4/14 – Psychoanalysis/Spectatorship/Sexual Difference

In Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, she opens up with an introduction of first the ’political’ use of psychoanalysis with the castration complex, or the ‘paradox of phallocentrism breaking down the ‘castrated woman.’ and continues with the ’destruction of pleasure.’ which she claims is her intention – to basically ruin the joy of film for us. She has a point with, “analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it.” This I find to be to true to a certain extent. It depends on the person. When one takes a closer look at something, sometimes they appreciate it more because they have broken it down and can value it that much more. But for others it can become less attractive. The ‘beauty’ that she claims is seen, is gone. Almost as if it can only be admired at a distance. When given a closer look, that beauty disappears because that mystery that one finds to be appealing is no longer there. We appreciate the wonder of things, things we don’t know. When it’s explained to us, its figured out and we no longer wonder, we know. Its almost like Santa Clause to a kid. There’s a lack of knowledge, a gap. Every Christmas morning their eyes gleam with astonishment as they rush to the Christmas tree to discover what gifts were left for them last night my a man they’ve never seen only to grow up and realize he’s not real. Once a child discovered that Santa Clause is really their parents, the beauty is taken away with their knowledge.

What I thought was most interesting is how she begins to break our beauty down with scopophilia – our visual pleasure from voyeurism. “At this point the associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze.” We do this every day. To look and be aware of things and people around us, is instinctual. Men looking at women, women looking at men. People do this without even realizing most of the time. We not only get a visual pleasure from looking at people on the screen, but people in reality – our everyday lives. As described in the reading, we look at others as objects. This is most true when we don’t even know the person. For men its usually ‘look at those legs/breasts/lips/eyes/etc. Instantly that woman has become an object of visual pleasure for the man looking a her without even realizing it. As humans we have a curiosity that can’t easily be satisfied, instead it grows. Film is just a way people can be less obvious about it – hey, the actors will never know! The reading also brings up how it can easily become a perversion such as for Peeping Toms who only get pleasure from watching. They like to remain in the shadows, unseen as one gets undressed. The fact that they secretly watching then excites them that much more. The way she describes “the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation” makes us all a bit of a ‘Peeping Tom.’

The way the shot is set up in the film can make us feel different ways. An example she uses is the contrast of light and dark. While watching a film, it can give us the illusion that we are the ones truly watching in the shade, into a “private world.” Just the fact that we won’t/can’t get caught adds to this excitement. Almost how people get excited when they’re being ‘bad.’ It’s that risk of getting caught which takes it a step further and adds to the thrill. Everywhere one looks there is ‘visual pleasure’ film allows us to express this in a way with is just as exciting, but less risky.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar