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The Male Gaze in Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

1. Introduction

In her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” British film/media studies professor Laura Mulvey examines cinema’s phenomenal impact, this mirror into society, and in particular, societal perceptions/norms on gender role. Psychoanalysis and feminism play integral roles in Mulvey’s exploration as she attempts to understand why mainstream cinema focuses its lens so intently on the male gaze while at the same time marginalizing the female form. She turns to famed director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo as a primary example of how “the look” works to disempower women both on and off screen.

2. Laura Mulvey’s Life and Work

Born in 1941, Laura Mulvey is a British film theorist who is best known for her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” In this work, Mulvey coin the term “the male gaze” to describe how mainstream cinema focuses its lens so intently on the male point of view while at the same time marginalizing the female form. She has been credited with helping to establish feminist film theory and is a leading figure in the field of British Film/Media Studies.

Mulvey began her academic career at the University of Oxford where she studied English Literature. She later earned her PhD from Birkbeck, University of London. Her doctoral thesis was titled “Some notes on Sir Walter Scott and the visual pleasures of narrative cinema.”

In addition to “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Mulvey has also authored or co-authored several other notable works including:
-“A Phantasmagoria of the Male Gaze: Theater, Opera, and Painting in Prescription against it” (Article, 1985)
-“Feminism, Film Theory, and Psychoanalysis: An Imaginary Conversation” (Article, 1989)
-“Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image” (Book, 2006)
-“Looking for Laura: Notes on Melancholia” (Article, 2007)
-“Afterwardsness: The”, “Last Object”, “Seen” (Article, 2011)

3. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

In her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey examines the role of psychoanalysis and feminism in mainstream cinema. She begins by discussing how the majority of films are designed to please the male gaze while at the same time marginalizing the female form. She then turns to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo as a primary example of how “the look” works to disempower women both on and off screen.

Mulvey argues that mainstream cinema is designed to cater to the male gaze. She explains how the camera is often used to objectify and sexualize women while at the same time marginalizing their role in the narrative. This results in a form of cinematic pleasure that is designed specifically for men. Women, on the other hand, are generally relegated to the role of spectacle or decoration. They are rarely given agency within the narrative and are often portrayed as victims.

Mulvey uses Hitchcock’s Vertigo as a prime example of how the male gaze works to disempower women. The film centers on Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (played by James Stewart), a former college sweetheart and classmate of Gavin Elster’s (played by Tom Helmore), Scottie’s former college sweetheart and classmate. Elster’s mistress, Judy Barton (played by Kim Novak), is Scottie’s former college sweetheart and classmate. Gavin Elster hires Scottie to shadow his wife, Madeline Elster (also played by Kim Novak), whom he believes is suffering from mental illness.

While Vertigo may seem like a standard Hitchcockian thriller on the surface, Mulvey argues that it actually contains a number of underlying themes and messages that work to uphold traditional gender roles and further marginalize women. For example, she points to the fact that Scottie is only able to save Madeline by transforming her into the image of another woman, Judy Barton. This act not only reinforces the idea that women are interchangeable objects, but it also suggests that they are incapable of saving themselves. In addition, the film ends with Scottie returning to his former life, suggesting that women are ultimately powerless and lack agency within society.

4. Psychoanalysis and Feminism in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

Psychoanalysis and feminism play integral roles in Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Mulvey uses psychoanalysis to examine how mainstream cinema often relies on the male gaze to objectify and sexualize women while at the same time marginalizing their role in the narrative. She also uses feminism to argue that women are generally relegated to subordinate roles within society and lack agency within the cinematic medium. These two concepts work together to help Mulvey understand why mainstream cinema tends to focus more on male pleasure than female pleasure.

5. Film Theory in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

Film theory plays a major role in Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Mulvey uses film theory to examine how mainstream cinema often relies on the male gaze to objectify and sexualize women while at the same time marginalizing their role in the narrative. She also uses film theory to argue that women are generally relegated to subordinate roles within society and lack agency within the cinematic medium. These two concepts work together to help Mulvey understand why mainstream cinema tends to focus more on male pleasure than female pleasure.

6. Hitchcock in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo is a major focus of Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Mulvey uses Vertigo to examine how the male gaze works to objectify and sexualize women while at the same time marginalizing their role in the narrative. She also uses Vertigo to argue that women are generally relegated to subordinate roles within society and lack agency within the cinematic medium. These two concepts work together to help Mulvey understand why mainstream cinema tends to focus more on male pleasure than female pleasure.

7. British Film/Media Studies Professor in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

As a British film/media studies professor, Laura Mulvey is uniquely qualified to discuss the impact of psychoanalysis and feminism on mainstream cinema. In her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Mulvey uses her knowledge of film theory to examine how mainstream cinema often relies on the male gaze to objectify and sexualize women while at the same time marginalizing their role in the narrative. She also uses her knowledge of feminism to argue that women are generally relegated to subordinate roles within society and lack agency within the cinematic medium. These two concepts work together to help Mulvey understand why mainstream cinema tends to focus more on male pleasure than female pleasure.

8. Vista Vision and Technicolor in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

While discussing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Laura Mulvey makes several references to Vista Vision and Technicolor. Vista Vision is a wide-screen process developed by Paramount Pictures in 1954. Technicolor is a color film process that was developed in 1916. Both of these processes were used during the production of Vertigo.

Mulvey argues that the use of Vista Vision and Technicolor adds to the film’s overall theme of objectification and sexualization of women. She explains how the wide-screen images often make women look smaller and more fragile, while the use of color adds a sense of dread and foreboding. These elements work together to create a viewing experience that is designed specifically for men.

9. San Francisco in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

San Francisco plays a major role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The majority of the film’s action takes place in this California city. Laura Mulvey argues that the film’s use of San Francisco reinforces the idea of objectification and sexualization of women. She explains how the city is often depicted as a place of mystery and danger, which furthers the sense that women are powerless and lack agency within society.

10. Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson is the main character in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. He is played by James Stewart. Scottie is a former college sweetheart and classmate of Gavin Elster’s (played by Tom Helmore), Scottie’s former college sweetheart and classmate. Elster’s mistress, Judy Barton

FAQ

Laura Mulvey's main ideas in her essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" are that cinema uses the male gaze to objectify women and that this contributes to gender inequality.

Mulvey's analysis of cinema differs from traditional approaches in that she focuses on how films represent women rather than on the stories or plots of the films themselves.

The male gaze is a concept coined by Mulvey which refers to the way in which film narratives tend to be structured around the perspective of a heterosexual male viewer. This results in women being portrayed as objects for the viewer's pleasure, rather than as subjects in their own right.

A feminist viewer might use Mulvey's ideas to critically engage with films by looking for instances of the male gaze and analyzing how it contributes to gender inequality within the filmic text.

Some limitations of Mulvey's approach include its focus on heterosexuality and its lack of attention to race and class issues.

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