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Feminism and Film - Essay Example

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The goal of feminist aesthetics is to appropriate the power, if not the privilege, of such dominant images.
Yet feminist film theory, although a sophisticated body of work, often places mainstream cinema in a space of pure difference. Over the past two decades, since Laura Mulvey's germinal vision of Douglas Sirk's films, theorists drawing on psychoanalysis argue that mainstream cinema encourages an inevitably voyeuristic male gaze and reproduces fetishistic stereotypes of women. By the late 1980s, feminist film theorists' insistent heterosexual model of fetishised female/mainstream male began to crumble and broadened to include issues of lesbian representation ( Hirshman, 1995). But while this newer feminist agenda, its conceptualisations are often still binary: lesbian spectator/woman subject Jacqui and Albrecht, 1988).
This concept is certainly at odds with my adolescent memories of The Globe Cinema,Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the late 1950s. A fetishising screen is not what I paid my half crown to see or saw, in Calamity Jane, Adam's Rib and my other favourite teenage movies. I saw an altogether livelier and less coherent story. And much later, as a young academic in Britain in the early 1970s, my memories of the historical moment of Laura Mulvey's essay( Echols, 1975) are very much at odds with the later circumscriptions of film theorists. Mulvey's essay is, to me, a more original and creative engagement with that protean Zeitgeist moment of emerging visual studies than feminist scripts currently allow.
Feminism and Film comes from women's studies where media representations are the daily visual vocabulary of women's social, political and economic disadvantages. Perspectives from literary criticism, psychoanalysis, reproductive theory, postmodernism and Black feminism and feminist practice, jostle together in the more diverse tool bag which women's studies teachers need to carry (Kampwirth, 2004). Women's Studies attends to multiple differences of race, social construction and sexual preference. It would be very inaccurate to reduce feminist film theory crudely to 'spectator theory' but to juxtapose other possible approaches.
As well as utilising more novel approaches for film study, a fundamental concern of Feminism and Film is to match feminism with film. In the last decade feminist studies, both inside and outside the academy has moved on from believing that gender discriminations are always determined to not understating the different perceptions of racial and sexual identities. These perceptions visualise a wider range of cultural processes. This 'turn to culture', as Lerner argues, needs a kind of feminist film analysis which can draw eclectically on feminist theories hitherto tangential to film theory, for example reproductive theory, and connect these ideas with film styles ( Lerner, 1994). Gender profoundly shapes cinema, at the same time to emphasise how little this process can be understood without the gravitas, the tangible vision of feminism. A major rethinking of symbolic ...Show more
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Summary

Feminism has no single vision, although it is a visionary way of seeing. Film, on the other hand, often and anxiously envisions women stereotypically as 'good' mothers or 'bad', hysterical careerists. From Jane Fonda's brief flirtation with independence and inevitable marriage to Klute in the 1970s, to Dead Ringers' masculine appropriation of reproduction in the 1980s, to today, every Hollywood woman 'is someone else's Other' ( Cavell, 1981)…
Author : dangelolehner
Feminism and Film
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