The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

Cinematic Gaze

In Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” she uses the psychoanalysis theory as a “political weapon” to show how the patriarchic subconscious of society molds the way we see film and cinema. She states that the cinematic text is organized along lines that are corresponding to our cultural subconscious, which is essentially male dominated. The popularity of Hollywood films is determined and reinforced by preexisting social patterns, which have shaped it according to Mulvey.

In Mulvey’s piece, she combines semiotic methodology of cinematic means of expression with psychoanalytic analysis of desire structures and the formation of subjectivity. On the semiotic perspective of it, the analysis allows an interpretation of how films create the meanings they produce, while the psychoanalytic side of the article provides the link between the cinematic text and the viewer and explains the fascination through the way cinematic representations interact with the subconscious.

The main point being made is that Hollywood narrative films use women in order to have a pleasurable sight for men. The gaze identified in this analysis is structured for men therefor, women are constantly deemed as an object, not the gazers

In the portion titled “Woman as image, men as bearer of look” within the text allows us to understand the infamous ‘cinematic gaze.’ Mulvey describes two ways in which Hollywood cinema produces pleasure, through different mental techniques. The first involves the objectification of the image, and the second one the identification with it. Both represent the mental desires of the male subject. The first form of pleasure relates to what Freud termed as scopophilia, the pleasure derived from subjecting someone to one’s gaze. The second form of pleasure is the identification with the character, which is brought about by needs stemming from the Freudian Ego.

Though the text was difficult to understand, by applying what we watch to this theory, we can begin to understand the psychoanalytic purposes behind the production. These are things we fail to put any mind to, but we are subjected to without choice. Mulvey does a great job at describing what we must do next. “ It is these cinematic codes and their relationship to formative external structures that must be broken down before mainstream film and the pleasure it provides can be broken down.”(67)


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