Feminism and the Cinema

In Laura Mulvey’s article entitled, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, the author talks about three main traits of pleasure and the cinema: voyeurism, narcissism, and scopophilia.  All three notions relate to each other, in that, they gear towards looking.  A film that clearly illustrates this is Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock.  In the scene where Marion goes back to her room, Norman takes the chance to look at her change.  By removing the picture frame on the wall, Norman peeps through a tiny hole where he spots Marion’s every move.  This is a clear example of scopophilia and/or voyeurism.  Mulvey writes, “…he [Freud] associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze” (713).  In other words, by watching the other, in this case, Marion, Norman gains a sense of control and authority.  He is in charge of what he is seeing.  Mulvey continues, “…it continues to exist as the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as object. At the extreme, it can become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other” (713).  It is ironic how Marion, a fairly confident female protagonist, suddenly becomes the object to the viewer, which belittles her in a way.  The once potent woman has become a mere object of fascination which is sad.  Also, Norman’s actions become somewhat narcissistic, in that, he becomes absorbed in looking, “…curiosity and the wish to look…with a fascination…” takes place.  Overall, Mulvey’s article explains how the pleasure of looking in cinema is symbolic in psychological terms.

Fantasy or Reality?

Jean-Louis Baudry’s article on “The Apparatus” goes clearly in great detail about the psychological terms of how we, as the viewers, view the cinema.  Baudry also applies his ideas to Freud’s psychological concepts and dreams and reality.  For example, Baudry states, “…the cinematographic apparatus…exposes man’s condition and the distance that separates him from “true reality”…” (172).  Here, the author is trying to say that when we watch a movie, (if it interests us) we immediately become immersed in it and feel almost as if we are part or in the movie itself.  It appears so real, as if it were actuality that we sometimes forget we are in a movie theater.  This then relates back to the psychological elements of the film and us as viewers.  Whether it is the intense graphics, sad or heart-wrenching music, or the horror/suspense of the movie, we as the audience are affected in some way or another.  Just as comedy films make us laugh, romance or drama-based movies makes us cry, horror/action films make us scream or jolt, it affects us psychologically.  We perceive as real enough to respond in such ways.  Baudry writes, “The cinematographic projection is reminiscent of a dream, would appear to be a kind of dream, really a dream, a parallelism often noticed by the dreamer when, about to describe his dream, he is compelled to say, “It was like in a movie…” (179).  Likewise, movies are like dreams in a sense, or vice-versa.  It seems so real at that moment, but as soon as we see the credits roll and the lights on, we return to our current state and realize it was just a movie.  It’s interesting how Baudry goes into deep analysis on the audiences’ cinematographic experience and how they are affected by it.  I agree with Baudry’s theory but at the same time, I think it was too overly analyzed, in terms of the psychology.  Nonetheless, Baudry’s analysis is very detailed and convincing.

Horror Films

The section in Robin Wood’s article, “An Introduction to the American Horror Film”, called, ‘The Return of the Repressed’ deals with horror films where the villain returns once again and lashes back.  There are numerous number of horror films in the film industry that depict this notion.  Wood goes in much depth on talking about the five traditional characteristics of American horror films, which consist of “The Monster as human psychotic or schizophrenic…the revenge of Nature…Satanism, diabolic possession, the Antichrist…The Terrible Child…[and] Cannibalism…” (207).  A movie that fits at least one of these notions is ‘Orphan’ (2009).  The film is about a couple who has been through some tough times, and later decides to adopt a child, Esther.  At first, the child appears very kind and intelligent, but later on, she turns cruel and becomes troubling to the family.  This is clearly an example of ‘the terrible child’, at the same time having connections to ‘diabolic possession’.  When the couple goes to the orphanage to meet with Esther, they find out that she didn’t fit well with the other children and that she was different.  Another significant factor is that Esther wears a ribbon around her neck at all times, which may be a symbol/foreshadowing to what is going to happen later on.  In other words, the ribbon is what is trying to repress her true form.  The film also relates to gender/sexuality, in that, as time went by, the child tries to act as if she were an adult, wearing makeup, and even trying to seduce her foster father at one point.  Soon, when the ribbon is unleashed, Esther goes all out, as if she were actually possessed; her true form surfaces.  This then also relates to the “double motif” of Esther (213).  Before she was all kind and innocent, but afterwards she turns violent and evil, this illustrates the concept of dualism; “doppelganger” (204).

Star vs. Celebrity

In Allen’s article, “Role of Stars in Film History”, the author takes an interesting approach into explaining in depth, some of the major differences between a star and a celebrity.  Especially today, where there seems to be an emergence of various celebrities, viewers cannot tell which is which.  What is the difference between the two? Private life.  The celebrity is well known in popular news, such as, the latest romance news or whatnot, but is also popular as well.  An example would be Paris Hilton; she is popular that almost everything is exposed about her in news magazines, etc.  Whereas, a star is not in on the spotlight as much in terms of gossip news, they try their best as to not reveal as much or stay away from the spotlight, but is still quite the extraordinary talented actor he/she really is.  For example, Anne Hathaway is well-known actress, but not much about her private life is revealed to the public.  We only or partially know her as the actress playing a particular role onscreen.  Allen also mentions that the industry, ironically, is the one behind all of such news-media, advertising.  They would go so far out in order to grab people’s attentions.  They are the ‘star-making machine’, which is quite sad in entertainment industry, which is the truth unfortunately.  For example, Allen talks about the actress Joan Crawford that Hollywood was looking for a typical “All-American Girl” when they found her; they had to change her name, her entire persona in order to fit into a particular role of an “American Girl”.  The same goes for Marilyn Monroe, how she along with many actors/actresses had to change their names to look more and to sound more appealing to the audience.  This is in a way sad, how the media has to go this far in order to achieve their goals in establishing such models/portrayals.  It seems almost the opposite today, whereas even the celebrity vs. star battle is still going on, in a much wider range, that it’s becoming almost undistinguishable, but the name change isn’t happening in the sense that to look more American, but exotic-looking, which is interesting-multiculturalism.

Genre Theory

There are many ways to explain genre theory, as there have been articles upon articles in trying to describe what it exactly is and how it is made up.  From the western, horror, romance, action/adventure, comedy, drama, suspense/thriller, etc. all of these genres was created for a reason-to categorize films.  But what exactly makes up these names? And how do they affect as viewers? It’s true how in many cases genre films can be cliché and that it’s the same types of movies we see in the theaters today.  Some would get tired of watching them, while others enjoy them, how is that so? It may be due to the fact that we as a society have been brought up this way, culturally.  In other words, genre films have embedded us; it has become our “safe zone”, the norm in which genre films are produced in Hollywood, to the point where when we are exposed to “foreign” films we immediately view them as the “other”.  This is because we are not accustomed to viewing such films.  Though it may be cliché, we continuously choose to view them because it is part of our culture/history.  We clearly know how it’s going to end, but we still go ahead and watch it, some for pure entertainment, while others not so much.

In his article, “Film Genre and the Genre Film”, Thomas Schatz discusses several aspects of genre.  He says that genre films reflect various “cultural conflicts”- “the conflicts themselves are significant (and dramatic) enough to ensure our repeated attendance”.  There is a reason why such genres are continuously being shown; it is sending out a cultural message (572).  Also, now with the advanced technological equipments, some may argue that films are focusing more on the visual and sound elements, such as, CG animation, music, etc. to capture viewer’s emotions, rather than the storyline, plot.  For example, Alien vs. Predator is a sci-fi movie, viewers clearly know how the movie is going to be like since there were so many remakes/sequels, but people watch it for the special effects or entertainment.

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