Be it Mandakini, Parveen Babi or the current crop of actresses. From 'Sheila Ki Jawaani ' to 'Munni ki Badnaami ', its usually women who are utilised as objects of desire and sexual objects. The situation is no different in Indian culture where birth of a girl child is frowned upon with disdain in some parts of India and shockingly even among elite and educated Indians. Indian cinema is the biggest culprit as the reach and impact by Commercial films is the most and it is shameful that such an industry still resorts to item songs and objectification of women without analyzing the negating impact on society. In this attempt to engage with the broad problematic of a feminist film criticism in Malayalam cinema we must deconstruct gender as a constitutive element in film production.
In horror movies, for example, the victim is more often a woman than a man, simply because of the stereotypical idea that women are scared easily and scream when they are in a scary situation, and just as we expect, they go to a man for help, because the proximity of a male figure is comforting and safe. In movies, brains never go well with beauty. The hot, popular girl is often not very smart and usually mean, while the smart girl is not at all attractive to the opposite sex and nerdy. We all know the typical teenage movie in which the boring girl has to be transformed into a babe in order to become attractive and desirable for men. In movies, women are almost always changing themselves to please men.
According to Laura Mulvey’s theory, “women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness” (837,). This is proven right in the film “Shanghai Express” 1932. The film highly focuses on the sexuality of two women, Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich) and Hui Fui (Anna May wong). The two women are prostitutes who are looked down upon but at the same time are “displayed” for “strong visual and erotic impact” by developing Scopophilia. The character and status of a woman that uses her sexuality as a form of income rather than in a committed relationship are represented as shameful and unhealthy.
The reading that best supports this view is the Laura Mulvey reading “visual pleasure and narrative cinema” (Mulvey 1975). Although this reading is dated it does raise some interesting issues with regards to gender representation in cinema. Mulvey discusses the male gaze in cinema and outlines how woman are portrayed on screen from a male view point. She discusses how this could influence media in such a way that it may lead to the female section of the society to be misrepresented. The mention of scopophilia in Mulvey’s study is focused mainly on females and it is outlined that in most films by most directors the woman is the object of desire or the damsel in distress.
His goal was to get laid and so he lied to women, hired prostitutes, chased them down in a park, and was in general, completely repugnant for laughs". ( Redfern: The Evolution of ‘The Big Bang Theory’,”). The fact that character like that married a woman like Bernadette jeopardizes her entire portrayal of dependant, strong, confident and smart woman. Furthermore, the fact that she makes more money and provides for the family often comes up as a laughing stock in a show, generating stereotype that it is
Women were indeed at one stage purely, or for the most part to put it rather crudely, objects to ogle at on screen, ‘objects of the look’. Their place as a real world character with depth and conviction came only secondary to their physical appearance or attributes and ability to woe male spectators. And their part to play in being in front of the lens was quite simply that. Feminist film theory however challenged that mindset, with the second wave movement which took place in the 60’s, a serious shift began to take place. As stated in, An Introduction to Film Studies, “The importance of feminist film theory in opening up debates around spectatorship,
Gender representation is solely created by social construction. Thus, people grow and learn by watching and doing as they see, and the common way to learn these constructions is through media. The common form of media that promotes these social views is film, and it promotes a patriarchal society. In Laura Mulvey’s article, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975),” she explains that Hollywood film creates a binary that portrays women as passive and spectacles, while men are seen as dominant, active, and are the ones that push the story along (4-5). This representation is created by the use of the male gaze, fetishizing women, and punishing women if they ever assert their power.
In parallel cinema women have always had an equal opportunity to portray their roles along with their male counterparts. Sometimes even the male actors are overshadowed by the female ones. The movie Arth is one of those movies where the female actors are given major roles. Here the two famous women of the parallel cinema, i.e., Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi, were put against the then famous actor of the same cinema, i.e., Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Both the women were so convincing in their roles that the audience could hardly find the need of the male actor in the
Identity is a product of gender identification and it is a process. This idea was used by Lauretis and she said that the real task in this process is to display what women wants versus the treatment for them as social subjects. In case of film narration, it can be shown through movement, image, and gaze, and how women will act knowing that there are audiences immensely involved from different aspects like social practices. Thus, gender role and gender identity are not two separate things, but rather different aspects of the same thing. Together, they form a unity in each person’s experience, a unity that is inner and outer expression of gender.