The Neo-Mammy??

I came across this article which I found interesting claiming that Hollywood is slowing reconstructing the archetype of the Mammy… but its a new age Mammy. Its a short article and breaks down all the mother figures in The Secret Life of Bees labeling each figure into as a different type of mammy. I disagree with her that hollywood is recontructing the mammy, but Its definitly interesting to think and debate about.

Here’s the article If anyones interested.

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm Comments (0)


Reading this article gave me another perspective on the power of the gaze. We can always analyze the spectator but now we must look at that spectators history and/or life experiences. Each spectator can or maybe will, have different reactions to the same scene being shown. And this happens all the time everybody has different tastes when it comes to films, but I’m not really talking about whether they will like a film or hate it, I’m talking about a more psychological reaction. (and not castration)
Bell Hooks article talks about the black female gaze. White slave-owners denied slaves their right to gaze, and slaves were punished for looking. She believes this traumatic relationship to the gaze effected black spectatorship. According to Hooks it produced in them “an overwhelming longing to look, a rebellious desire, an oppositional gaze. By courageously looking, we defiantly declared: ‘Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality’.”


When black people in the US had the opportunity to watch film and TV they did so fully aware that “mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy”. There was no black representation and/or misrepresentation. Black figures were stereotypically degrading and dehumanizing, a famous example is the Amos and Andy show (which were in fact white men doing the voices). The oppositional black gaze responded to these by producing black independent cinema as “a response to the failure of white dominated cinema to represent blackness in a manner that did not reinforce white supremacy”.

    -The Characters     -The Voices

Black female gaze has its own category, for black females went to the cinema never expecting to see compelling representations of black femaleness, “they were acutely aware of this cinematic racism, it’s violent crasure of black womanhood” When female representations were on screen they were merely there to serve, enhance, and maintain white womanhood “as the object of the phallocentric gaze”. Grown black women resented the way screen images like Sapphire from Amos and Andy could assault black womanhood, meanwhile younger black women accepted it as a form of entertainment. They didn’t long to be on screen, but they still laughed at this female character “who was not us”. Thereby black female spectators choose not to identify with films. One women said that “she could only get pleasure from movies as long as I didn’t look too deep”. Another well known character is the Mammy, which I find interesting Hooks discussion of it. To me the Mammy is another extremely racist sterotype but Hooks describes her experience when watching Imitation of Life as a comfortable image. I understand that she related her to a hard-working blacking woman, who loved her daughter so much, she said the mammy figure reminded her of the hardworking, church going big mamas. The Mammy character in this film was definitely different from all the others, the Mammy had more substance, and was an actual character in the film rather then a mere entertainer but she was still happier to be the servant and live downstairs, that’s where she wanted to be. So I wouldn’t refer to her as “the comfortable Mammy”.

There is so much history with black representation in cinema and I think it is important for people to learn and/or be aware of it. I took the 346 course and I felt I learned and understood a lot, but we really didn’t focus on the female spectator and where she stood in all of this. And if I never would have read this article I don’t think I would have ever thought to analyze it.

Published in: on at 9:49 am Comments (3)


“It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.”

I’m going to start off saying I had trouble with this reading and I don’t think I fully comprehended her article.

Mulvey says “the function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is twofold, she first symbolizes the castration threat by her real absence of a penis and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic. Once this has been achieved her meaning in the process is at an end.” I am not at all familiar with Freud’s psychoanalysis but I do find this last statement to be a bit absurd, and I can’t bring myself to believe in what its saying.

Another point made in the article is about some of cinemas possible pleasure, one of which is schopophilia. Which refers to the pleasure in looking at oneself, the reversal applies as one, in being looked at. Freud associated schopohilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling curious gaze. Taken to the extreme it can “become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction comes from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other.” Mulveys whole argument here I can understand and I see the basis of it.

The cinema develops scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect. I didn’t completely understand here both the explanation of recognition/misrecognition and the ideal ego, this having something to do with being a function of the sexual instincts. And the second narcissistic aspect had to do with ego libido.

Mulvey also talks about women being displayed as a sexual object of erotic spectacle. “…she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire.” This whole argument I was able to understand and I can see a basis for it. We see it all the time in films; the women leads are almost always gorgeous and flawless.

This leads me into Mary Ann Doane article “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator” which I also had some trouble with. Doane states that “spectorial desire, in contemporary film theory, is generally delineated as either voyeurism or fetishism, as precisely a pleasure in seeing what is prohibited in relation to the female body”. She goes on to explain how the female role is not written for women, in actuality it is written for the men, for what they want to see women projected as. It is all about the surface, because “the man is destined to inhabit and hence control.”

Doane also points out that when the gaze is reversed, and we have female spectatorship, the dominant system is only reinforced. We then see the “male strip-tease, and the gigolo”. “The structure of the gaze demands sexual division”. She goes on to discuss more about the female spectator.

When watching a film we are subjected to many conscious and unconscious reactions. It’s impossible to just watch a film and not have any reactions to it and I do find this whole psychoanalytical aspect interesting even if I don’t buy into it 100%.

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 9:36 am Comments (4)

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