Friday, May 26 • – 6
This essay presents a feminist psychoanalytic approach to the cinematic gaze, employing late Lacanian film theory to construct a conception of the gaze that unveils its political significance. The gaze is understood as something encountered by the subject (the spectator) in the object (the film), and also as something which epitomizes the cinematic experience. It is considered inherently political, existing within the realm of the Lacanian real as an objet petit a (or object-cause of desire), and manifesting itself in the realm(s) of fantasy and/or desire.
Todd McGowan’s analysis of four different filmic deployments of the gaze, as explored in The Real Gaze: Film Theory After Lacan, will be closely examined. The goal is not to establish the exclusive four ways in which the gaze can manifest itself in film or to provide a strict delineation of what the gaze is and/or ought to be. Instead, drawing from insightful observations in McGowan’s work, the intention is to provide the reader with a number of conceptual tools which can be of assistance in demystifying the political character of the gaze and in locating its distinct function in each different film.
Finally, the argument is made that for a conception of the gaze to accurately represent the cinematic experience within the prevailing patriarchal social order, it must consider the question of gender. Specifically, a critique of the male gaze as the historically—and presently—dominant, yet most destructive, cinematic perspective is presented in order to advocate for transcending the current constraining cinematic framework toward a more feminist and less gendered cinema.
Sofia Koukia is a first-year PhD student in Philosophy at Binghamton University, from Athens, Greece. Her research interests span various domains, including aesthetics, neurophilosophy, philosophy of language, and feminist philosophy.