Category: Film And Gender Theory

Film And Gender Theory – The Male Gaze

The concept of the gaze is one that deals with how an audience views the people presented.

For feminists, it can be thought of in three ways

  • How men look at women
  • How women look at themselves
  • How women look at other women

Feminist Laura Mulvey, invented the term ‘male gaze’ in 1975. Feminism are people who fight for women’s rights to ensure women get the same equality as men.

She believes that, in the world of film, audiences have to ‘view’ characters from the perspective of a heterosexual male.

This could be because most film makers are heterosexual males.

Features of the male gaze

  • The camera lingers on curves of the female body
  • Women are relegated to the status of objects
  • Male characters drive the narrative forward whilst women slow it down

They can be presented either as love interests, characters who represent domestic normality or characters who need protecting.

Where women have important roles, they are far more likely to be shown as:

  • Frightened
  • Needing protection
  • Offering support to the male lead
  • Dependent
  • Preoccupied with family/relationships

The female viewer must experience the narrative secondarily, by identification with the male.

Queer Theory

Queer theory is a set of ideas based around the idea that identities aren’t fixed and do not determine who we are. It suggests it’s meaningless to talk in general about ‘women’ or any other group as identities consist of so many elements that to assume that people can be seen collectively on the basis if one shared characteristic is wrong. Queer theorists believe that the human body may not be essentially male or female. In some people’s views, feminism also made the case that all men were aggressive and that sex was always violent, and that if women ran the world, we’d all be better off. The more rigid the masculine and the feminine became and the more the battle of the sexes raged on, the more excited queer theorists became to step in and challenge those categories.

Judith Butler wrote a book called ‘Gender Trouble’ which said “gender should be seen as a fluid variable which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times.” She argues that sex (male, female) is seen to cause gender (masculine, feminine) which is seen to cause desire (towards the other gender). Judith’s approach was to smash the supposed links between these, so that gender and desire are flexible, free-floating and not caused by other stable factors.

The 1980’s was the time when masculinity was displayed mostly through the action genre. Women were void from these films and when they did appear, then they were simply motivation for the men. Films in the 90’s responded to the general stereotypical structure of gender.

There are five types of feminism; Liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, Radical feminism, Socialist feminism and Post modern feminism.

Socialist feminism = women’s inferior position is the result of class-based capitalism.

Marxist feminism – division of labour is related to gender role expectations. Females give birth, males are left to support the family. Bourgeoisie – Men. Proletariat – Women.

Radical feminism – male power and privileges is the basis of social relations. Focused on men and the patriarchy as the main causes of the oppression of women. Refusing to reproduce is the most effective way to escape the snares.

26.2% of women get partially naked in films as opposed to only 9.4% of men. The ratio of male actors to female actors are 2.25 : 1. There is a 5 : 1 ratio men working on films to women. In 2013, the highest paid female actor was Angelina Jolie who made $33 million which is roughly the same amount as the two lowest-ranked men.