Both semiotics and psychoanalysis are based on the understanding that larger structures or systems govern the ways in which individuals engage with the world. These structures are inescapable; individuals have no control over their position within them and are subject to their processes. Film theorists saw many parallels between the pleasurable experience of watching a film in a darkened theater and psychoanalytic discussions of unconscious states of being.
The International Writers Magazine: This paper aims to highlight the interplay of spectatorship and gender theory across academia and popular culture. Starting with early film theory across to Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, and towards contemporary theory, the paper continues to survey the development of of the theory of spectatorship.
Spectator theory and its application are investigated alongside cult films such as The Crying Game and The Ring. In particular, Rhona J. Berenstein and Carol J. Clover theories are examined with their application towards cross-gender spectatorship.
While tracing these theoretical positions, this paper illustrates the utility of applying these models and the fertile ground that remains to be explored as we continue to synthesize and develop theories of spectatorship and identification.
In her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative CinemaLaura Mulvey claims that the cinematic gaze is masculine—designed to make the male viewer feel all-powerful— and that it forces the female into an objectified and passive role.
Using a Freudian paradigm, she argues that the female, a signifier of castration, poses a visual threat to the male which can be neutralized by either fetishizing or by demystifying and devaluating the female via "punishment or saving of the guilty object. This paper aims to trace the development of these theorizations, and to illustrate some of the possibilities in applying these theoretical tools in exploring the shifting notions of identity and spectatorship within postmodern-visual culture.
Lee Grieveson has pointed out that the developments of academic critical theories in cinema studies were greatly influenced by historical, social and technological conditions. Whereas the cinematic apparatus' hypnotic and mimetic potential to disrupt social order was a source of concern and prompted empirical studies of spectatorship such as the Payne studies of the s, the introduction of radio and later on of television, became Spectatorship and gender essay chief concern of social science's 'communication studies' which coalesced into a discipline in thes.
Curiously, the development of Marxist perspectives within the Frankfurt school e.
Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, etc Mulvey claimed that the cinematic gaze is constructed through three distinct looks: The first two are subordinated to the third i. Thus, "the power of the male protagonist as he controls events coincides with the active power of the erotic look, giving a satisfying sense of omnipotence," much like that of the Lacanian ideal ego that is constructed in front of the mirror prior to mobility.
In order to subvert the patriarchal order, Mulvey advocated the negation of the classical narrative in cinema, and favored the avant-garde—where masculine aesthetics and an oedipal narrative can be abandoned, which in turn disrupts the male gaze.
In Film and the Masquerade: She asserts that the overwhelming proximity of the female to her body, precludes her from establishing the distance necessary for voyeuristic pleasure, nor is she able to fetishize because the Freudian paradigm dictates that fetishism is a result of the threat of castration.
Thus, the female spectator on-screen and off-screen i. Doane reinforces her conception of female transvestism through Freud and Cixous claims that women are more bisexual than men and that sexual mobility is a "distinguishing feature of femininity in its cultural construction" because women "want to be men, for everyone wants to be elsewhere than in the feminine position" emphasis mine.
Therefore, Doane's theory of spectatorship expands the viewing possibilities available to women. However, by reasserting the notion of strictly upward identification and claiming that transvestism is less accessible to the male viewer, Doane reinforces the restricted position of the male spectator to Mulvey's formulation of an omnipotent male gaze.
It is a common misconception in cultural thought that society's hierarchal structure limits identification to a strictly upward movement.
Clover, the silence on male masochism and male-with-female identification is based on the "longstanding and wholesale assumption, in cultural thought, that people in general identify upward toward power and prestige.
Berenstein contests the notion of a strictly upward process of identification in claiming that we should move away from theories that base identification on similarities or differences and asserts that spectators can enjoy identifying against themselves as much as they enjoy identifying with a character that closely corresponds to them.
Indeed, the notion of purely upward identification seems extremely tenuous.
Mythology, for example, often invites us to identify with the underdog who is, by definition, outclassed. Therefore, even if one could only identify in an overall upward manner, cross identification is still possible within any single parameter; this is especially obvious given that individuals are complex and can be described within an infinite number of parameters, and assuming that no one is at the top of each possible parameter, then there should always be a way to cross-identify in any number of parameters; a successful man who has no martial arts skills, could still identify with Uma Thurman's character in Kill Bill because such an identification could mean an upward movement in martial arts capacity, charisma, etcetera.
However, Clover points out the existence of another type of gaze, the reactive gaze, in which the gaze itself is assaulted;16 indeed, horror is imbued with this vaginally penetrated gaze as eyeballs are stabbed and both spectators and characters are frightened.
Indeed, there is nothing omnipotent about the reactive gaze, which is always vulnerable and often helpless. Also, while the sadistically assaultive gaze is masculine, the masochistically reactive gaze is feminine. Clover points out that Christian Metz began to formulate a reactive gaze, which he called an introjective gaze, in The Imaginary Signifier within his Identification, Mirror section where: Unfortunately, Metz later subordinated his introjective gaze to the figure of the camera, and most commentaries on The Imaginary Signifier have similarly ignored his introjective formulation.
Furthermore, horror often reverses the gaze of the spectator and puts him in the defensive position of the reactive gaze as he composes himself for the next fright.
Surreal films and the horror genre share a great deal with each other and are imbued with the introjective gaze.In her influential essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (), Laura Mulvey takes a feminist stance toward the implicit gender dynamics of psychoanalytic theories of spectator-ship by further interrogating the male specificity on which the entire framework rests.
This essay on gender roles and stereotypes was written in defense of women. Learn why many of the preconceived beliefs society has about women are false.4/5(12). The Feminist Spectator as Critic broke new ground as one of the pioneering books on feminist spectatorship, encouraging resistant readings to generate feminist meanings in performance.
Approaching live spectatorship through a range of interdisciplinary methods, the book has been foundational in theater studies, performance studies, and gender/sexuality/women's studies. Abstract: This paper aims to highlight the interplay of spectatorship and gender theory across academia and popular culture.
Starting with early film theory across to Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, and towards contemporary theory, the paper continues to survey the development of of the theory of spectatorship. Spectatorship, Gender Performativity, and the Asexual Camera in Victoria () and Festen ( The act of spectatorship, whether considered as passive or active, cannot be separated from the camera as a subjective element mediating the filmic narrative and the audience's response.
The essay is included in an anthology, Spectatorship: Shifting Theories of Gender, Sexuality, and Media, edited by Roxanne Samer and William Whittington and published by University of Texas Press. The anthology is a collection of essays that first appeared in The Spectator, an academic journal published by the University of Southern California.