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Mulvey Response

Mulvey Response

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Published by Megan Brown

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Published by: Megan Brown on Mar 16, 2011
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04/29/2012

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Megan BrownWichelnsFebruary 13, 2011A Response to Laura Mulveys
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
 Laura Mulveys piece entitled
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
inspects-- through both apsychoanalytic and a paradoxically feministic view-- the formulaic social, thematic, and subconsciouselements of film that contribute to an audiences unyielding interest in such forms of entertainment byaddressing the role of gender in its effects on the psyche as it manipulates the attentions and emotionsof cinema patrons. In this inspection, a brief synapsis of the piece will be provided, followed by a critiqueof Mulveys assertions as interpreted by the author of this paper.Mulveys piece begins by explaining the impending content of her piece and the reasons thatshe chose the often patriarchal school of psychoanalysis as a means to make her point. This introductionis perhaps the most difficult part of the paper to understand, as Mulvey delves directly into some of themajor points of her piece, including a great deal of Freudian and cinematographic language as well assome seemingly discordant ideas about the role of female characters in film. The article continues with abrief history of cinema, asserting particular interest in the distinction between mainstream andalternative film in their ideological origins. This is the point at which Mulvey introduces the primary topicof her essay stating: This article will discuss the interweaving of that erotic pleasure in film, its meaningand, in particular, the central place of the image of woman. It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty,destroys it. That is the intention of this article (440).The essay continues by describing the Freudian concept of scopophilia (love of looking),illustrating its posited origins in the realm of psychoanalysis and coming to a conclusion that scopophiliaas it relates to film equates to voyeurism. Her argument for this is that a film audience appropraites asense of control over the characters (particularly females) while simultaneously being alienated fromthe fantasy world portrayed that they inhabit. According to Mulvey, this mirrors the forces that create
 
real-life voyeurs, those people we refer to as peeping toms. The author then moves on to a secondpsychoanalytic concept known as the mirror phase and describes the concept of self-recognition and theerror that occurs when self-recognition takes place, that is to say, the error in which the human personwho looks in the mirrorrecognizes the image reflected back at him as a perfect version of himself.Ultimately, this concept functions as an allegory to Mulveys point about film; our identification with theindividual characters on screen, glamorous as they are, creates what she terms a complex process of likeness and difference (441).Laura Mulvey plays with these concepts of voyeurism and identification, relating themimmediately to the women in films who, as characters, perpetuate these processes by combining intheir audiences a fear of castration (due to the female lack of penis), and asimultaneous, inexorable andobsessive objectification of them.The structure of this piece is appreciable in that Mulvey persistently and thoroughly sets upeach point that she intends to make, doing so early and often, and by beginning each new point with areview of that which she has already postulated. This maintains the readers engagement in andunderstanding of the information Mulvey is attempting to communicate about her point, serving tomake the material relevant to readers other than those who study film with great vigor.Structure aside, the error in this essay lies in the overly liberal use of psychoanalytic theory, as agreat deal of Mulveys positions end up sounding downright silly. For example, the idea that womensomehow convey to men (or presumably other women?) some message about the impending doom of having ones genitals removed is completely preposterous, mystifying, and presupposed. Granted, thesesilly,preposterous, mystifying, presupposed ideas largely originated from the
psyche
of Freud, a theoristwho received an excessive amount of praise and distinction for work that was (and still is) poorlysupported by science, and who was a misogynist to boot. This culminates to the second point: how canMulvey expect serious reception for this piece when she is using outdated, chauvinistic psychological

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