The second wave feminism has brought about several new feminist film theories. Concepts such as the gaze and scopophilia were introduced in the analysis and study of films, notably from individuals such as Laura Mulvey, Gaylyn Studlar and Gilles Deluze. Laura Mulvey uses Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and concepts as “political weapons” to argue that cinematic spectatorship is influenced by patriarchal society (Mulvey, 746). Women in films are often used to depict in voyeuristic and fetishistic aspects, two modes of the male gaze, throughout mainstream cinema. They are described as passive, seen as sexual objects desired by men and never possessing the gaze. Traditional films often objectify women, presenting them as an image, with men as bearer of the look. Studlar, however, argues that women also holds the power of the gaze, and in turn, controls the male audience through masochism in films. She cities Gilles Deluze’s work on masochism to support her claims that challenges Mulvey’s use of Freud’s notions of sado masochism and pleasure principal. It is important to assimilate the notion that there are more to women being seen on screen as passive objects of desire, but what also what women can do to challenge stereotypes. To audiences, movies are not just visual pleasure, but also powerless to what perceptions the cinematic image wants to show. Thus, this essay looks into Studlar’s concepts such as masochism, dream screen and their importance to understanding the representations of women in films.
Mulvey’s study of films were mostly from the early periods such as 1950s and 1960s. Also, Mulvey’s films were centered on the male perspective, how males gaze at women in cinemas. An example of this is the film Gentlemen prefers Blondes. However, her concepts and theories of gaze, scopophilia and voyeurism can also be found in later films such as Terminator. The Terminator sets the tone as a classical narrative that plays on Mulvey’s material and seminal of her “Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema” and her notion of that traditional narrative cinema caters to the male audience. However, the narrative cinema does not include the female spectator. Films tell a story by using a structured narrative, methods that employed to help in understanding of a film. The narrative of the film follows Linda Hamiltion’s Character Sarah Connor and her role as a weak woman trying to survive against the powerful male figure. It creates the image of the woman that is used to support the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role and the gratification of males. Todorov’s theory of narrative states that all stories start with an equilibrium, then comes the enigma and resolution. In the film Terminator, the terminator is the enigma, who is trying to kill Sarah Conner. By having two endings, it fulfills the theory that film endings have a different equilibrium. The terminator was first destroyed by fire, only to return in the form of an exoskeleton that tries to fulfill its mission. Kyle Reese, the male protagonist of the film, blows the legs of the terminator, with it later being crushed under a hydraulic pressed by Sarah Conner. In these last scenes, there is power transference of the gaze between the Terminator, and Sarah Connor. While this example of classical narrative helps the excitement and tensity among the audience, it also refers back to Laura Mulvey’s theories of a stereotypical passive woman conforming to male fetishism and power. This will be discussed further later in the essay.
The iconography of Terminator includes an iconic mise-en-scene that portrays the dark, gritty and gloomy scenes of apocalyptic science fiction films. This can be seen in the terminator and Kyle Reese’s appearance in the dark streets of modern LA, and in the future where the Hunter Killer searches for humans to eliminate at night. The red eyes that can be seen from the terminator’s eyes also serve as an evil...