Summary of Daniel Chandler’s notes on the Gaze

Schroeder: “film has been called an instrument of the make gaze producing representations of women the good life and sexual fantasy from the make point of view.”


Freud: Scopophilia – the pleasure in looking at bodies as erotic objects – darkness of cinema – voyeuristic, objectification and narcissistic identification with ideal ego on screen.


Conventional narrative films – male protagonist, male spectator. Traditionally men are active, women passive objects of desire. Women rarely desire in their own right.


Mulvey ; voyeuristic – sadistic, punishment, forgiveness.

Fetishistic: turning the figure in to an object to become satisfying – leads to an overvaluation of the female star and women’s image.


De Lauretis: female spectator involved in double identification


Since 1980s increasing sexualisation of male bodies (Coke break, levis etc)


Feminist Film Theory: Freeland


Men drive the narrative forward.

Barbara Creed: women in horror films are often the victims rather than monsters.


Film viewer not given credit for ability to construct a critical reading.


Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema; Laura Mulvey


Patriarchal soc has structure film form unconsciously.

Castration of women –lack of phallus causes women to be a threat, she gains meaning by having a child.

Freud: Scopophilia begins in curiosity about our own bodies and genitalia and becomes transferred to others; in extremes can be fixated into perversion e.g. stalking, mimicry…


How does cinema encourage this?

  • Hermetically sealed world
  • Sense of separation and plays on voyeuristic fantasy
  • Isolates spectators from one another
  • Illusion of looking in on private world
  • Repression of exhibition and transference on to performer


Use of mirrors – as a child very significant stage of development of the ego and self image when first recognise self in mirror. Mirror self becomes idealised. Seeing ourselves as others see us – difference between image and self-image; on screen a process of likeness and difference; the glamorous impersonating the ordinary. [Phantom of the opera]

Women as image- she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire.

The presence of women halts the narrative flow; moments of erotic contemplation.

She is the one who inspires: fear, love, desire, concern – makes him act the way he does, otherwise she is unimportant.


Show girl device – male spectator and character united in looking.


Fragmentation – gives quality of a cut out; an icon rather than verisimilitude.

Men however are uncomfortable gazing at their exhibitionist like so he has to be the controller, the power behind the fantasy.


Men are figures in a landscape, women are seen in small settings; he needs to look as if he is in a real space then the male audience can project his desire for power onto the character; she is confined, controlled – look at women in sit coms or in westerns where they are usually in a building.


She is isolated, on display, glamorous; as the film progresses she falls in love with the male and becomes his property; she is conquered, possessed and indirectly the spectator can possess her too. [Only angels have wings]


She poses a problem for men; her lack of a penis implies threat of castration – unpleasure.

2 avenues: preoccupation with demystifying her; saving, punishing, forgiving (see film noir)

Or: building up the beauty so it becomes satisfying in its own right. (Julia Roberts’ smile / Dietrich’s face / other stars’ legs)


Hitchcock– Rear Window. Jeffries in this film watches his neighbours thru binoculars his excuse is he thinks he may have seen a crime. He has a ‘correct role’ as a photographer but here subverts his skills leading to them being compromised and he and the audience are absorbed into a voyeuristic situation, parodying our own in the cinema. When the girlfriend who up to now has been a paragon of style, crosses to the other apartment he rediscovers his interest in her as guilty intruder and now can save her.

Sternberg – has little mediation of the look through males’ eyes; often his women are on their own, at the mirror, in the shower and we are simply the voyeur – no excuses.


The conventions of narrative film always aim to eliminate the intrusive presence of the camera and prevent a distancing of the audience, hence the use of seamless editing. [What about Blair witch project and more modern films in which the camera is noticeable – what effect does it produce? Is it counterproductive?]


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