Looking, Looking (a.k.a. not to defend Twilight or anything, but…)

I had to read Laura Mulvey’s article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” recently.  It’s about a lot of things, but one big point it brings up deals with men and women in films and scopophilia (voyeuristic pleasure in “looking”).  It talks about how female characters are generally just a spectacle to be looked at, so male characters have to advance the plot.

Which got me thinking….

Why is it that there aren’t a lot of “displays” of male characters in films?  (Not that I’m for that or anything, this issue is just interesting to me as a film nerd).  It seems to me that many viewers get irritated by this kind of display of men when it does occur (although rarely).  Now, this could be because it usually happens in “chick flicks” or films like Troy with a sizable female (or perhaps gay male) target audience; many male viewers or those with actual taste dislike these kinds of films and so would be irritated by just one more stupid thing in the film.  Case in point – a recent internet reviewer’s take on the Twilight: New Moon trailer went something like this:

(The trailer shows a bunch of shirtless werewolves and vampires)

Reviewer: (angrily) Did I mention this film was directed by a woman?

Yeah, so what if it was?  Not to defend Twilight or anything (’cause it probably sucks) but why are you so angry with this, Internet Reviewer?  If it was women doing the stripping, would you feel the same way?
The scary thing is that I had a similar reaction.  This film seems to be about 80% what we in the anime fandom community call “fanservice,” or the insertion of gratuitous romantic-hinting, nudity, exposure, or other such things.  That kind of stuff is unnecessary; it may sell a film, but it’s gratuitous.  Fanservice has its place in the arsenal of tricks, though, and it happens.  But it seems to me that it is far more acceptable, even in supposedly-more-“artistic” films (like the recent Nine) to have women prancing about in lingerie, etc., than it is for male characters to do similar acts of fanservice.

I am a girl, yes, but I generally dislike films targeted towards me as a demographic.  I find their tactics of targeting me, as a woman, insulting for the most part.  Hollywood people, stop acting like all women like that kind of shit.  Make some decent Annie Hall-style romances instead.  And women, make better films.  About stuff other than relationships.  Seriously.  (Recent Oscar shout-out to Kathryn Bigelow, a.k.a. pretty much the only awesome female director since Leni Riefenstahl**)

But you know, it should be all right for male fanservice to happen alongside female fanservice, without reflecting on the filmmaker’s sexual preferences or gender. I don’t support it, but let’s be fair.  Next time you or someone you know gets mad about this kind of thing for EITHER gender, just ask yourself/them “would you feel the same way if it was the opposite sex?”

Jumping around again, I am guilty of gender bias, sadly.  I often complain about female filmmakers’ inability to make films about anything other than “f—ing relationships” or other girlie sh*t, but…. it’s okay for men to do this?  Well….yeah.  If they’re good at it.  Like, say, Woody Allen.  My sexism reveals itself. Le sigh.

I suppose what I should say to both genders is just “make good films.”  Yeah.  I’ll go with that.

Recca 3/11/10

**disclaimer: Nazis are not cool, but Leni was a great director despite her political views.


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