During today’s class discussion, Professor Pok showed us a PowerPoint on gender ads. That got me thinking about my Contemporary Film Theory class and what we talked about recently. We discussed an essay by Laura Mulvey entitled, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In the essay, Mulvey talks about a major difference in the roles of men and women in cinema.
Mulvey argues that in cinema, women are the “bearer of image” while men is seen as “bearer of the look”. She splits the two roles into active/male and passive/female, explaining that a woman’s role is to be displayed and looked by the men who progresses the story and keeps the action going. This brings up the idea of the saying, “women should be seen, not heard.”
In relation to the class discussion we had today, we saw a couple of ads where there was significant difference in how advertisers uses gender to sell their products. In one ad, we saw a scantily clad woman on a boat. In another ad, we saw a group of well-dressed men (with the exception of one little boy) sitting in a room, drinking alcohol. It wasn’t until Professor Pok told us that they were both advertising the alcohol did we notice a portion of the product on the bottom right corner of the first ad. With that being said, that goes back to the idea of what Mulvey talked about in her essay about women being the bearer of image. We, as “spectators”, see the woman, but not the product. It is only with the role of men do we get the full story, because as the active male, they are there to balance out the passive female.
But the one thing that made me think of my film class was during the discussion about Smurfette and her role as the only female in a male dominated environment. We talked about how each Smurf had a specific job but when it came to Smurfette, her only “job” was to tend to the flowers. As a female, her role is something that fits into what we seen as a “norm” for women. In relation to my film class, my professor asked us to name some films where women were dominant and strong. Even as a whole class, we couldn’t come up with more than five. It shows that there are very few films that really show a woman breaking away from the norm. One example that we used was Lara Croft, who is a strong, intelligent woman but her image is still very sexualized, putting her into the same category described by Mulvey.
Though Mulvey’s essay was written in the mid-70’s, the idea of women being the bearer of image is still reinforced in everything we see today. It amazes me how after so many years, little has changed. It makes me wonder how long it will take before we see more ads like Rosie the Riveter and less like:
To anyone interested, this is a link to Mulvey’s essay: http://imlportfolio.usc.edu/ctcs505/mulveyVisualPleasureNarrativeCinema.pdf