The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

By Frank Miller

In “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” Laura Mulvey seemingly parallels the theory of Luce Irigaray that I briefly mentioned in my Week 3 posting: “In ‘The Sex Which Is Not One’ Luce Irigaray proposes that females become a part of ‘a dominant scopic economy’ and through her submission to this ‘she becomes the beautiful object of contemplation'” (364). However, it seems that woman cannot be entirely culpable for her ambivalent feelings toward wanting to be a “beautiful object.” Mulvey helps indicate that ” [for the dominant patriarchal order of men] the cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further, developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect” (60) in which man receives “pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight” (61). Mulvey also argues that if progressed enough “[scopophilia] can become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other” (60).

Mulvey later writes: “woman displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to strip-tease…she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire” (62), she explains that “mainstream film neatly combined the spectacle and narrative” and that the more than essential spectacle of woman in film has a tendency to “work against the development of a story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation” (62).

While reading Mulvey I couldn’t help but think of how the 2007 comedy, “Knocked Up” couldn’t be more relevant to the article. Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and his roommates dedicate their lives to watching every single movie produced by Hollywood with nudity/sex scenes in it, and attempt to indicate what exact body parts/sexual acts were screened with their respective times in the movie (essentially re-create the site Mr.Skin). This activity demonstrates that woman does indeed “hold the[ir] looks, plays to and signifies male desire” in a career-driven way, if not a sexual one. As Ben and his roommates portray how cinema has satisfied their sexual desire to look at women objectively, one can also observe their scopophilia developing into a type of “perversion” as they dedicate nearly 24-hours to viewing breasts, vaginas, butts, and women performing sexual acts. Their ultimate goal of creating a website (for others to access) demonstrates that they possess knowledge that there are others (more specifically, men) just like them who gain “sexual satisfaction from watching an objectified other” and similar to the Hollywood that Mulvey writes of, Ben and his roommates look to “bank” on their knowledge of this “perversion.” Oddly enough Ben’s obsessive voyeuristic ways “work against the development of Knocked Up’s story line” in a literal sense. His dedication to watching every movie in its entirety is depicted as immature and “loserish” while the film predominantly focuses on his maturation process from an extremely immature adult to a somewhat progressively mature, yet still immature one when he learns he will soon become a father. Ben and his roommates “freeze the flow of action” of the movies they watch by use of a simple “pause button” (a form of active control) to catch a glimpse of actresses and starlets who satisfy the “perversion” of all heterosexual scopophiliacs. However figuratively, the “action” of his maturation process becomes “frozen” from his otherwise unnecessary “erotic contemplation” of the “erotic spectacle of woman” that his roommates succumb to. Interestingly enough, “Knocked Up” is a Hollywood film displaying how Hollywood films are indeed “skilled and satisfying manipulat[ors] of visual pleasure” (59).


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