Tuesday March 12 2013.docx

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Innis College Courses
Corinn Columpar

Tuesday March 12, 2012 – FILM LECTURE Today’s Topic: Film and Feminism Final exam relies very heavily on second semester material (65-70% of material is second semester). First semester material composes 35-30% of the exam. This time we will have to talk about the films in essay questions. Final section in this course: We started the semester with emphasizing the textual (we looked at film texts – the art, classical film…). Then we emphasized the intertextual (we looked at genres, stars, auteurs…). Now we emphasize the extratextual (film and the social world). The extratextual composes thinking such as publicity, reviews, DVD bonus materials, social reality, and academic analyses… We will foreground these factors, we will pay special attention to the relation between film and social reality. How does film relate to certain social movements and how it relates to certain social formations (like the nation or the world)? Today we will take on film and feminism. What is the role of gender in film? Or even the role of gender in art? Within the history of visual representation, there is a division of labor that almost always prevails. “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at” (From John Bruger). Men have historically functioned as the makers of art, while women function as the muses of the artists, women inspire men to make art. We see this in Gustave Courbet’s “The Artist’s Studio”, in which the women clearly inspires the man to make art. When women and men are both subject matter in art, they are represented in very divergent ways. The man is willful rather than compliant, while the woman is more nature than culture, more body than mind. She is put on display so she is readily available to the viewer. The woman is splayed out for our view, she is even looking at herself, regarding herself as an image. When a woman accepts an act of role, she is a symbol (like in “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix). Women have been represented in this way in the most consistent fashion across historical eras. The most frequently features subject matter is the female body, more often than not nude. The female body lies at the heart of the fine arts tradition. An activist group called “Gorilla Girls” intends to draw people’s attention to the fact that there is a grand discrepancy in terms of how women and men are perceived in the art. Women are marginalized as creators in the art world. Women exist to be looked at. How does this play in film? Jean-Louis Godard describes history of film as “History of boys taking pictures of girls”. The male is figured as director while the woman is figured as an image. In Read Window, also, Jimmy Stewart is engaged in an act of looking (his act is even more penetrating, powerful with the lens from the camera) and he is looking at a set of women’s legs. Feminist film theorists have noted that the division of labor structures film narratively and stylistically. In Blonde Venus, the men set the plot in motion. They act on and interact with their environment. The spectators are ushered into the diegesis through their movement, we see what they see, we get access to information as they do. Through formal techniques, we come to occupy a similar position, if not the same position, as the men. Men come to occupy a more three dimensional space than women. Men are staged in depth, while the females are featured in close-up. The woman does not have the cinematic space in which to move, like her male counterparts. She is reduced to a 2-dimensional icon, to an image. Men have space, they can act and interact with their environment. Here, the division of labor is apparent. This is less true now than it used to be. Now, the marginal has become marginal and the marginal has become mainstream. Now, films feature active female characters that drive the plot forward towards resolution. Now, women function as more than spectacle. They do not need to be glamourized, we no longer need to see them glorified (like in Million Dollar Baby). In some cases, they are still made into eye candy, but this is so blatant that the active women might even be in on the joke (in Charlie’s Angels, the camera often focuses on the women’s bodies and on their physiques. But the film draws attention to its will to objectify women, it calls attention to the way women’s bodies have been objectified in film). The film acknowledges what feminist critics have spent a long time establishing. The films do this in a self-aware fashion, it objectifies women’s bodies in a very knowing way. It is not just men who make representations like these. Women filmmakers work in genres that are more masculine (like Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker of Nancy Meyers for Something’s Gotta Give). Women have also contributed in very substantial ways in art film. There are lots of different national contexts in which women feature prominently (not only in Hollywood, also in France, in Iran…). But enormous disparities within men and women still exist. Men still do occupy the center of a story more often than not. The top 50 grossing films in 2007 features men for 70% of the speaking parts. Only 5-10% of films released worldwide are directed by women. This number is even lower in Hollywood. Things have changed, but they haven’t changed to the point of equity. But th things are different now than they were in the past, especially compared to t
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