In the FILMS, Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock and The Piano by Jan Chapman, evaluate how gendered authority is expressed in relation to voyeurism in Vertigo and The Piano in the films?

Apply Laura Mulvey’s theory of the filmic gaze in narrative cinema in your discussion of how voyeurism functions in both films.

  • Specific characters like Scottie from Vertigo and Ada from The Piano should be examined closely, as they are the ones who clearly express gendered authority through the film’s alignment with their gazes. How does Scottie’s gaze compare to Ada’s?
  • How do gendered gazes function in both films?
  • How is authority linked to the bearer of the look?

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The "filmic gaze," Laura Mulvey argued, was masculinist. The spectator was in a subject position in relation to the woman seen on screen, who was in the position of the object of desire. She draws heavily on Sigmund Freud's ideas. The protagonists of most films were male as well, and...

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The "filmic gaze," Laura Mulvey argued, was masculinist. The spectator was in a subject position in relation to the woman seen on screen, who was in the position of the object of desire. She draws heavily on Sigmund Freud's ideas. The protagonists of most films were male as well, and the viewer is encouraged to identify with them.

Vertigo seems to bear out these ideas perfectly. Scottie seems to exert male authority especially in his dealings with Judy. He is so obsessed with Madeleine that he goes to the museum to stare at her likeness in the painting of Carlota. Her death seems to catalyze further obsession. His friend gets so annoyed over it that she paints a parody with her face, which angers him.

But most of all it is his insistent transformation of Judy to look like the dead Madeline. He even ridicules her reluctance, saying her hair doesn't really matter to her. Madeleine seems disturbed, as initially presented, and Judy totally passive and submissive. Alfred Hitchcock makes Scottie both terrible and pathetic in his insistence. However, the numerous plot twists cast doubt on any simple interpretation of all the gazes, whether of spectator, characters, or director.

The Piano inverts the traditional male gaze as Jane Campion, a female director, gives us a very strong female protagonist in Ada. Although submitting to an arranged marriage to an uptight bully, she resists his control and exerts her own authority. Both in stoically enduring his butchery, a symbolic castration of her masculine authority, and in changing to her terms the sexual relation begun by Baines, Ada is more subject than object. Critics have noted, however, that the traditional happy ending in apparent monogamy re-establishes heteronormativity and undercurrents the idea of feminist inversion.

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