The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

The Erotic Object

Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” discusses sex and eroticism in film and the pleasures that cinema offers. The article reminded me of a discussion in class about the male gaze in the film Imitation of Life and how a lot of the time, the role of the female in Hollywood, is to deliver that pleasure for men, even if that is not the purpose of the movie.

Mulvey says, “The magic of Hollywood style at its best (and all of the cinema that fell within its sphere of influence) arose, not exclusively, but in one important aspect, from its skilled and satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure” (59). This idea can be applied to old Hollywood, as well as current films. In a film such as Transformers, about an alien that can transform, Meagan Fox plays the role of the sexy counterpart to Shia LeBeouf’s strong male lead.

This is pointed out by Mulvey when she says, “Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen” (62). This made me think about movies that I have watched in the past and how this relates to them. Is this woman in this film an erotic object for the male viewer, or for the male in the movie? Or is she even an object for either?

This article, written in 1975 sought to challenge and criticize the intentional placement of women in film, for erotic pleasure. Mulvey says, “It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article. The satisfaction and reinforcement of the ego that represent the high point of film history hitherto must be attacked” (59). Thirty seven years later, the article is as relevant as it was then; with need to analyze pleasure and beauty in order to destroy it.

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