Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Week One Reading Questions

1.Both the Mulvey and Flitterman-Lewis article explain how the spectator of narrative film is situated to adopt a male-perspective gaze or reading of the film; Mulvey states that “in a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female” (62) and goes on to discuss how female heroines function as both the erotic object for characters within the film and for audience members outside the film (63) and how the male spectator, through identifying with the male protagonist, partakes in the objectification of the lead female role (64). To illustrate her point, Mulvey mentions several films- films in which the male gaze is most apparent (Vertigo, Rear Window), at which point her analysis seems more directed at the films' narratives rather than an application of psychoanalysis to film. Mulvey convincingly argues that these films' narratives reinforce oppressive patriarchal structures- a narrative analysis of these films seems to look at the conscious articulations of the patriarchy rather than the unconscious; I guess I'm missing the link in practically applying psychoanalysis to film, rather than using it as a theoretical foundation for a structuralist or narrative analysis. Doesn't addressing the more conscious aspect of film (the narratives) suggest that, while there may be an unconscious male gaze, this oppressive spectatorship is reinforced by learned narratives and roles and can therefore be undermined? What might a cinematic text absent of the male gaze, both from the author and the fictional characters, look like? Mulvey seems to suggest that avant-garde film may provide a space for film without a male gaze, but is there something inherently “male” in watching or voyeurism- regardless of what the subject is? Is “visual consumption” gendered regardless of the object?
2.When discussing Freud's “infantile sexuality” Flitterman-Lewis explains how an infant's future yearnings “will be marked by a need to recover that totality of sensations” which includes physical pleasure (205). The article goes on to discuss how the ambiance and physical layout of the cinema (and the viewer) are reminiscent of a dream state or a reproduction of the “structure and logic of a dream” (211) and that “the simple acts of film going or watching TV are shaped by unconscious desires” (207). To what extent do these desires interact with the actual narrative and visual content of the film? Do we find TV watching, and more so film watching (at the theaters) pleasurable because of its mere visual stimulation or does what we're actually seeing (Julia Robert's legs or Mickey Rourke's face) determine how desirable we find the experience? Is it as pleasurable sexually (as psychoanalysis might imply) or merely physically, or both? Is the pleasure derived from viewing/”getting lost” in a representation of reality or does it matter what we're seeing and the narrative we're interpreting? How conscious or unconscious is our pleasure when watching film if we're saying “no” to reality and “yes” to a dream?
3.Both articles suggest that a viewer consciously identifies with either the oppressive masculine role or the watched feminine role in a film. Mulvey analyzed movies in which much of the screen time was given to either the female or male lead- most of who were relatively young white people. If psychoanalysis film theory is more focused on the spectatorship of film-TV watching rather than the structural aspects of the film itself, can the way in which the viewer identifies with the text's characters be more complex than just identifying with their like gender? A non-infant audience identifying with an other (the film's actors) seems more conscious than the analogy with the infant in the mirror; are there other factors/demographics/contexts besides gender that may influence the way an audience identifies with the characters?

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