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Psychoanalytic Film Theory - Essay Example

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Name Instructor Class 9 September 2011 Psychoanalytic Film Theory: Rear Window (1959) Psychoanalysis and semiotics have been used as working methodologies in understanding cinematic representations of women and these methods both gained momentum during the 1970s…
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Psychoanalytic Film Theory
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Download file to see previous pages Using Lacanian and Freudian psychoanalytic terms, Mulvey examined how women are portrayed in cinema, as she analyzes the “male gaze” and its aspects of pleasure and nonpleasure (309). Mulvey's essay can be asserted as a historical document, due to her examinations of the pleasurable and controlling dimensions of “vision” that several disciplines studied before her and extended after her work. She argued that the “unconscious” of the patriarchal system has projected itself unto the film narrative. The male gaze had perilously affected the discourse between the dominant and dominated sectors of society, where political binaries of man/woman and active/passive are present. This paper will discuss the reasons why feminist film scholars adopted psychoanalytic film theory. It will also use feminist psychoanalytic spectatorship theory in studying Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1959). Feminist scholars adopted the psychoanalytic film theory, because the latter aims to examine and depict gender identity using cultural, instead of biological, concepts that are present in films, so that the exclusion of women in dominant film discourses can be identified and dismantled for purposes of political empowerment by breaking the domination of the male gaze and reversing spectatorship from male to female gazing. Rear Window (1959) depicts scopophilia through sexual stimulations of visual pleasures and narcissism, and its pervasive use of the sexual objectification of women, where the film sees them as sources of both pleasure and nonpleasure. Psychoanalytic film theory Feminist film scholars, during the 1970s, were interested in analyzing the diverse forms of gender oppressions that relegated them to a “secondary” social and political status (Kaplan 1238). Their takeoff was the “cultural,” and not the biological, aspect of negative female experiences, where cultural semiotic systems present relationships in how women are seen and consumed in films and in societies where they live in. These scholars noted that the “objectification” of women, which limited their desires and objectives, could be the root cause of their oppressed conditions in real and reel life. Spectatorship theory asserts that the spectator generally refers to the male spectator, who wants to see and “control” women, because of the visual pleasures that the feminine form can provide (Sherwin 174). Psychoanalysis broadens spectatorship theory by unlocking the unconscious impulses that drive the male gaze (Mulvey 305). Thus, it could be seen that ideological feminism has strongly driven psychoanalytic film theory (Kaplan 1238). The primary appeal of psychoanalysis is that it presented a concrete framework for understanding preexisting conventions of women from the patriarchal perspective (Mulvey 305). It is a fitting theoretical framework for the budding feminist film theory, which still needs conceptual foundations. Freud and Lacan, in particular, provided terms and processes that can help explain how the male unconscious embeds itself unto society through its dominating gaze (Mulvey 305). The “erotic” processes of “seeing” have a direct impact on consuming the female form, and they also have implications on how women are portrayed in narrative films (Mulvey 305). Lacanian theory argues that films present a “mirror image” that underlies symbolic infrastructures (McGowan 28). The “gaze” represents the male “imaginary” and this imaginary builds the illusions of pleasures and nonpleasures (McGowan 28). ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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