Sunday, 15 February 2015

Yr3 Week 15 (Thurs 5 Feb - MDA3200 Film Theory - The Gaze and National Student Survey)

Today´s lecture and seminar were a little undercut by the National Student Survey, which is exactly what it sounds like: a survey gauging how students are enjoying their courses and what could be done to improve it. In return, I received a fun little Tetris torch, so hooray!

Anyway, in what was able to be scrounged today as a lecture and seminar was focused on the notion of ´The Gaze´, which is also what it sounds likes, and derives from concepts like voyeurism and sadism (watching others). The Gaze is broken up into several categories, such as the Professional (scientific, judicial), the Aesthetic (beauty), the Investigative (journalistic, deductive), the Voyeuristic (erotic), the Taboo (forbidden) and the Tourist (exotic), all united by a common thread of being a ´drive´/´purpose´ with an aggressive undertone (to look, you must seek/find). Any one of these can also form part of the ´Male Gaze´, which is what is most often associated with this style of theory. The idea of the camera, a phallic creation, as a means for male control and pleasure. Films like Michael Powell´s Peeping Tom (1959) took this stance more literally, having the protagonist being a psychopathic camera who films his female victims.

Of course, this then begs the question of where female viewers fit in, and this theory argues that to do so, they must become ´false males´/´adopt the male perspective´ or, identify masochistically with the lead female in the film, often seen as the lesser according to this model. Of course, this is not so black or white either, as cinema can play with that angle, such as in Billy Wilder´s Some Like It Hot (1959), where the two male leads crossdress as women, and the usually ´perverse´angles so often attributed to this theory are used to gawk on them (like say, low shots on their legs).

The seminar was brief, due to the above mentioned Survey, so little more else was gleamed today for that. Naturally, the theory is certainly an interesting one, but I find it a little lopsided, as it really ignores things like context of the story or the actual film´s own ideology, and just paints a very black and white scenario, which in turn, cancels out films that may not be male-centric altogether. (Where would say, Almost Famous, Girl Interrupted, Marie Antoinette or Boys Don´t Cry fit here if all cinema is basically an excuse for male pleasure?)

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