Friday, May 20, 2011

"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" - Laura Mulvey - summary and review (part 2)

"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" - Laura Mulvey - summary and review 
part 1 - 2

Both mechanism discussed in the previous section, Mulvey says, are gendered. Scopophilia in films is a structure which functions on an axis of passive/active with the man always on the active gazing side and the woman on the passive "to-be-looked-at-ness" side. This is done in two completing manners, with both the male figure within the duegsis and the camera looking at the woman and directing the viewer's objectifying gaze. In plain words, the woman in films in meant to be looked at.

The distinction between the passive woman active man is also manifested in the structure of the cinematic narrative. The films Mulvey surveys revolve around a dominant male figure with which the viewer can identify. This identification is similar to Lacan's mirror stage in which the narcissistic fragmented subjected experiences himself a whole and potent in a reflected self image. Methods that produce cinematic realism aid in this mirror-like identification which reinforces the ego.

According to Mulvey, the female cinematic figure is a paradoxical one. She combines attraction with the playing on deep fears of castration. The male subconscious has two ways of escaping his fear of castration. One is the demystification of the female figure is the dismantling of her mysteries (in films: the female figure is punished or saved by the male figure). The other way to escape fear of being castrated by the woman is through the fetishization of her (for instance as the glamorous unobtainable star). Films, according to Mulvey, attempt to resolve the tension between being attracted to the woman and fearing her, and therefore they provide for the needs of the masculine form of desire.

Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" was criticized on the one hand for reinforcing heterosexuality and on the other hand for assuming a passive, un-negotiating viewer. 
Visual and Other Pleasures (Language, Discourse, Society)      

"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" - Laura Mulvey - summary and review 
part 1 - 2

1 comment:

  1. For anyone researching Mulvey, this post is ripped directly from The Cinema Book by Pam Cook, if you needed to reference any material, although it is best just to read the original article on Mulvey which is easily accessible on Google.