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Laura Mulvey and Campion's 'The Piano'


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Laura Mulvey and Campion's 'The Piano'

  1. 1. Criticisms of Mulvey
  2. 2. Mulvey’s theory <ul><li>The cinematic apparatus is not gender neutral </li></ul><ul><li>The look in classical narrative cinema is almost always marked as male. </li></ul><ul><li>Film viewers regardless of their gender are treated (and hence re-constructed) as masculine subjects. </li></ul><ul><li>The spectator looks, the camera looks, the ‘male’ characters look, and the ‘female’ character is looked at. </li></ul><ul><li>This sets into motion a series of unconscious psychological mechanisms which construct the film spectator as a gendered subject – male. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Mulvey’s theory <ul><li>The masculine subject (spectator) emerges from two scopophillic processes working in tandem </li></ul><ul><li>Voyeuristic objectification of female characters </li></ul><ul><li>Narcissistic identification with male characters </li></ul><ul><li>The female character functions as an object of desire – sexualised. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Mulvey’s theory <ul><li>This is graphically depicted in films through: </li></ul><ul><li>A series of eye-line matches (close-up shots of the male character looking), intercut with shots of the female character’s body (a bit of leg, bum wiggling as she walks, her breasts etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>The eye-line matches work to signify the notion that the male character is looking at the female and desiring her. </li></ul>Male – Active Female – Passive
  5. 5. Mulvey’s theory <ul><li>Female also signifies threat of castration to male character/spectator. To resolve this: </li></ul><ul><li>The object of the gaze is made responsible for the character/spectator’s anxiety – punished (sadistic) </li></ul><ul><li>The object of the gaze is turned into a fetish object – a spectacle. </li></ul><ul><li>Neither option allows for the depiction of the female as a subject in her own right. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Shortcomings <ul><li>While Mulvey’s theory is compelling in a lot of instances – her theory is too deterministic, for example: </li></ul><ul><li>Some disagree that female film viewers identify with the male gaze (Jackie Stacey). </li></ul><ul><li>What happens the protagonist is female? </li></ul><ul><li>What happens when the male character is made the object of desire? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Shortcomings <ul><li>Are all films structured around the male gaze and do we always accept the invitation? </li></ul><ul><li>Laura Mulvey’s assertion that we do, implies that the spectator is passive , however others argue that film viewers are more active and can engage and read a film in a variety of ways (Queer Theory, Stacey). </li></ul>
  8. 8. Shortcomings <ul><li>Gendered approaches to cinema have been the first to examine the experiences of the female audience member. This means focussing on the audience and their varied viewing positions as much as it means focussing on the audience itself. </li></ul><ul><li>It is recognised in gender theory that the female audience is not a homogenous mass, but infinitely varied. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Shortcomings <ul><li>The way a woman (or man) reads a potentially polysemic text will depend on variables such as her education, social status – in fact responses to cinema are so infinitely varied that it is difficult to create a coherent academic approach. </li></ul><ul><li>To illustrate – in a moment I will ask to watch a scene from the Piano and ask you to describe you feelings towards it. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Piano (Campion, 1993) Campion’s film is an analysis of the power relations between men and women – this is detailed through the battering that goes on between Ada and Baines. It also attempts to play with the way the audience is positioned and gendered.
  11. 11. The Piano (Campion, 1993) <ul><li>Film’s protagonist is female </li></ul><ul><li>Are we then positioned to identify with the female gender? </li></ul><ul><li>Are we constructed as a feminine audience? </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Piano (Campion, 1993) <ul><li>Scenes depict male characters as the object of desire – female gaze </li></ul><ul><li>Campion consciously uses the gaze male & female to demonstrate how people are objectified through it – people watching people – holder of the gaze having power (links to patriarchy / colonization). </li></ul>
  13. 13. The Piano (Campion, 1993) <ul><li>No contemporary Western images of feminine style and beauty. Women are seen to vomit and urinate in Campion’s films – she wishes to unmask sexuality. </li></ul><ul><li>Ada’s clothing is constrictive – symbol for her confinement under patriarchy? </li></ul>
  14. 14. The Piano (Campion, 1993) <ul><li>Campion investigates male sexuality driven by a desire to liberate men along with women . </li></ul><ul><li>She undresses her men leaving them naked and exposed, vulnerable and open to rejection and the desires of women </li></ul>
  15. 15. The Piano (Campion, 1993) <ul><li>By rejecting the male gaze as the dominant gaze – she breaks the hypnotic spell of the female image and challenges the spectator to identify with her female characters, to watch from an involved and close distance rather than to immerse and lose themselves in the spectacle. </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Piano (Campion, 1993) <ul><li>The camera is still – refuses to emphasise or comment </li></ul><ul><li>The pace of edits is slow – allowing for a closer audience engagement </li></ul>