This post is by our volunteer blogger Molly.
However subtle or loud it may present itself, the male gaze exists, and has existed, quite consistently throughout filmmaking. Laura Mulvey, a feminist, noticed the asymmetry of gender power throughout film and media, and first coined the term in 1974. The male gaze occurs when a camera takes on the role of a heterosexual man, forcing the audience’s hand in doing the same. The result is a subconscious objectifying of women, which has played a role in the structuring of female characters. The worse consequence of this, however, is that it affects how women view other women, thereby influencing how women view themselves.
The male gaze originated from the original concept of “the gaze” which speaks specifically to how an audience perceives what is being presented. Considering the patriarchal society that film and advertising were born into, both industries being controlled by a majority of men, women have been tirelessly presented as objects of desire, things to be gazed at or consumed, rather than listened to. This in turn has affected how women view other women, as well as themselves, through a similar gaze known as the mirror. This is a concept that identifies the want of women to be like other women who are viewed positively by men. The old adage “sex sells” refers to this; a female character desired by many often becomes an idol to the women who watch her. Camera focus is on a woman’s assets, during a love scene more may be shown of the female than the male- this constant imbalance and focus on the body takes away from the female influence. This makes the development of strong female roles hard to promote- as it has become expected that a women be a beautiful compliment to the leading man, rather than a lead herself.
Even modern media’s attempts to strengthen women’s roles have fallen privy to the male gaze. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, for example, puts the woman in a position of power. Her position of power, however, comes clad with short shorts and a low-cut shirt. This sexual approach plays to the male gaze- even if she beats the villains; she’s still dressing with them in mind. It should come as no surprise that this production team was heavily male.
With all this in mind, I present a list of modern television’s newest advances in the destruction of the male gaze. As of 2012, television has been all but taken over by female leads, writers, producers, and directors. Quirky, not always attractive females have taken the reigns of influence- finally creating strong female roles that are to be not only viewed, but also admired. These females write to speak to a female audience and do so admirably without the inclusion of the male gaze.
Check out the shows:
- New Girl
- 2 Broke Girls
- The Mindy Project
What do you think about the male gaze? Can it be controlled?