Week Eleven: Feminism

Laura Mulvey’s groundbreaking essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” aimed to discover the root cause of women’s secondary status in not only Hollywood, but society as well. Mulvey’s main contribution was to isolate three related “looks” in Hollywood cinema that she argued were all male. The look of the camera which were mainly operated by men, the look of the spectator which of necessity followed the camera’s “masculine gaze,” and the dominating look of male characters within the narrative that deprived women of any power or subjectivity. She believed cinema was set up so that men could identify with the idealized male hero while women were left to identify with inferior figures and often silenced.

Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley in the Alien Series and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator I & II are two fierce feminist film heroines that immediately come to mind. Both are survivors, who aren’t afraid to wield weapons, and use their strength and ingenuity to their advantage; they embody and exude empowerment. I think many people are drawn to or intrigued by female action heroes because, in part, they counter the norm. We are overrun with images of male protagonists so it’s refreshing to see female leads. Social norms dictate that women should be gentle, nurturing, and caring but female action heroes break this mold.

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