Check out the first eight installments of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s ongoing series dissecting HBO’s Girls:
July 28: Girls: Best Friends Forever-ish
In 1975, film theorist Laura Mulvey posited that cinema possessed an inherent “male gaze” that objectified women on screen. This male gaze presumably exists because film (and television) is an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry targeting male viewership. Interestingly, the theory stretches back into the history of art:
“When you look at an object, you are seeing more than just the thing itself: you are seeing the relation between the thing and yourself. …The [Renaissance era] painting of female beauty offered up the pleasure of her appearance for the male spectator-owner’s gaze. But the spectator-owner’s gaze sees not merely the object of the gaze, but sees the relationship between the object and the self. He sees her as a creature of his domain, under his gaze of possession…”
Lena Dunham is one of a small but growing number of women behind the camera being praised by feminists for cultivating the “female gaze” on screen in the 21st century. However, the praise she is receiving from feminist circles isn’t as liberating as one would think:
“After centuries of women being played back to themselves through the male gaze, we are being played back to ourselves through the female gaze,” [Make Love Not Porn founder Cindy] Gallop said. “I love, love, love how much nudity and skin exposure Lena Dunham goes for. That is real world body, having sex with men who find real world bodies desirable.”
Wait. Women have struggled to move into seats of real power in the film and television industry in order to… make sex ugly? That’s the female gaze?