Laura Mulvey was born on 15 August 1941 and is a British feminist film theorist. She is best known for her essay on visual pleasure and narrative cinema.
I’m going to write about 4 films which clearly validates all the aspects or ideologies of the film industry which Laura Mulvey opposes and tries to teach us what is wrong with it and why.
In this part, Laura Mulvey tells us “how the fascination of film is reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination already at work” which basically tells us how we already have existing ideas and thoughts and also our thinking and cinema is what validates it. We also have a set of ideologies which movies reveal and we feel like we can put that into practice.
There is also a gender assymetry which is revealed to the common people and the movies validate them which makes people think that there is nothing wrong with it and it is what it is. From the beginning of time we see how women are being suppressed and not given their own voice and therefore even now, there are many films following the same pattern of filmmaking which is not justified as it gives the wrong idea to society.
We see how Laura Mulvey appropriately portrays psychoanalytic theory by demonstrating patriarchy has a structured film form.
Laura Mulvey in her essay also describes phallocentricism which is the idea of having a penis and how it is the central element of the world and how everything revolves around men. She also mentions “castrated woman” which talks about the lack of penis and because our society is a patriarch society, we do not give much importance to the ones which lack a penis. She tells this is a paradox as in order to enhance these male characters, a female is always necessary and how they are only used as a plot to forward the film. This shows us the concept of active male and passive female.
In every movie there is a concept of an active male and a passive female.
An active male is when the main character has a very important role and given all the attention or importance and is also the central reason the film is being made. The male protagonist is given all the dominant roles or is portrayed in a way that makes the audience believe that he is the most important aspect of the movie. The filmmakers try to show that the movie would not have been possible if the male character was not present.
A passive female is where in a movie, the female part is not given that much importance and is just used for the sole purpose of entertainment. It’s also how women are not given the lead roles or is just used to elevate the film, they are mostly used as foil characters, mostly to enhance the role of men. She is used as a plot and does not have any real importance in the film. It also shows how she needs a man to be protected and cannot be independent as that would hurt the ego of the man or make him feel less powerful.
An example for this would be the movie “Hero” release in 2015. The entire movie depicts how without the main protagonist which is Sooraj Pancholi, Athiya shetty would be in danger even though she is the daughter of a very well known police commissioner. It depicts how a woman would be in danger without a man, how she is dependent on him and how she “needs” him to protect her. The whole movie shows the man’s power and how he’s the only one who can save her from any problem or any situation. It shows how weak females are and how it is necessary for them to have a male by their side to be safe in this society.
Laura Mulvey talks about 2 things. The first one is how In a female’s life if there is an absence of a penis then there is a threat to her and secondly to overcome this threat she needs to raise a male child.
She tells how “woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can only exist in relation to castration and cannot transcend it”. This tells us about how woman due to an absence of phallus is dependent on men or how she is identified as someone’s daughter or someone’s wife or a mother but she never has her own identity. They are also just displayed as objects and their appearance is in such a way that it cannot be anything apart from being erotic.
She tells how women are used to signify the men and how they are a bearer of meaning and not maker of meaning. This shows how women are always related to a male and how they lack individuality.
This essay reminds us of how we are being oppressed and how even though we are independent females, some people think that it is important to depend on men as it is a patriarchal society and that’s how it’s always been.
This essay also talks about women as a “non- mother” where according to the society, in order to be complete, she needs to have a child or motherly instincts or she is not considered as a woman.
An example for this would be the movie “dilwaale dulhaniya le jaaenge”
This movie shows the patriarchy of society where the female character ie Kajol is subjucated by her father, not allowed to listen to music,not allowed to go out with friends and is forced to marry a guy of his choice even though she was in love with Shah Rukh Khan. Futhermore, this concept is amplified when the male lead is the one who must save her from getting married.
Laura Mulvey talks about how cinema can offer a number of possible pleasure but she specifically talks about scopophilia. It is the pleasure of looking at another person in an active controlling sense or by objectifying others.
In this, looking at something itself is a form of pleasure. She also mentions voyeurism which is the practice of obtaining sexual gratification from objectifying or observing others. When someone is looking at someone they are trying to find erotic basis by objectifying them.when we watch a movie, we tend to detach from the outside world or our surroundings and start to relate to the character and try to associate ourselves with them. She explains how we relate to the characters. She tells it is because we repress our emotions or thoughts and when we see the protagonist do the same, we feel like our thoughts are validated.
An example for scopophilia is the song “Chikni Chameli”from the movie Agneepath. In this song we see how all the men take pleasure from watching a single woman dance for them which makes them feel dominant or powerful as they do it to make the woman feel like a object but she is told that she is “glorified” which is definitely problematic.
Male gaze is the term used to describe or objectify females and what their thought about an “ideal woman” is. This term was coined by Laura Mulvey. It is characterized by a tendency to sexualize women. Male gaze is problematic as women in our society are expected to be seen in a certain way and they fear of not being accepted if they don’t fulfill that criteria. The thought of “not being enough” is always at the back of their heads. This is shown from a male’s perspective keeping in mind the male audience and therefore everything is over sexualized.
Female gaze is also quite similar to male gaze. This also talks about how we the women view men as an object but we don’t fully objectify them. Female gaze also talks about how we view things from our perspective and therefore even of it’s something which is sexualized, it still seems to be normal.
An example is the movie “Babadook” Directed by Jennifer Kent.
In this movie, the main character Amelia who is in denial of being depressed was seen to pleasure herself in the bedroom and because this movie was directed by a female, this act of masturbation was completely normalises and it was not sexualized at all. This is also because it was seen from a female’s perspective. If the same scene was directed by a male director then it would be overly sexualized as it would be seen from a man’s perspective. This is the best example for male and female gaze.
Laura Mulvey tries to tell us about how cinema is all about visual pleasure and how every movie is made just to satisfy the audience and how it is always filmed from a male perspective and how females lack major role in our society.