Shift in Objectification of Women Within American Cinema

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Faez Khanmohamed
Professor Todd Boyd
CTCS 192
2nd August 2012

Shift in Objectification of Women within American Cinema

Imagine a film opens with a shot of immensely vast blue eyes. The shot slowly expands to show a nose and red blushed cheeks. The shot continuously expands to show lips drowned by red lipstick, a slender neck, the cleavage of breast, flat stomach, and eventually slender long legs. This opening could very well be used in many films for the reason that it invites the viewer to see the woman as parts of a whole object. This camera expansion, in different variations, has been used in multiple films to capture a female character as an object of sexuality, to differentiate her from the male counterpart. The fact of the matter is women within the space of film are more often than not demonstrated as a form of objectification, a viewing pleasure, and an arena opposite of male. American film has often presented beauty not in the eyes of the beholder, but in the eyes of the white male; hence, popular beauty was white, blonde, and blue-eyed. However, through capitalization the American economy has shifted to globalizing their capitalistic efforts. This globalization has also shifted the established beauty to a worldlier one. American film shifted the idea of beauty to vaster ethnicity, yet objectification of females has not shifted. The American film Memoirs of a Geisha reveals the objectification of ethnic women and demonstrates the transformation of beauty within film.

The objectification of women happens in many forms throughout the film Memoirs of a Geisha. The most blunt and obvious objectification is that Sayuri and other female characters are prostitute(s), an article(s) for sale. The main character is treated as a virgin and will be sold to the highest bidder at a silent auction. This clear objectification is unparalleled. The film however portrays prostitution as the normal and not being a Geisha is against the norm. This sets up the female as doing something respectful and what is called of her as a woman. A male viewer “almost always feels his sexual activity hampered by the respect for the woman” (Campbell 24). The fact that the film sets up Geisha as normal, which fights societies views, paints into existence the female as fighting normal objectification that in a sense is still objectifying her. This fighting of realities norm and the films norm will create a difficult struggle for the viewer to be able to see the character as anything but a foreign object. “The West objectifies the Orient, which is to be viewed, photographed, studied, and consumed” (Akita). The film has taken the 21st century, which has been referred to as the Asian Century, and objectified it by studying, viewing, and visualizing it as an object rather than reality.

Though the film sets up a Geisha to be normal, society will see a Geisha as prostitute and not an art form. This loudly calls to phallocentrism. The Geisha is always an object of the males’ penis. The film failed to present Geisha as an art form, and truly captured Geisha as an object for the male desire or penis. Memoirs of a Geisha was a longer and more ethnic film than the 1996 movie Striptease staring Demi Moore. “Golden treated Japanese culture and geisha as an object to sexualized, exoticized, and romanticized” (Akita). Filmmakers and writers in America know that sex sells, and sells big. This exotic beauty, the geisha, being introduced to a globalizing economy was a natural capitalistic venture that would have high returns. The film first sets up the main character as a low class child from a fishing village. The lower class aspect provokes certain sympathy towards her and opens up the thought process of seeing her beneath the average. This sets the focus to be not on her, but on her vulnerability, her delicacy, “rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the...
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