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UWE I.D.

No: 10016046

UCY I.D. No: 186999

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An Investigation and Comparison of Two ‘Mainstream’ Films Using Multiple Ideologies.
  This investigation will be looking into the representation of women and the ‘ideologies’ that surround them within two specific films; ‘Pretty Woman’ directed by Gary Marshall and ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ directed by Sharon Maguire. The key theorists that shall be used to address and investigate the perception of gender, inequality, ‘the female gaze’, power relationships and ‘gender roles’. It will investigate how these specific concepts relate to these two films. I will use the likes of Laura Mulvey, Ann Oakley, Antonio Gramsci, Emile Durkheim, Constantina SafiliosRothschild, Kathleen Barry and Lars O. Erricson to widely analyse this subject matter. Firstly, I shall be introducing you to the key concepts behind both films, and what I shall be looking into. The storyline of ‘Pretty Woman’ is that the character Vivian Ward, an uneducated but beautiful prostitute is hired by a very wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, for a week at a price of £3000 and access to his credit cards on the condition that Vivian stays with him for a week and attends all of his ‘high class’ functions. Throughout the film, we see Vivian being ‘snubbed’ by saleswomen, hotel managers and friends of Edward’s because of her ‘immodest clothing’ and her general etiquette. Vivian takes it upon herself to change her etiquette, dress sense and general manner to suit Edward’s lifestyle as she realises that she is falling in love with him. This is a very good example of a concept called ‘patriarchy’. According to Feminist theology, ‘patriarchy’ is: “The dominance of men in society, and the oppression of women for men’s gain” (Ref. 1) Using the concept of ‘patriarchy‘ to Pretty Women, it can be argued that Edward is using his money as a symbol of power to get Vivian to do exactly what he wants. Vivian, (the ‘oppressed’), is surrounded by a world that she is unfamiliar with, but she so desperately wants to make the man she is in love with happy and to do so, she needs to abide by the ‘norms’ and ‘values’ or the ‘hegemonic ideologies’ of the world in which this man lives and be a well educated, well dressed and well spoken woman. According to Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci:

UWE I.D. No: 10016046

UCY I.D. No: 186999

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“Gramsci’s definition of hegemony that dominant ideologies are often offered as ‘common sense,’ and that dominant ideologies are in tension with other forces and hence constantly in flux.” (Sturken & Cartwright, 2004: p. 356-357) This means that in Vivian is conforming to the ‘dominant ideologies’ that are seen as ‘common sense’, in the ‘world’ which Edward lives in, meaning she is changing what she perceives as ‘common sense’ to fit into another ‘ideology.’ Ann Oakley, Feminist Sociologist, looked into the concept of ‘oppression’: “The assertion that women’s oppression is linked to culturally-elaborated expectations of women instead of biological difference became an important analytical concept for feminist theory.” (Code, 2003: p.336) Meaning Oakley would agree that Vivian is seen as to conforming to ‘dominant ideologies and these ‘ideologies’ ‘oppress’ her. Vivian would be a great example of an oppressed woman because she is being forced by money to conform to exactly what Edward (‘the dominant’) wants, even if she is not entirely happy with it. ‘The storyline of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ has a completely different narrative to that in ‘Pretty Woman.’ Bridget Jones is a thirty-year-old educated single woman, who isn’t the skinniest of women and also very ‘accident prone.’ At the start of the film we see Bridget have ‘a bad day’ and as she catches sight of herself in the mirror and doesn’t like what she see, Bridget vows to keep a diary that will help her to stop her bad habits, like smoking, lose weight and help her to find her ‘Mr. Right. As the story unfolds, Bridget has two men in her life, one Daniel Cleaver, her ‘womanizing’ and ‘good-looking’ boss and then Mark Darcy, a well educated barrister and son of her parent’s friend. As Bridget develops her relationships with both men, we see that Bridget has to change who she is when she is around each of the men. When around Daniel, we see Bridget wearing shorter skirts and see-through tops, as a way of pleasing his sexual desires for her. When Bridget is around Mark, we see her change her persona to one where she has to fit into more ‘high-brow’ conversations than she would normally be in. The change in Bridget’s notions and actions are again presenting the ideas of Patriarchy, as in ‘Pretty Woman.’ Both women want to feel loved and like they fit in, so in feminist theology, the fact that they have to change at all to suit a man is conveying to the ‘oppressive state’ of a women that is dominated by men.

UWE I.D. No: 10016046

UCY I.D. No: 186999

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However, both Bridget and Vivian are not only dominated by the men in their lives but those ‘ideologies’ from friends, family and other social influences about how they should look. Bridget especially, lives by reading women’s magazines and ‘self-help’ books that influence the decisions on what food she should eat, what clothes she should wear how she should lose weight to fit into what is shown as being the ‘ideal’ perfect body in society. British feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey looks into the way that women are made to fit into something called ‘the Male Gaze.’ “In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.” (Mulvey, 1975: p.48) Mulvey would use the idea of the ‘Male Gaze’ highlight the fact that both Bridget and Vivian are visually seen as or trying to ‘sex symbols’ through the eyes of a male perspective watching the films or for the men in the actual films themselves. Mulvey explains this theory by saying: “Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen.” (Mulvey, 1975: p.48) Mulvey’s point is that regardless of the views, thoughts, feelings of the female characters in the films, if they are seen as more ‘erotic’ this is more visually pleasurable to other characters in the film but also to the audience or the ‘spectator’ of the film. However, in ‘reality’ are Bridget and Vivian clear depiction or representation of how women should really be in today’s society? Should they have to change their ‘norms’ and ‘values’ based on the ideals of the male perspective or ‘gaze’? Functionalist key theorist, Emile Durkheim would disagree with any theory or thought that disrupts the ‘tradition’ or ‘social solidarity’. “For if society lacks the unity that derives from the fact that the relationships

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between its parts are exactly regulated, that unity resulting from the harmonious articulation of its various functions assured by effective discipline and if, in addition, society lacks the unity based upon the commitment of men's wills to a common objective, then it is no more than a pile of sand that the least jolt or the slightest puff will suffice to scatter.” (Durkheim, 2009: p140) Which means, the feminist argument on ‘the male gaze’, ‘oppression’ and ‘sexual objectification’ that women feel is, to Durkheim, in fact completely in valid and threatens the ‘perfect society’. Durkheim would argue that women have a ‘traditional’ gender role to fulfill, in both society and in marriage, and that role is to provide ‘sexual arrangements’ and be emotionally supportive to a male, whilst he brings in the economic value to the relationship. This is also explored by, a feminist called Constantina Safilios-Rothschild in her book, ‘Love, Sex and Sex Roles which explores the ideas of ‘gender stratification’ and said that: “ …this follow many differences between the ways in which males and females orient towards the sexual marketplace: males more spontaneously guided by external appearances and their own emotions, females more deliberate efforts at controlling their emotions, to ensure that any resulting marriage is economically feasible.” (Safilios-Rothschild, 1977: p.121) In both the eyes of Durkheim and Safilios-Rothschild, the relationship between male and female is merely like a business transaction and to make that ‘transaction’ balance out ‘coherently’ the woman must do what is required of her in any form, in return for economical support. Bringing in the ideas of business transactions, we can look into the fact that Vivian in ‘Pretty Woman’ is a prostitute and uses her body as a force for work and income. According to psychologist Lars O. Erricson in 1980: “If two adults voluntarily consent to an economic arrangement concerning sexual activity and this activity takes place in private, it seems plainly absurd to maintain that there is something intrinsically wrong with it.” (Erricson, 2000: p.367) So, in the eyes of Erricson, the fact that Vivian is selling her body to make a living and to please a man and the emotional discomfort and strain that this has on her,

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both mentally and physically, it is fine because she is consenting. This is completely the opposite viewpoint of Radical Feminists, such as Kathleen Barry. “ Radical feminism does not view prostitution as a victimless crime, but as a situation where men have reduced women to an image of being mere sexual objects. This allows men to unconscionably oppress and coerce women in order to satisfy their own fantasies through prostitution.” (Elias, 1996: p.296) Again, the word ‘oppression’ comes into play and Vivian’s character and her job as a prostitute seems to be somewhat ‘over-glorified’ and made to look as though every man would want to pay for sex, rather than having a relationship. However, this idea is explored throughout the movies and toward the end of the film Edward’s character is seen to ‘come to his sense’s’ and realises that he is in love with Vivian, for her as a person rather than her body. In reflection, we can see that two films primarily advertised as ‘romantic comedies’ both bring in many controversial theories and ideas about the way women appear to be perceived, in ways of sexuality, oppressively and traditionally. We are given an insight into how both films inadvertently address the ‘ideologies’ Gramsci defined, such as ‘hegemony’ and how both Vivian and Bridget change their lifestyles, accordingly to suit those ‘norms’ and ‘values’ of the men that they are in love with. This then ties in with Feminist theologies. The fact that Bridget and Vivian change to become more ‘appealable’ and ‘desirable’ to the men, seems somewhat ‘patriarchal’ and as if they are in a state of ‘oppression’ as explored by Ann Oakley. The ‘oppressive’ state and ‘patriarchy’ in both the character’s lives result in them trying or wanting to be more ‘sexual’ and ‘erotic’ and are shown to wear shorter skirts and lowcut tops to show more bum and cleavage. This then allows for Laura Mulvey’s ideas of ‘the male gaze’ to come into play. We can explore the ideas that the female characters are made to be visually enticing for both the male spectators watching the films and the male characters within the films. Emile Durkheim and Constantina Safilios-Rothschild completely dis-regards Mulvey’s ideas and we see that the relationship between man and woman, or in this case Bridget, Mark and Daniel in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and Vivian and Edward in ‘Pretty Woman’, can be seen as mere ‘business transactions in the form(s) of sex, emotion and economics, rather than for any ‘oppressive’ or ‘dominating’ force. It also maintains the ‘norms’ and ‘values’ in society that do not pose a threat on the ‘perfect society.’ Vivian being a prostitute brings up a lot of idea about whether she is in full control and has the

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UCY I.D. No: 186999

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power to sell her body for economic value, to survive and live, and according to psychologist Lars O. Ericsson, as long as both adults are consenting, it doesn’t really matter. However, Radical Feminists such as Kathleen Barry strongly disagree and back up Mulvey and Oakley’s ideas of a ‘patriarchal’ world. This investigation into these films presents the viewpoints of many academic and key theories, but also brings out some unanswered questions as to whether women will always be portrayed as being ‘oppressed’ and ‘dominated’ and will always have to conform to ‘the male gaze’ in films. It seems as though many questions will remain unanswered to an extent, but many will have offered some form of answer in the past and will continue to do so as ‘society’ changes and evolves.