chapter
G
Pages 26

The notion of the gaze has been central to feminist film criticism’s characterization of the cinematic apparatus as patriarchal construct. The first wave of feminist criticism, based on a sociological approach which looked for correspondence between texts and the ‘real’ world, had examined images of women in imaginative works from high art to mass entertainment with little regard for textual meaning-making. Feminist film criticism, which began to take shape in the mid-1970s, opposed this earlier emphasis on ‘content’ and focused instead on the question of meaning production through the formal aspects of the text such as editing, lighting and so forth. In her seminal article, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, published in 1975, which marked the beginnings of feminist film criticism, Laura Mulvey identified the inscription of patriarchy in cinema by examining the workings of film as an intricate network of looks. Mulvey singles out three types of looks which constitute the filmic (and, we might add, televisual) organization of the gaze: (i) the camera’s look on the profilmic event; (ii) the protagonist’s look on other diegetic filmic characters; and (iii) the spectator’s look on the screen. By applying pre-Oedipal and Oedipal concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis and directly relating the film apparatus to the patriarchal unconscious, Mulvey argues that the structuring of the filmic gaze is decidedly male. Thus all three types of looks are organized to construct the spectator as male in accordance with the needs of his unconscious.