The Male Gaze Theory

An introduction to The Male Gaze Theory in Cinema – Laura Mulvey

“What do you know about The Male Gaze theory? Not much? Well, here’s a little video to give you an idea on what it’s all about.”

(Introduction Prank video)

“Think about it, why did that prank work? Would it still work if the genders roles were reversed? No? So, why not?”

“This is where The Male Gaze comes in.”

To give you a basic idea, Mulvey’s theory consists of these elements:
o Women are displayed as a spectacle to be looked at.
o Women’s bodies are exhibited as objects of desire.
o Women are constructed as a spectacle for voyeuristic/scopophelic pleasure.
“Voyeurism and scopophelia being the pleasure in looking”

“These elements are present in western cinema more than you might think. Watch this clip and think about how your perception of the female character is being manipulated”

(Show clip from Transformers)

“In mainstream cinema, women are often seen acting as erotic objects for a male protagonist. So, in this scene from Transformers, we have our male protagonist, Sam, and our female love interest, Mikaela. The male audience can easily identify with Sam, causing the male spectator to simultaneously view the Mikaela as an erotic object.”

“If a female is in the audience, she is identifying with Mikaela. She is watching her being looked at as an object of desire and thus, the female spectator is no longer looking through her own “eyes”, and instead, The ‘Male Gaze’ has manipulated her perception of this character. Think back to the prank video. As a female, did the prank work on you too? If so, why?

“The third party perspective, aside from the protagonist and the audience, includes manipulation through camera angles and movements. (Show scenes from other films) This forces an audience to see through a specific line of sight. This includes camera movements such as “Scanning” the female body, slow motion capturing how the body might move and camera angles that exaggerate specific body parts. As an audience, we have no control over how we see the characters on screen and are completely at mercy to the ‘Male Gaze’ taking effect”
“You’re probably thinking, well, surely this gaze is present in females towards the males on screen As well? Well, Mulvey found that an obvious reversal of this process within cinema, was hard to find. Can you think of any?”
“So, surely this theory is only present in cinema aimed at an older audience? Nope. Research shows that this ideology is even being fed to us at a young age through children’s films as well. Take a look at these Disney Scenes. Here, Sleeping Beauty is being spied upon by a male character, Creepy right? Well how about A little girl that’s being spied upon by a little boy? Even animals are used to express this idea that “Men do the looking and women are to be looked at”.
So, think you know what the “Male Gaze Theory” is now? See how many times you can apply it to the films you watch at home. You might be surprised to notice how many times it crops up.

Via Ella Smith-Gibbs

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