The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

Phallocentrism in Film?

“. . . A beauty in its exact rendering of the frustration experienced under the phallocentric order. It gets us nearer to the roots of our oppression, it brings on articulation or the problem closer. . .”

 

            Laura Mulvey, in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, uses psychoanalytic ideas to argue that the cinematic machinery of classic Hollywood cinema unavoidably puts the viewer in a masculine subject position, with the figure of the woman on screen seen as the object of desire. Viewers are encouraged to identify with the protagonist of the film, who in most cases is a man. Meanwhile, the woman characters according to Mulvey, served the “to-be-looked-at-ness”.  Mulvey proposes that there are two different modes of the “male gaze”: “voyeuristic” and “fetishistic”. The term, voyeuristic refers to seeing women as ‘whores’ and fetishistic as seeing women as ‘Madonna’s.  

            What confused me was the incorporation of the Freudian idea of phallocentrism into the essay in comparison to film. I don’t understand how “the absence of the penis as visually ascertainable” can be of enjoyment to men. What I do understand is that the different gazes that Mulvey explains can somewhat help understand male and female roles. There are three different looks that are referred to, explain how films are viewed in relative to phallocentrism. The first look refers to the camera as it records the actual events of the film. The second one describes the almost voyeuristic act of the audience in watching the film itself. Lastly, the third look touches on the characters that interact with one another throughout the film. I don’t understand how these “looks” are related to castration but I can relate it to gender roles. When relating it to gender roles the male role is that of looking while the female one is to be looked at. The female characters are not meant to represent any significant aspect of the plot but become the sexual object that supports the male counterpart.

 

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