included in the second edition), mainly—but not exclusively—in Hollywood. The book'sscope is ambitious,
Representations of the feminine (Jennifer Jones and Lillian Gish) in
Duelin the Sun
(King Vidor, 1946).
identifying major themes in American cinema such as "The flight from womenand the fight against them in their role as entrappers and civilizers" (p. 61).Haskell's critical method, which maps genres and stars historically, has beenquestioned subsequently by academic film theorists, although some of her ideas,such as the notion of star images as "two-way mirrors linking the immediate pastwith the immediate future" (p. 12), are more sophisticated than her detractorsmight suggest.
The study of images of women was crucial to the development of feminist film culture in theearly 1970s but was superseded in the feminist film theory that emerged in the middle of thatdecade by textual approaches concerned less with the manifest content of films than with theideological predispositions embedded in their syntax and in the apparatus itself. Drawing on post-structuralism, semiotics, and psychoanalysis, Claire Johnston developed a theory of cinematic representation based on an understanding of film narrative as a mythic system thatnaturalizes conventional gender relations. Within this system, the figure of woman functionsnot as a representation of female subjectivity but as the object of male desire. Thus Johnston'sremark that "despite the enormous emphasis placed on woman as spectacle in the cinema,woman as woman is largely absent" (p. 26). However, rather than calling for the production of realistic or positive images of women, she argues that the more stylized and unrealistic afilm's iconography, the more it de-naturalizes both itself and the ideology it serves. Unlikemany feminists in the 1970s, Johnston does not reject popular cinema as a "dream machine" but embraces its contradictory possibilities. In her comments on the films of Dorothy Arzner (1900–1979), one of a very few female directors in the studio system, Johnston lays claim to areflexive and critical strain within Hollywood cinema.Working within the same feminist framework, in 1975 Laura Mulvey wrote what is perhapsthe most celebrated and contentious essay in the history of film studies, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Mulvey's essay is also concerned with Hollywood but concentrates onlooking at relations as they are systematized by mainstream conventions. In mainstreamcinema, Mulvey contends, a gendered division of labor allies the male hero with themovement of the narrative and the female figure with its spectacle. The cinematic apparatusaligns the gaze of the spectator with that of the camera, and editing conventions subsume thelook of the camera into that of the protagonist. This system of looks assumes narcissisticidentification with the male protagonist of the narrative and voyeuristic enjoyment of thefemale object of the gaze. This enjoyment is, however, ambivalent, because of the castrationanxiety engendered by the sight of the woman. The two forms of pleasure associated with thefemale image are also defenses against this threat: sadism, which acknowledges sexualdifference and takes pleasure in investigating woman's guilt, and fetishism, which disavowssexual difference and worships woman (or a particular body part or item of clothing) as phallic substitute. Mulvey concludes her essay with a radical attack on the pleasures of mainstream cinema and calls for a cinema of "passionate detachment" in terms that stronglyevoke the materialist avant-garde and the political counter-cinema of the 1970s. This analysishas been revisited and modified by many theorists and historians, including, on severaloccasions, Mulvey herself, and from this debate film studies has developed a complexunderstanding of cinema as a social technology of gender.The initial emphasis on femininity in the study of gender in cinema clearly resulted from the political impulse to identify and work against gender inequalities. However, as Steve Neale