PSYCHOANALYSIS / SPECTATORSHIP / SEXUAL DIFFERENCE

“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%.

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


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  1. on April 20, 2010 at 11:20 pm Amy Herzog Said:

    These ARE tough readings, and I’m especially sorry we missed class last week– we’ll go over them in more detail. But I think, based on your discussion here, that you got many of the key points. I’m also skeptical about the overuse of psychoanalysis, but I think when we look at some clips, there are some pretty convincing links between representations of gender and some of these Freudian principles… Definitely worth debating.

  2. on April 27, 2010 at 11:21 am Lauren Schwartz Said:

    I agree that the ‘overuse’ of psychoanalysis is a bit much, but I do think it enhances a film when you try to understand the thought process of the characters. When it comes to Frued, I dont know how I feel about the castration complex, but if we take a film, like the clip we saw a couple of weeks ago Mulholland Drive, and dissect it psychoanalytically, I think we can get more from that scene that a person who just watches it as is. Why do they cry from the singing? Why does Naomi Watts seizure? Maybe these questions are answered in the rest of the film, I’ve never seen it, but I think analyzing it can give us a better understanding.

  3. on April 27, 2010 at 11:23 am Lauren Schwartz Said:

    Hey Shana,
    I agree with Professor Herzog that the ‘overuse’ of psychoanalysis is a bit much, but I do think it enhances a film when you try to understand the thought process of the characters. When it comes to Freud, I dont know how I feel about the castration complex, but if we take a film, like the clip we saw a couple of weeks ago Mulholland Drive, and dissect it psychoanalytically, I think we can get more from that scene that a person who just watches it as is. Why do they cry from the singing? Why does Naomi Watts seizure? Maybe these questions are answered in the rest of the film, I’ve never seen it, but I think analyzing it can give us a better understanding.

  4. on April 27, 2010 at 11:23 am Lauren Schwartz Said:

    sorry I just wrote that twice… accident.

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