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Cinema and The Male Gaze

How many directors do you know who are females? How many films do you watch which are made by female directors?

I asked people around me these questions recently, which left them thinking. They hardly could name any.

I, a filmmaker, believe that every art form is genderless but not necessarily sexless.

I do not think that cinema should have a gender. But, if we look closely we will find that only a few of the filmmakers happen to be females. Cinema or should I say the market forces and the film industry is primarily ruled by men and the ideas governed by men. It is as patriarchal as any other industry in the world despite its openness and broad-minded community where decision-makers mostly happen to be men.

Therefore, the films and stories created, reflect the ideas and creativity of men or in cinematic terms the male gaze. The term was coined by the film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975. It refers to the presentation of women in visual arts and literature from a male, heterosexual perspective where women are depicted as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer. The damsel in distress, the femme fatale, the pretty bimbo, the objectified victim, the woman pining for a man and the list goes on and on.

The male gaze has three perspectives: one that of the man behind the camera, one of the male characters, and one of the male spectators.

Next time you watch a film ask yourself these questions:

Is the woman in the film shown to be independent both financially and ideologically? Does she have an agency? Are any woman characters in the film shown equal to the man and not as his subordinate? Is she portrayed as a human or as a superhuman, unless the film is about a female superhero?

And last but not the least -

Are you watching the same regressive narrative again and again?

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