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Studying Feminist Film Theory$
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Terri Murray

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781911325802

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781911325802.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Exploring the ‘Male Gaze’

Exploring the ‘Male Gaze’

(p.31) Chapter 2 Exploring the ‘Male Gaze’
Studying Feminist Film Theory

Terri Murray

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses the three kinds of cinematic ‘look’ that Laura Mulvey associated with the ‘male gaze’. Mulvey's psychoanalytic examination of the pleasures generated by cinema included scopophilic, voyeuristic, and narcissistic pleasures. She argued that fetishistic scopophilia, unlike voyeurism, emphasises the physical beauty of the object. The object is transformed into something satisfying in itself, set apart from story and character involvement. This is illustrated with reference to Helen Faraday (Marlene Dietrich) in Josef von Sternberg's Blonde Venus (1932). Despite the story being about a woman and her predicament in patriarchal society, viewer identification is exclusively with male characters, and Helen is always an object for male spectators within the film and within the cinema. The chapter then contrasts von Sternberg with Mulvey's other key example, Alfred Hitchcock. Instead of merely presupposing male scopophilia/voyeurism, Hitchcock knowingly comments on these phenomena, making them the subject of his films. Though not mentioned by Mulvey, Psycho (1960) is offered as a case study in how the horror/slasher genre developed conventions that generated scopophilic and narcissistic pleasures for male viewers, perhaps catering to violent male fantasies.

Keywords:   Laura Mulvey, male gaze, scopophilic pleasures, voyeuristic pleasures, narcissistic pleasures, voyeurism, fetishistic scopophilia, Josef von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, male fantasies

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