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Lecture 7

CCS 101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Laura Mulvey, Primal Scene, Sexual Objectification
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2 Pages
45 Views
Summer 2018

Department
Cinema and Cultural Studies
Course Code
CCS 101
Professor
Elín Jóhannsdóttir
Lecture
7

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Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema
Laura Mulvey
the paradox of phallocentrism is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman
to give order and meaning to its world
the function of a woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is: she symbolizes the
castration threat by her real absence of a penis and thereby raises her child into the
symbolic; once this has been achieved, her meaning in the process is at an end
woman's desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist
only in castration and cannot transcend it
she turns her child into the signifier of her own desire to possess a penis
scopophilia - looking itself is a source of pleasure
Freud isolated scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality which exist as
drives quite independently of the erotogenic zones; he associated scopophilia with taking
other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze
his examples center around the voyeuristic activities of children, their desire to see and
make sure of the private and the forbidden (curiosity about other people's genital and
bodily functions, about the presence/absence of the penis, and about the primal scene)
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
the mass of mainstream film portray a hermetically sealed world which unwinds
magically, indifferent to the presence of the audience, producing for them a sense of
separation and playing on their voyeuristic phantasy
the extreme contrast between the darkness in the auditorium (which also isolates the
spectators from each other) and the brilliance of the shifting patterns of light and shade
on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation
conditions of screening and narrative conventions give the spectator an illusion of
looking in on a private world, although the film is there to be seen
the position of the spectators in the cinema is blatantly one of repression of their
exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire on to the performer
the cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further,
developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect
the conventions of mainstream film focus attention on the human form
2 contradictory aspects of the pleasurable structures of looking in the conventional
cinematic situation
oscopophilic - arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual
stimulation through sight; function of the sexual instincts
odeveloped through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, comes from
identification of the image seen; function of the ego libido
pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female
the determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled
accordingly
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Description
Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema Laura Mulvey the paradox of phallocentrism is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world the function of a woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is: she symbolizes the castration threat by her real absence of a penis and thereby raises her child into the symbolic; once this has been achieved, her meaning in the process is at an end woman's desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in castration and cannot transcend it she turns her child into the signifier of her own desire to possess a penis scopophilia - looking itself is a source of pleasure Freud isolated scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality which exist as drives quite independently of the erotogenic zones; he associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze his examples center around the voyeuristic activities of children, their desire to see and make sure of the private and the forbidden (curiosity about other people's genital and bodily functions, about the presence/absence of the penis, and about the primal scene) 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 the mass of mainstream film portray a hermetically sealed world which unwinds magically, indifferent to the presence of the audience, producing for them a sense of separation and playing on their voyeuristic phantasy the extreme contrast between the darkness in the auditorium (which also isolates the spectators from each other) and the brilliance of the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation conditions of screening and narrative conventions give the spectator an illusion of looking in on a private world, although the film is there to be seen the position of the spectators in the cinema is blatantly one of repression of their exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire on to the performer the cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further, developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect the conventions of mainstream film focus attention on the human form 2 contradictory aspects of the pleasurable structures of looking in the conventional cinematic situation o scopophilic - arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight; function of the sexual instincts o developed through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, comes from identification of the image seen; function of the ego libido pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female the determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled accordingly in their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness women displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to strip-tease, she holds the look, plays to, and signifies male desire mainstream film neatly combined spectacle and narrative the presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of a story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation what counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. she herself has not the slightest importance traditionally the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium a woman performs within the narrative; the gaze of the spectator and that of the male characters in the film are neatly combined without breaking narrative verisimilitude the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification the split between spectacle and narrative supports the man's role as the active one of forwarding the story, making things happen the male protagonist is free to command the stage woman is isolated, glamorous, on display, sexualized; as the narrative progresses she falls in love with the main male protagonist and becomes his property, losing her outward glamorous characteristics, her generalized sexuality, her show-girl connotations; her eroticism is subjected to the male star alone; by means of identification with him, through participation in his power, the spectator can indirectly possess her too the female figure also connotes her lack of a penis, implying a threat of
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