The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

Jackie Torres

The article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey describes what she calls the “magic” of modern cinema which challenges theories of the past cinema but still practicing the theory today. The psychoanalytic theory which is an unconscious patriarchal structured way of filming.  In films there is the phallocentric structure which the woman must be a part of.  There is no phallus without a woman because she is a part of the male character’s control and dominance. His dominance over her and the main plot is what makes him the hero of the story.  Mulvey incorporates Freud’s theory into her theory.  The female character is weak and insecure because of her castration.  Mulvey says, “She first symbolizes the castration threat by her real absence of a penis and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic”. According to Mulvey, there are generally two types of women in films. There is the young beautiful woman who is insecure and unaware of her beauty and desperately seeks affection from a male. When she finally obtains this and is a mother her character is no longer relevant. Her goals have been met which is to find the male affection and love she has longed for.  Then there is the overtly sexy woman, who is the complete opposite from the other female character. She seems to be independent, glamorous, and captures the attention of all males. However, because of all these factors she is rarely imagined as a mother figure.  Once she captures the attention of the male protagonist she is no longer glamorous, her beauty has faded in the background and she is now revolving herself around the male protagonist’s productions.

Mulvey also focuses on the change of modern films with those of the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s. The focus on women appearing physically appealing has always been something that is of major importance to films. However, Mulvey feels that the idea of beauty in women over the years has increased.  There is the skill of making actresses fulfill their role yet, main idea is to provide visual pleasure.  Mulvey states the purpose of her article, “this article will discuss the interweaving of that erotic pleasure in film, its meaning, and in particular the central place of the image of woman”.  One of the main points Mulvey mentions in her article is the idea of scopophilia, which is obtaining pleasure by viewing the human body and the pleasure a person, feels while submitting the vision to the viewer.  Films in which woman must be seen nude are not seen as a way of providing pleasure for the viewer, and the tricks of lighting and forms all create a safe environment for the actress to feel more comfortable within her exposure. Yet, she is still creating a sense of pleasure to the outside viewer whom she does not know but is providing an intimate relationship unconsciously and subconsciously and is a tool to the idea of male pleasure. Mulvey says, “Thus, in film terms, one implies a separation of the erotic identity of the subject from the object on the screen (active scopophilia), the other demands identification of the ego with the object on the screen through the spectator’s fascination with and recognition of his like.”


Comments on: "visual pleasure and narrative cinema" (1)

  1. Donzell Evans said:

    The difference of the two female characters that Mulvey presents is not true to life but very noticeable in films. The “young beautiful woman who is insecure and unaware of her beauty”, the ugly duckling, was the main image of the teen flicks of the 80’s and 90’s…im not old! lol As adults we would say she has a bright future ahead of her but the movie would end shortly after her realization of her beauty and acquisition of a male gaze.

    On the other hand the “slut” of the movie is always the bad guy or the center of depression. once she finds a man she, but not herself, she becomes complete and her story ends. It was surprising to have verbiage and insight to the images we have all seen.

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