Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm pretty sure these random musings have something to do with Laura Mulvey

Gee, it sure is a little lonely 'round the old Blog these days... Maybe it's like a dancefloor, and if I just bust out my best written funky chicken, others will feel the rhythm and join in. I'm willing to give it a try, anyway...

First of all, I really want to share with you this article Adrienne, one of our board members, forwarded me the other day. It seems very apropos:

Unfortunately, I don't have the article in a format that would allow me to post it here in a legible way, but I do have an electronic copy that I can email out and there is also a paper copy floating around the office.

Anyway, I think it ties in rather nicely with everything we discussed re: genre/gender last week.

And I am really looking forward to discussing Watermelon Woman with y'all today, because I think it also dovetails really nicely with everything we talked about last week. Kind of the antidote to the male gaze, eh? I'm sure I'll bring this up this afternoon when I see you, but what did you think about the scene of Yvette's karaoke performance? It definitely recalled similar moments featuring characters like Jessica Rabbit in the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? clip we saw last week (I still have a burning desire to wash my eyes after seeing that) - don't you think? According to Mulvey, it's easy to indulge a really overtly male gaze in a film when a woman is performing - that way the camera just perches alongside the diegetic male spectators and shows us what they see, which is usually a sexualized spectacle of some sort. It's amazing how many films do this. Last week I watched Strange Days, another feature directed by Kathryn Bigelow (director of Point Break), and one of the female stars is, conveniently, a singer, who performs in barely-there bedazzled costumes for all the world to see. Or, more appropriately, for the male lead to watch voyeuristically, since he is not supposed to be in the club where she performs, and we the cinematic audience get to share his voyeuristic male gaze. But I digress...

Isn't it sort of surprising to see a film like The Watermelon Woman basically do the same thing? And at the same time - it's not quite the same thing, is it? Yvette's performance definitely does not make her desirable - not to Cheryl, not to others in the karaoke bar, and certainly not to the film's spectators, be they male or female, gay or straight, black or white. This stands in stark contrast to the performance of Jessica Alba in Sin City, or Jessica Rabbit in WFRR, or Juliette Lewis in Strange Days, to name a few. I think Cheryl Dunye was definitely trying to subvert that cliched cinematic moment that demonstrates the quintessential male gaze, but why did her subversion have to be at the expense of the Yvette character? In other words, it's great to subvert the male gaze, but do you have to make a woman look foolish to do it? And what does it mean that Cheryl Dunye chose to cast Yvette in such a light? She is the only character who really tries to look sexy in the movie (well, besides the Watermelon Woman herself, in those glamour shots), and she fails miserably. Is Dunye trying to tell us something?

Can't wait to talk to y'all about it soon!

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