Within argument, it is important to understand

Within a patriarchal system that dominates virtually every narrative, it was inevitable that feminist film theory emerged as a response. As a theory, its purpose is to analyze and understand why women are represented in a particular way in film narratives, as well as why this constructed stereotype is continually reproduced. Additionally, it seeks to develop theories as to why men and women are thought of as fundamentally different, with an specific focus on why women are not only less represented, but represented as being the lesser of the sexes. Laura Mulvey, a British feminist film theorist, is best known for her theorizations on women’s representation within film. Known for being the pioneer of feminist discourse within film studies, she is best known for her essay entitled “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. Within this text, she delves into the relationship between the screen and the viewer, thinking most about the visual pleasure of a film. Her main feminist claim states the ‘male gaze’ positions men and women differently (Osbourne, Brew, pg. 170). Her essay seeks to use the methods of psychoanalysis to “discover where and how the fascination of film is reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination already at work within the individual subject and the social formations that have moulded him” (Mulvey, pg. 6) Before beginning her argument, it is important to understand the basics of psychoanalytic film theory. Stemming from the works of Sigmund Freud’s theories on the unconscious and dreams, psychoanalysis was concerned with not only sexual desires, but the way in which an individual develops into a member of society as a result of the repression of many elements of sexuality. This individual then defines themselves based on the relation to a social order in which the said repressed sexuality is often taboo. In psychoanalytic film theory, the content assumes two meanings, “one of which is manifest and one of which is hidden” (Brew, pg 52). There is a similarity between psychoanalysis and film, in both cases, they treat time as highly malleable and the unconscious as timeless. Mulvey discusses society’s obsession with scopophilia. Scopophilia, deriving from Freud’s study of the psyche, translates to “love of watching”. Mulvey comments that the mere practice of film viewership is a form of scopophilia, as society is obsessed with watching lives play out on screen in a dark room. In accordance with Freud’s psychoanalytic theories on the unconscious mind and it’s hidden desires, Mulvey analyzes how these repressed desires manifest into what she explains as the “male gaze” within film and society’s obsession with scopophilia. Her argument can be broken down into three claims. The first, men are positioned as the active subjects who identify with the agents that drive the film’s narrative forward. The second, women are positioned as passive “objects of beauty for masculine desire and fetishistic gazing” (Brew, 171). This, Mulvey states, is the definition of the ‘male gaze’. Thus, she states that females function as two types of visual pleasure. The first as an erotic object for the male characters within the narrative to view, and second as an erotic object for the spectators to view. Mulvey argues that the male viewer is the target audience, therefore their needs are met first and that this problem stems from an old fashioned, patriarchal society.


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