In many of the most popular renaissance art pieces – typically created from a male-perspective – there is an unrealistic view of the female body. The obsession with the female figure has continued to grow, no thanks to the provocative depiction of women in art, films and music. This so-called “work of art” we refer to as the female body has both a positive and negative connotation when truly thought about. There is nothing wrong with recognizing the female body as a work of art, which it is, but to idealize women’s bodies and only in this aspect is sexual objectification. This view of the woman’s body that’s used in cinematography explains the usage of the male gaze.
First and foremost, to understand the male gaze, the definition of the gaze in media must be understood. The gaze is a technical term which was used in the film theory in the 1970s; it simply defines how others look at certain subjects in a particular light. The term the male gaze was coined by Laura Mulvey, a feministic film theorist, in her own personal essay called, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” She had gone into depth about how the media exploits women within her essay. The male gaze in cinemas is seen as strategically placing women in scenes, focusing on their bodies in order to get the attention of both the viewer, the heterosexual men and the main male character, as well. Women have become essentially nameless in movies, and occasionally-faceless honeypots, which cheats them of their life experiences and humanity.
Jonathan Schroeder states, “Film has been called an instrument of the male gaze, producing representations of women, the good life and the sexual fantasy of the male point of view.”
The issue with the male gaze is that Hollywood has this constant active/male and passive/female identification; if we continue to look at women as objects, rather than people, it becomes easy to detach the actuality of the situation and to look at them as less than human. It implies that men are the only important spectators throughout life, and women are consistently taking the backseat. Women are the objects that are to be looked at, whereas the men do the looking.
This concept was brought up multiple times in many feministic theories and cinematic arts. Mulvey wasn’t the only one who addressed this, she started this theory using the work of Freud. He had originally named this act of objectification of women in movies scopophilia — the pleasure involved in looking at other people’s bodies as (particularly, erotic) objects.
Although the male gaze is seen throughout cinematography, which is truthfully male-dominated, there have been many changes throughout society thus far. Although, not complete changes, as the male and female gaze both still exist, there have been many women directors and writers coming into the light to redirect negative connotations in film against women.