Laura Mulvey theorises that visual pleasure in the mainstream cinema is largely founded upon a male gaze that fetishises the female body and positions the male spectator voyeuristically in relation to the film. To what extent you agree with this hypothesis?
The ‘Male Gaze’ is a term that refers to instances in film, where the audience view a scene through the perspective of a heterosexual man. For example, a scene that focuses on a woman’s curves and these features are accentuated in some way, such as, purposeful camera movements or through the use of slow motion and/or cut-aways. The term was first coined by Laura Mulvey in her article “Visual pleasure and Narrative cinema”.
It is gratuitous and is merely an exhibition of the actress’s physical attributes, according to Mulvey Carol would serve as both typical roles of a female character.
According to Mulvey the Male Gaze impacts our society creating hegemonic ideologies within it, due to women being presented in the media from the perspective of men and this can lead to women looking at each other as men do – through the male gaze, thus objectifying their own gender. She argues we live in a patriarchal society where men set the rules and creates these ideal visions and roles in which males have dominance over woman. Mulvey is worried that this male representation of reality will be copied by a passive audience and making it a true reality.
The images above are taken from Transformers (2007) Directed by Michael Bay, they depict a scene where Sam (played by Shia LaBeouf) offers Mikaela (Megan Fox) takes a lift home, on the way home his car breaks down, Mikaela gets out to look at the car revealing her dad is a mechanic and has taught her a lot about fixing cars. However, the camera concentrates on Megan’s body rather than the car and how she is fixing it, undermining her practical competence – declining her an active role in the narrative and demoting her to object status. In the end the car starts working again on it’s own, after she decides to just walk home instead. Sam offers her a lift again, she takes it and the narrative continues on the same tracks before the detour of this scene, rendering that whole sequence futile in terms of narrative. Taking this into consideration, along with a behind the scenes interview with casting, that shows they were instructed to find the most attractive 18-year-old to play Mikaela, Sebastian Banks (2013) Megan Fox’s audition for the hit movie transformers". Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLl5uk6q-g8 (Accessed: 19 December 2015). It would suggest the only intention Michael Bay had with this scene is to parade Megan Fox’s physical attributes. I consider this a prime example of where the audience is subjected to the Male Gaze, in this example Bay’s gaze.
Despite this Mulvey’s theory has had a significant impact on the film industry, through bringing awareness to the masses, causing more people in the industry to narrow the gap between male and female leads; and a higher consideration for diverse audiences. This impact can be seen through the Terminator series. In the first film of the series (released 1984) Sarah Connor is depicted as the archetypal damsel in distress, she is fearful, weak and is constantly being saved by Reese, who is represented as strong and knowledgeable and drives the narrative. Later on Reese shows her how to handle a fire arm and eventually she learns to be more independent in time for when Reese dies and she has to fight the terminator all by herself. Although she transitions into a more powerful role by the end of the film, her power was enabled by Reese – a typical active male...