“The Gaze” and Representations of Gender

December 9th, 2011

The concept of “the gaze” is one that refers to how an audience views the characters presented.  Laura Mulvey coined the term “Male Gaze” in 1977 and she believes that in film audiences tend to view characters from the perspective of a heterosexual male.

The film “The Lady Eve” is somewhat strange because usually women in film from this time period are depicted as weak damsels in distress waiting around for men to be examined like a piece of meat being inspected for a grade.  However, in this film the tables are turned.  The male gaze relegates women to the status of objects.  The male gaze directs the female viewer to experience the narrative secondarily by identification with the male. This scene, rightfully called “All Eyes on Pike” does just the opposite.  The main character Pike is being watched like a hawk by every woman in the room as well as every man.  All of the women want their chance to be with him and every man glares in jealousy or stares with the hopes that this rich and famous young man will fancy his daughter.

The juxtaposition in the gender of the gaze in this scene is set immediately since we are seeing everything from a woman’s perspective.  Jean happens to be a very strong, intelligent woman and the viewer is introduced to the feminism of the perspective through her use of the reflection in a make up mirror to observe her surroundings. Using sarcasm and whit she mocks everything she is seeing in her mirror; all of the women fawining over Pike, etc.  Jean is very confident and has the ability to read people and their motives due to her experience as a con artist which is very unusual for movies of this period to begin with.  Once Pike walks by Jean and she trips him there is a very ironic situation occurring.  Jean trips Pike to make him fall and notice her.  Her heel breaks and she plays the role of the damsel in distress in front of him to con him into spending some time with her when in reality Pike is in distress because he is in fact being conned.

This scene progresses to Jean bringing Pike back to her room.  Here, Jean intoxicates Pike with the scent of her perfume and her girly, sexy shoes.  She draws him in with her legs and entices him with her words. If this movie was being narrated through the gaze of the male gender, being so feminine and flirtatious would be seen as a weakness or would be used against the female character to exploit her in some manner.  Instead, we see Jean using her femininity to draw in the male character who is portrayed as weak to her seduction.

In general, I would agree with Laura Mulvey when she says that “various looks at work in cinema tend to reinforce a male perspective but I would say that the film “The Lady Eve” is a movie ahead of its time and is one that does not narrated through “the male gaze”.

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One Response to ““The Gaze” and Representations of Gender”

  1. Amy Herzog on December 15, 2011 5:28 am

    Thanks for this, Alexis! I’d love even more detail in terms of breaking down some shot sequences to demonstrate how this film inverts the standard use of the characters’ and camera’s gaze to objectify women. Is Charles objectified in the same manner that women typically are? Great scene to take on, and thanks for all your posts this semester.

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