Mike Frank wonders:
" in the system of film analysis associated especially  with SCREEN, it
was taken for granted that, to quote jane gaines, "the ways in which the
masculine gaze controls  viewing within the film, sets up the
spectator's viewing position, and coincides with the look of the camera
in the classic realist text" all serve the "construction of male
pleasure" now, assuming for the moment that this is analysis of the
classic realist text is accurate, what causes this to be the case, that
is to say, why is it true?"

and offers the following possibilities:
"1.   in classic narrative film the story told is almost invariably that
a man; thus the narrative focus forces the look to be a man's look? note
that if this is the case then simply telling a woman's story and
suturing the spectator into an exchange of women's glances would work
differently . . . the masculine force of the text is then
circumstantial, not a function of the textual system itself.

"2.  in our [patriarchal/late-capitalist/post-modern] culture the gaze
owned by males; it has become so much a feature of masculine hegemony
that even the gaze of a woman [or women] is coded as male . . . thus an
economy of looking is always  oppressive to women's subjectivity ? note
that in this view the gaze CAN be female, but not in the present
cultural climate

"3.  given the psychodynamic foundations of masculinity and femininity,
the gaze cannot but be male . . . the regime of the visual is inherently

patriarchal . . . female subjectivity and women's pleasure require a
radically different mode"

My own understanding of these issues is hardly very sophisticated, and
most of the reference below are (I think) pretty well known, but a
couple of responses come to mind  (these are summaries of what I take to
be some positions on the question; my own thoughts are far more

1. The analysis detailed in Mike's first point builds on ideological
critiques of the cinematic apparatus itself, such as by Jean Louis
Baudry.  In this vein, the system of monocular perspective that is
necessarily encoded by the film lens is historically tied to the rise in
the Renaissance of bourgeois individualism, which in turn undergirds a
social system in which the gaze is one of ownership and possession.  It
is necessarily individualist, capitalist and voyeuristic--which is to
say, necessarily male and patriarchal.  (Compare the taxonomy of film
types offered by Comolli and Narboni in their introduction to the
Cahiers du cinema critique of YOUNG MR. LINCOLN.)

2. This synopsis is probably the most problematic of the three
scenarios, and it does reflect some of the dissension and discussion
that can be found even in the SCREEN discussions of some 20 or so years
ago, not to mention many feminist analyses since.  Christine Gledhill's
"Recent Developments in Feminist Criticism" from 1978 is a good overview
of the problematic issues arising from the use of Althusser and Lacan in
such analyses. The implications of this position put the emphasis not so
much on the need for more women directors or for a "feminist" style of
filmmaking that would be radically subversive of current practice as a
need for a new way of *looking* so that the hegemonic male gaze can be
subverted by the spectator's laughter or analytic distance--and we
probably all know (or are!) people who do watch films that way.

3. This is more or less the position that Laura Mulvey stakes out in
"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,"  and of course a number of women
filmmakers have tried to create such modes for female subjectivity and
women's pleasure.

Numerous feminist critics, including those feminists and others who do
not necessarily accept that analysis of the classic realist text in the
first place, have offered many variations and exceptions to these
positions.  Few, however, have had anything like the impact and
influence of Mulvey's original and rather brief essay.  For better or
worse, much of this vein of discussion for nearly three decades has been
a set of footnotes to Mulvey!

I don't think that these summaries are terribly new, but I hope that
they will spark some more interesting responses!

Don Larsson

"Only connect"  --E.M. Forster
Donald F. Larsson
Department of English, AH 230
Minnesota State U, Mankato (56001
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