Monday, February 8, 2016

Core Post # 1 Laura Mulvey's "Male Gaze" Reimagined as the "White Female Gaze"


A friend of mine posted a link to this article on her Facebook page about a few films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. I usually skim these types of articles, but this one was different: it name-dropped Laura Mulvey. And no, it's not about Daniel Radcliffe's farting corpse movie.

I want to apologize in advance if the subject matter or anything I say offends anyone, but sometimes controversy can make for great discussion, right? I'm not endorsing the article or the films. I just think it's point of view worth talking about.

The article, penned by Hunter Harris, reimagines Laura Mulvey's concept of the "male gaze" into the "white female gaze," by citing two movies that premiered at Sundance: "White Girl" and "Morris From America." Harris' argument is that both directors "have shown the effects of a white female [gaze]. It's earnest but also falsely emboldening: [the minority characters] don't see themselves as white, but they see themselves through their muses' white eyes, thinking whiteness can expand, extending all the way to their darker bodies."

I think it's interesting that as our culture has moved closer to female/male equality, there are still many instances where inequality and domineering/submissive relationships rear their ugly heads. One of the great things about films (especially early films) is that they often reflect the time period during which they were made, capturing the sociopolitical climate of the time. The male gaze was born out of the "patriarchal order" and objectification of women in both the cinematic narrative and the character/spectator relationship. Those spectators often lived in a world with a patriarchal order where women were objectified. 

But times have changed. What is acceptable and desired in our country now is much different than it was back when movies were first being made, and even back when Mulvey coined the phrase. So is it possible for the male gaze to evolve as well? Can it go as far as identifying a specific race?

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