binary of gender? How do we reconcile other forms of identity and difference?
Questions about the interpretation of Rear Window • Lisa Freemont is an empowered character - when we first see her she announces herself, looms over Jeff (both negative and positive). Lisa is “perfect” • Parallels between Lisa and Thorwald / Jeff and wife • Lisa has mobility freedom and power
Questions about the interpretation of Rear Window “For feminist criticism to ignore the full complexity of women’s contradictory situation is to risk acquiescing in masculine contempt for female activities.” Tania Modleski • Fashion as a space of female power within patriarchy • Cannot damn Lisa for occupying that space • Lisa’s aggressive sexuality • Lisa is a female spectator and her spectatorial experience is different from Jeff’s
Films with women protagonists Mary Anne Doane and others began to consider the female spectator in relation to “the Woman’s Film” (during the 1940s there were many films that featured female protagonists targeting female audiences). • A Letter to Three Wives, Joseph Mankiewicz, 1949 • Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Howard Hawks, 1953 More Recently • An Angel at My Table, Jane Campion, 1989 • Things You Can Tell by Just Looking at Her, Rodrigo Garcia, 2000
Fan Culture and Reception Theory Meeting of Two Queens, Cecilia Barriga, • Reuses clips from films staring Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich • Uses motifs, gazes, and gestures to link the shots and to imply same sex desire.
Recent Feminist Film Theory • Female spectatorship and masquerade • Gender as performed • Gender is problematic / wonderful / complex • Oppositional Viewing • Psychoanalytic theory becomes less monolithic as discussions move beyond the binary of masculine/feminine gender and address other aspects of identity (race, age, ability, etc)