Images of Women in Film
Dr. Judith Lancioni
07, February 2012
Male Gaze in Vertigo
Several film theorists have used a variety of tactics and view points to analyze feature films since their inception. One of the most prominent theorists of those that analyze films from a feminist perspective is Laura Mulvey. Mulvey is famous for her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” which presents an array of theories involving the treatment of women in films. Arguably the most notable idea presented in Mulvey’s work is the existence of the “male gaze” in films. This essay will examine Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze in relation to Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Vertigo. Vertigo does not fit the criteria of a film that embodies Mulvey’s “male gaze” because of three key elements, the presentation of the Midge character, the flashback scene, and the conscious submission of Judy’s character to the wishes of Scottie. Before these elements of the film can be related to the “male gaze,” it is imperative to understand the theory behind the gaze according to Laura Mulvey. The male gaze is a theory which states that most films are shown from the point of view of a white, middle-class male. That includes the complete objectification of women into sex objects. This includes scenes that accentuate the curves of a woman’s body, or focus heavily on her breasts. Women are also seen as figures that rely on the man to get by in the male gaze, which means they are void of all qualities which could “castrate” the male or leave him in a situation where he does not have the power in the relationship between them. It also stays out of the women’s point of view and does not reveal her thoughts or perceptions in relation to any of the male’s actions, the gaze purports that the films focus on the male and his point of view, while merely objectifying the women. Now that the male gaze has been sufficiently explained, it can be clarified how the aforementioned...
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