The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

By MaryKate Schwerdt   

The patriarchal agenda seems to expect women to be living contradictions, some of which include the chaste seductress and the dominant mother/submissive wife. Mulvey claims the film viewing experience is so treasured by our patriarchal society because the film is the contradiction woman should strive to be. She says, “Although the film is really being shown, it is there to be seen, conditions of screening and narrative conventions give the spectator an illusion of looking on in a private world.” The film is actively trying to achieve passivity, and is assisted by the dark environment of the theater. Viewing the film with the lights out allows the audience to view the movie without being seen, establishing an erotic/voyeuristic connection between the film spectacle and the observers shrouded in shadows.

I think the experience becomes erotic when woman is projected onto that silver screen. Mulvey claims woman “…symbolizes the castration threat by her real absence of a penis…” Assuming this true, the film watching experience gives the gazing male a wonderful opportunity to face his fear of castration and observe the mystery, meaning women, of which he came from. The glamorous woman projected in front of man is the ultimate ideal. She is sexually appealing, she breathes, she talks, she blinks, but she is simply an object, a projection. She looks real but she is not, she is a contradiction. “The beauty of the woman as object and the screen space coalesce; she is no longer the bearer of guilt but a perfect product, whose body, stylized and fragmented by close-ups is the content o the film and the direct recipient of the spectator’s look.” As a very real appearing falsehood, the projected woman allows the man to gaze upon and investigate what the castration fears most. In the dark what he fears cannot see him, and he subconsciously knows she is trapped inside the movie he is watches, confined to the script, plot, and direction.

This leads to an eroticism because now that the castration anxiety is removed, man feels confident to fearlessly observe woman, the ultimate mystery. Man’s focus on penetration has been psychoanalyzed to be the desire to learn about where he came. Now that the woman on screen is no longer a threat, man can sexualize her, and is often aided by the filmmakers, who include close-ups of the woman’s “fragmented body.” The erotic watching of the objectified woman is described by Freud as scopophilia, and the movie theater appears to be an extremely secure environment to indulge in these scopophilic fantasies. The coexisting contradictions of the film’s narrative world that’s appearing to be unaware of the audience and the one-dimensional real looking projection of woman allow the male spectator to engage in erotic repressed fantasies, including the discovery of his origin.

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