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The gaze

Related: feminist film theory - visual culture - voyeurism - Laura Mulvey

Key text: Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975) - Laura Mulvey

Online resource: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/gaze/gaze09.html

Kiki in Ballet Mécanique (1924)

Further images that illustrate the male and female gaze are Un regard Oblique (1948) by Robert Doisneau (here) and Sophia Loren eyeing Jayne Mansfield's breasts (ca.1957/58), a photograph by Joe Shere (see here.)


To look steadily, intently, and with fixed attention.--American Heritage Dictionary

The gaze in visual media theory

The concept of gaze (often also called the gaze), in analysing visual media, is one that deals with how an audience views other people presented. The concept of the gaze became popular with the rise of postmodern philosophy and social theory and was first discussed by 1960s French intellectuals, namely Foucault's description of the medical gaze and Lacan's analysis of the gaze's role in the mirror stage development of the human psyche. This concept is extended in the framework of feminist theory, where it can deal with how men look at women, how women look at themselves and other women, and the effects surrounding this. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaze [Feb 2006]

Shot reverse shot in feminist film theory

In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics have pointed to the "male gaze" that predominates in classical Hollywood filmmaking. Laura Mulvey's essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" gave one of the most widely influential versions of this argument. This argument holds that through the use of various film techniques, such as shot reverse shot, a typical film's viewer becomes aligned with the point of view of its male protagonist. Notably, women function as objects of this gaze far more often than as proxies for the spectator. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_film_theory [Apr 2005]

See also: shot

The female gaze

Greer explains that this book [The Beautiful Boy] is intended to stake out the territory of the marginalised female gaze: "Well, I'd like to reclaim for women the right to appreciate the short-lived beauty of boys, real boys, not simpering 30-year-olds with shaved chests." -- Emma Young smh.com.au, October 27, 2003

The account of 'the male gaze' as a structuring logic in Western visual culture became controversial in the early 1980s, as it made no room for the female spectator nor for a female gaze. Yet, women did and do go to the movies. Mulvey was much criticized for omitting the question of female spectatorship. In a later essay (1981/1989), she addressed the vicissitudes of female spectatorship in her analysis of the western Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946).--Anneke Smelik, 1999


  1. Visual and Other Pleasures (Theories of Representation and Difference) - Laura Mulvey [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Laura Mulvey did not invent feminist film criticism, but her short piece "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" is a seminal essay, cited more often than almost any other single article on the movies. Mulvey brought psychoanalysis, the experience of pleasure, and the idea of the male gaze into the mainstream of feminist film criticism. Visual and Other Pleasures reprints her famous analysis along with other important essays on film melodrama, avant-garde cinema, the Oedipus myth, and directors Douglas Sirk, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Jean-Luc Godard. Unlike many academic critics, Mulvey writes with refreshing clarity. Arguments that in other hands might seem dense and thorny are both comprehensible and enlightening here. --Raphael Shargel

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