21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction



The International Writers Magazine: Cross Dresing in Film
(Academic Paper)

The Development of Cross Gender Spectatorship Theory: A Survey of Contemporary Theory and its Application
Etan Jonathan Ilfeld


This paper aims to highlight the interplay of spectatorship and gender theory across academia and popular culture. Starting with early film theory across to Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, and towards contemporary theory, the paper continues to survey the development of of the theory of spectatorship. Spectator theory and its application are investigated alongside cult films such as The Crying Game and The Ring. Theorists range from cybernetics to art historians and include Anne Friedberg, John Berger, Katherine Hayles, Judith Butler, Tom Gunning, Mary Ann Doane, and Linda Williams.In particular, Rhona J. Berenstein and Carol J. Clover theories are examined with their application towards cross-gender spectatorship. While tracing these theoretical positions, this paper illustrates the utility of applying these models and the fertile ground that remains to be explored as we continue to synthesize and develop theories of spectatorship and identification.

In her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975), Laura Mulvey claims that the cinematic gaze is masculine—designed to make the male viewer feel all-powerful— and that it forces the female into an objectified and passive role. Using a Freudian paradigm, she argues that the female, a signifier of castration, poses a visual threat to the male which can be neutralized by either fetishizing or by demystifying and devaluating the female via "punishment or saving of the guilty object."1 Mulvey's seminal essay is probably the most widely cited essay in film theory and has prompted a series of theoretical debates regarding the possible modes of spectatorship and identification. This paper aims to trace the development of these theorizations, and to illustrate some of the possibilities in applying these theoretical tools in exploring the shifting notions of identity and spectatorship within postmodern-visual culture.
Lee Grieveson has pointed out that the developments of academic critical theories in cinema studies were greatly influenced by historical, social and technological conditions. Whereas the cinematic apparatus' hypnotic and mimetic potential to disrupt social order was a source of concern and prompted empirical studies of spectatorship such as the Payne studies of the 1930s, the introduction of radio and later on of television, became the chief concern of social science's 'communication studies' which coalesced into a discipline in the1940s.
In the mid-1930s the Musuem of Modern Art began archiving film, and as cinema began to be viewed as less of a 'risk' by the social sciences, the humanities continued exploring film as an art form. Curiously, the development of Marxist perspectives within the Frankfurt school (e.g. Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, etc...), led to an investigation of the dangers of social control which the film medium exerted over its indoctrinated spectators. This line of thought was later infused with psychoanalytic theory in the 1960-70s and led Louis Baudry to claim that cinematic representation was “experienced as perceptions,” while Christian Metz suggested that film spectators were in a dreamlike state which enabled Hollywood cinema to reproduce and sustain normative subjectivities.
While there are ample theoretical precedents regarding film's hypnotic potential and modes of spectatorship (a la Munsterberg's belief that the screen's images 'penetrated' the mind), the fusion of psychoanalysis and semiotics provided a fresh theoretical framework. It is within this theoretical climate that Laura Mulvey's Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema was published in Screen in 1975. Mulvey claimed that the cinematic gaze is constructed through three distinct looks: that of the camera, that of the spectator, and the characters looking at one another. The first two are subordinated to the third (i.e. – the male gaze of the protagonist creates an overall male gaze for the picture). Thus, "the power of the male protagonist as he controls events coincides with the active power of the erotic look, giving a satisfying sense of omnipotence," much like that of the Lacanian ideal ego that is constructed in front of the mirror prior to mobility.
Mulvey's essay claims that a narrative which is predominantly driven by a male protagonist implies a cinematically male gaze, which dominates and eroticizes the women on screen. In order to subvert the patriarchal order, Mulvey advocated the negation of the classical narrative in cinema, and favored the avant-garde—where masculine aesthetics and an oedipal narrative can be abandoned, which in turn disrupts the male gaze.

In Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator, Mary Ann Doane expands Mulvey's spectatorship theory for the female spectator. She asserts that the overwhelming proximity of the female to her body, precludes her from establishing the distance necessary for voyeuristic pleasure, nor is she able to fetishize because the Freudian paradigm dictates that fetishism is a result of the threat of castration. Thus, the female spectator on-screen and off-screen (i.e. – in the audience) is forced to identify with the male gaze in a transvestite-manner, otherwise, she is left to identify masochistically with the objectified female. Doane reinforces her conception of female transvestism through Freud and Cixous claims that women are more bisexual than men and that sexual mobility is a "distinguishing feature of femininity in its cultural construction" because women "want to be men, for everyone wants to be elsewhere than in the feminine position"(emphasis mine).
As Doane points out, women can wear men's clothing, while the reverse would only serve as a social farce. Therefore, Doane's theory of spectatorship expands the viewing possibilities available to women. However, by reasserting the notion of strictly upward identification and claiming that transvestism is less accessible to the male viewer, Doane reinforces the restricted position of the male spectator to Mulvey's formulation of an omnipotent male gaze.
It is a common misconception in cultural thought that society's hierarchal structure limits identification to a strictly upward movement.
According to Carol J. Clover, the silence on male masochism and male-with-female identification is based on the "longstanding and wholesale assumption, in cultural thought, that people in general identify upward toward power and prestige.
Thus blacks identify with whites, poor with rich, women with men—and either not the reverse or the reverse only for purposes of appropriation."8 Of course, Clover adamantly opposes the upward-only assumption, which she sets out to disprove in The Eye of Horror through the modern horror genre.9 Cloverpoints out how prevalent cross gender identification is: "No one who has read 'Red Riding Hood' to a small boy or attended a viewing of, say, Deliverance ... or, more recently, Alien and Aliens ... can doubt the phenomenon of cross-gender identification."
Similarly, Anne Friedberg claims that one of the major pleasures of cinema is oppositional identification: "Isn't cinema spectatorship pleasurable because new identities can be 'worn' and then discarded?"
Analogously, Rhona J. Berenstein contests the notion of a strictly upward process of identification in claiming that we should move away from theories that base identification on similarities or differences and asserts that spectators can enjoy identifying against themselves as much as they enjoy identifying with a character that closely corresponds to them. Indeed, the notion of purely upward identification seems extremely tenuous. Mythology, for example, often invites us to identify with the underdog who is, by definition, outclassed.
In addition, it should be noted, that even within an upward process of identification any single identity parameter can be flipped while still allowing an overall upward movement of identification. For example, let us assume a system with the following dominant/weak binaries: straight/gay, white/black, rich/poor, man/woman, and athletic/obese.13 In such a system, a straight-poor-white-obese-man could identify with a straight-rich-white-athletic-woman while having an overall upward identification, because although he has moved downward in the man/woman parameter (a single parameter), such identification provides an upward movement in the rich/poor and athletic/obese parameters —implying an improvement in two parameters with a reduction in only one. Therefore, even if one could only identify in an overall upward manner, cross identification is still possible within any single parameter; this is especially obvious given that individuals are complex and can be described within an infinite number of parameters, and assuming that no one is at the top of each possible parameter, then there should always be a way to cross-identify in any number of parameters; a successful man who has no martial arts skills, could still identify with Uma Thurman's character in Kill Bill because such an identification could mean an upward movement in martial arts capacity, charisma, etcetera.
In developing her theory of spectatorship and identification in The Eye of Horror, Clover speculates on the notion of an assaultive gaze, which is not much different than Mulvey's male gaze; it is phallic and sadistically penetrates and feminizes the objects of its gaze.15 The horror genre is inundated with the assaultive gaze and the notion that a look can terrorize or even kill. However, Clover points out the existence of another type of gaze, the reactive gaze, in which the gaze itself is assaulted;16 indeed, horror is imbued with this vaginally penetrated gaze as eyeballs are stabbed and both spectators and characters are frightened. Indeed, there is nothing omnipotent about the reactive gaze, which is always vulnerable and often helpless. Also, while the sadistically assaultive gaze is masculine, the masochistically reactive gaze is feminine.17
Clover demonstrates the existence of male masochistic fantasies in males by invoking Freud's The Economic Problem of Masochism, in which Freud's male patients' masturbatory fantasies include "being gagged, bound, painfully beaten, whipped [...] forced into unconditional obedience [...] being castrated, or copulated with, or giving birth to a baby," which Freud considers to be a feminine condition in that masochism is natural for women but considered perverse for men.
18 Clover proceeds to use the term feminine masochism in referring to the feminine status in which male masochistic fantasies places them. Clover points out that Christian Metz began to formulate a reactive gaze, which he called an introjective gaze, in The Imaginary Signifier within his Identification, Mirror section where: "There are two cones in the auditorium: one ending on the screen and starting both in the projection box and in the spectator's vision insofar as it is projective, and one starting from the screen and 'deposited' in the spectator's perception insofar as it is introjective (on the retina, a second screen)."
In other words, the assaultive gaze is analogous to the viewer identifying with the apparatus, while the introjective gaze is receptively analogous to the reactive gaze. Unfortunately, Metz later subordinated his introjective gaze to the figure of the camera, and most commentaries on The Imaginary Signifier have similarly ignored his introjective formulation.
Clover asserts that male spectators watch horror movies primarily to be scared, because horror provides them with masochistic pleasure.21 Indeed, horror attempts at tricking the spectator and the on-screen characters into a calmed state and then mounting a surprise attack; also, horror attempts to make the spectator anxious about a protagonists welfare, implying that anxiety is another masochistic pleasure of the male spectator. Furthermore, horror often reverses the gaze of the spectator and puts him in the defensive position of the reactive gaze as he composes himself for the next fright.
Horror aligns the spectator with the on-screen characters which are often spectators themselves and is filled with instances in which monsters jump out of a movie or TV screen. Therefore, both feminine masochism and the reactive gaze illustrate the feminine viewing position of the horror spectator as he/she masochistically identifies with the feminized victim.23 This in itself is a liberation for the male spectator who was previously theorized to a confined sadistic male gaze and spectatorship experience.
This liberation extends beyond the horror genre. Surreal films and the horror genre share a great deal with each other and are imbued with the introjective gaze. The non-linear narrative structure of surreal films undermines the spectator's coherence and cause the spectator to flounder for meaning, foiling the assaultive gaze and activating the reactive gaze. Luis Bunuel's Un chien andalou's infamous slicing of a woman's eyeball is one of the first and most violent assaults of spectatorship within cinema, and has generated the motif of the reactive gaze that is prevalent in the horror genre.
In The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde, Tom Gunning points out that up to 1906, cinema primarily relied on its ability to visually excite the spectator's curiosity rather than on narrative storytelling. Gunning coins this early form of cinema as the 'cinema of attractions,' which early cinema's exhibition mode employed, and asserts that it is more about "exhibitionist confrontation rather than diegetic absorption."26 Tom Gunning and Miriam Hanson emphasize that this mode of spectatorship remained an integral component of later cinematic practices such as avant-garde filmmaking,27 3-D movies, action films, musicals and within the fantastical realms of cult and horror genres.

Certainly, the confrontational spectatorship mode within the cinema of attractions resonates with the conceptualization of a reactive gaze, which is activated in 3-D films when an object frighteningly hurls at the audience, and is similarly activated during a lightning strike, explosion or just blindingly bright screen within the action genre.28 Also, male spectators often adopt a feminine viewing position within the thriller genre when suspense heightens the spectator's anxiety; in fact, one could even claim that the anxiety caused by any film activates the spectator's reactive gaze whom frighteningly watches the silver screen's events and places him in a feminine viewing position.29 Clover points out that sentimental genres and early train-wreck movies create an anxiety that places the male spectator in a feminine viewing position, which again resonates with Gunning's cinema of attractions. Ultimately, Clover claims that although the proportion may differ, vision is always both introjective (reactive and feminine) and projective (assaultive and masculine).
Like Clover, Berenstein also uses the horror genre—although she concentrates on classic horror rather than modern— to expand the viewing positions for the spectator. In Spectatorship as Drag: The Act of Viewing and Classic Horror Cinema and Spectatorship- as-Drag: Re-Dressing Classic Horror Cinema, Berenstein criticizes the use of male/female, hetero/homo, sadistic/masochistic, similar/different binaries in spectatorship theories and attempts to illustrate how the horror genre disintegrates binary boundaries and creates a safe arena for a symmetrical range of viewing positions—for all spectators—through the formulation of horror spectatorship as a fantasy and performative space.

Berenstein asserts that horror is an ideal space for the dissolution of gender boundaries. The monsters in horror movies represent a transgendered entity, which incite fear and often desire (Dracula, for example) and challenge the female/male binary. 31 Berenstein quotes Marjorie Garber's work on cross-dressing to illustrate the similarity between the transvestite and a fiend: "The transvestite ... is both terrifying and seductive precisely because s/he incarnates and emblematizes the disruptive element that intervenes, signaling not just another category crisis, but ... a crisis of 'category' itself." 32 Berenstein refers to Garber again to point out that all women cross dress in order to construct the signifier of woman—which can be turned 'on' and 'off'—via jewelry, clothes and makeup. 33 Therefore, all gender roles are performative, a point which the monsters in the horror genre emphasize since the spectator knows that the monster is not real but only a performative construction whose often transgendered representation disintegrates the boundaries between human/non-human and female/male; once the spectator acknowledges the performative nature of the monster, and are free to identify with any gender.
In horror, spectatorship itself is performative and fostered at the textual level, which emphasizes disguises and role-playing. 34 Much like the on-screen characters, male spectators are encouraged to act macho by refusing to show fear, while female characters can flaunt their femininity by feigning fear. Thus the spectators create a masquerade that externally affirms their masculine and feminine positions respectively, while internally allowing them to identify and desire freely. The idea being that the spectators are aware of their gender enactments and realize that all gender is performative—thereby allowing them to freely identify and desire with the full confidence that their viewing positions are concealed.

Berenstein points out that in terms of drag, transvestism and masquerade are similar since they foreground the construction of gender roles, and that identification through drag creates a model of identification based on differences and similarities.
35 The great thing about transvestism is that its representation alone, allows the spectator to consider identifying in opposition, which, Berenstein believes, can be just as enjoyable as identification based on similarities.
36 Thus, transvestism creates a matrix of possibilities:
For example, if a heterosexual woman identifies with a heterosexual hero, she identifies against her own constructed identity on the basis of sex (she is not a man) and sexual orientation (in her everyday life, she is not lesbian). This notion is even more striking if we shift the terms of the participants and position a heterosexual man identifying with a heterosexual woman's point of view. Like the female spectator, the man may identify against this own identity on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The pattern continues to shift if we posit a lesbian viewer identifying with a heterosexual male. Although the lesbian may identify against herself on the basis of biological sex, she identifies with the hero through the operations of desire.
Indeed, the great thing about spectatorship as drag is that it invites the spectators to identify with numerous positions—thereby providing a choice. For example, movies such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Charlie's Angels might just be highly commercial in that they allow both an identification with a female protagonist—a change many female viewers welcome —and they provide a highly sexualized female image for the heterosexual male viewers to enjoy. Berenstein admits that spectatorship as drag is neither necessarily progressive nor conservative.
Although, spectatorship as drag commutes classic horror's gender ambiguities to the spectating domain, it seems to lack the ability to truly subvert patriarchal culture in that spectators reinforce the representation of female/male binary when they utilize the masquerade. Nevertheless, spectatorship as drag does expand the theoretical viewing positions with which to formulate the various experiences of spectatorship.

Interestingly, Berenstein's theory of spectatorship as drag in classical horror is also applicable to the modern sci-fi genre,39 where the dissolution of the boundaries between man and machine also disintegrate the gender boundaries as performativity is stressed when robotic characters are performed by human actors. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the character Data, we have a male actor, Brent Spiner, whose character is a humanoid who aspires to be a male human—creating a situation in which a robot is performing an act of drag, which highlights the way in which all humans enact their gender; this illustrates Butler's point that there is no original or primary gender that is being imitated, because gender is always mimetic.40
It appears that spectatorship as drag is also applicable towards a great deal of post- modern films which often meld genres and includes elements of cutting-edge technology. For example, even non-sci-fi films often introduce new technologies such as the latest cell phones, newest cars and bigger and better LCD monitors. Also, post-modern films often rely on technology as a narrative vehicle. For example, in the romantic drama Closer, Jude Law's character successfully passes a sort of gender Turing test, 41 as he performs on-line drag and fools Clive Owen's character into believing that he is instant messaging with a woman. Thus, we see how the incorporation of technology in film subverts man/machine and male/female binaries by emphasizing the performative quality of gender and human behavior in general.42
Note that Berenstein's spectator theory can also be applied beyond the horror and sci-fi genres.

Let's take a look at Blake Edward's comedy Switch. Switch starts off with a handsome, successful and charismatic male protagonist, with which male spectators can easily identify with. A short while into the movie, the protagonist is killed and is reincarnated as a woman played by Ellen Barkin. 43 Note that in the early 90's, Ellen Barkin was considered to be a female sex symbol and had previously acted aside Al Pacino in Sea of Love. Switch's narrative makes it easy for the male spectator to identify with the protagonist who is initially in a male body, and through a sudden switch of bodies—Perry King's for Ellen Barkin's—both the on-screen protagonist and the spectator are forced into a female position. If Grahame Weinbren is right in claiming that making a choice involves a moral responsibility,44 then Switch makes it extremely easy for the male spectator to identify with a female body, since it is the narrative rather than the spectator that makes the decision and relieves the spectator of the responsibility of cross-gender identification. Thus, a male spectator can enjoy a transvestite-identification without assuming any responsibility. Switch is also unique in that the protagonist is both male and female and allows the heterosexual male spectator to both identify with and desire the protagonist.

reinforces the notion that gender is performative. Throughout Switch we view Ellen Barkin as a man with a female body as does she. When asked what her name is, she invents the name Amanda, but first saying that she is "a man" then instantly realizing that no one will believe her she says "...da, I'm Amanda." Thus, even her name, which embodies the word "man" serves as a constant reminder of the conflict between her gender identity and her biological sex. As Amanda finds out, even being in a beautiful woman's body does not necessarily make her a woman; in order to be the social construct of a woman, she must master the signifiers and performance of woman. Amanda must rely on a woman, Margo, to teach her how to be one. Thus, she must become versed with such things as drying her long hair and dressing like a woman. Despite her training, Amanda constantly struggles -- she staggers in her high heels and fails to apply the right amount of rouge. All of these details emphasize the performative, and in turn socially constructed, quality of gender. Additionally, just as a transgendered fiend disrupts the male/female binary in horror, Switch uses Amanda's character to blur the boundary between male and female. Not only do we have a man within a female body, but as Amanda becomes pregnant with a girl, we get a female infant within a man who is contained within a female body. 45 Furthermore, the female/male binary is completely transcended by Switch's representation of God who speaks with both a female and male voice.
Just as horror provides its spectators with performative behavioral codes, comedy also has ways in which the spectator can masquerade. Instead of screaming, male and female spectators can laugh. Humor can also be used to conceal a real investment in a particular character. The relaxed atmosphere in comedy spectatorship allows the viewers to talk, yell and joke around—creating an arena in which spectatorship itself should not be taken too seriously, so that spectators can cross-identify without consequences, and in which their viewing positions can be inverted.

In Ways of Seeing, John Berger provides for a restrictively pessimistic conceptualization of spectatroship, which is much akin to Mulvey's description of the spectator in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Berger asserts that viewing practices in contemporary western culture's film and TV are still structured in accordance with traditional European oil paintings representations of a nude female, and whose “principal protagonist is never painted [and] is the spectator in front of the picture and he is presumed to be a man.”46 Berger claims that the essential way of seeing women has not changed much, and that the 'ideal' spectator is still a male who gazes upon an image of an objectified woman. For those who disagree, Berger offers a thought experiment: image a nude woman, transform her into a man and, according to Berger, you will feel a violent reaction in your inner mind. Berger's test is—to a large degree—manifested in The Crying Game (1992) where Jaye Davidson, a male actor, plays a female character, Dil, whose erotic poise convinces the protagonist, Fergus (and the spectator) that Dil is a woman. It is only in the middle of the movie during an erotic bedroom encounter between Dil and Fergus that the protagonist and the audience suddenly discover that Dil is biologically male.

According to Mulvey, as long as the male (voyeuristic and assaultive) gaze is in control "the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification," because "man is reluctant to gaze at his exhibitionist like."47 Note that up to the moment of discovery, the bedroom sequence is shot in a way that both Dil and Fergus constantly share the frame rather than using a shot-reverse shot structure—so that a POV shot is avoided. However, just as Dil removes her robe, the camera aligns the audience with Fergus' point of view— emphasizing the male gaze in its most sexual form. Meanwhile, the removal of the robe leaves Dil standing naked with a flat chest and male genitalia. Fergus' spectatorship ceases —and perhaps the audience's as well—as soon as he realizes that Dil has a penis; at first, he looks shocked, then swiftly turns his head and looks away.

Fergus complains that he feels sick, and when Dil tries to soothe him, he shoves her aside and escapes to vomit in the bathroom, after which, POV shots are once again avoided, and a deep focus is used such that both characters are back in frame.

Fergus's response is violent and seems to indicate that there is some truth to Butler's and Mulvey's claims that the assaultive gaze cannot cast itself upon a male image within a patriarchal paradigm.48 At the same time, the first half of the movie—including a prior sequence where Dil performs felatio on the unaware Fergus—has allowed the assaultive gaze to be cast upon Dil's female persona, implying that the male gaze can fall upon another male. Also, Berger's test is nuanced here in that although a female is replaced with a male, Dil is still the same character that she was before. Furthermore, after the moment of discovery, Dil's transvestism continues and even Fergus warms up to the notion of Dil as a woman despite his initial homophobic reaction; He kisses her on the lips, and when he comments that she's not a girl, Dil replies: "Details, baby. Details."

Note that The Crying Game's twist is highly cinematic and could not have been as effective in a novel where a reader would doubt the story's verisimilitude. By visually fooling Fergus and the film's spectators, The Crying Game highlights the performative quality of gender. Dil's—now male—character invites the male spectator to cross-dress as well, because after the moment of discovery has passed, a male spectator is able to identify with Dil's male character who performs the transvestism for the spectator. Furthermore, since Dil's transvestism disrupts the male/female binary49 —much like Berenstein's transgendered fiends—the spectator is free to identify with any character; after all, Dil's surprise places all of the character's gender representations in doubt, causing the spectator to realize that any male characters on-screen might turn out to be female. This might cause the male spectator to identify with Jude whose femme fatale persona makes her appear tougher than most male characters, or with Fergus or Dil. Either way, the mode of spectatorship as drag is highly accessible in The Crying Game.50 Similarly, Clover's theory of spectatorship in The Eye of Horror is also relevant in the The Crying Game, which is filled with reactive gazes and feminine masochism. The reactive gaze is clearly manifested during Fergus' shock upon discovering Dil's true sex (see image on previous page).

In conclusion, although Laura Mulvey's interpretation of spectatorship in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema was groundbreaking at the time, it generated a rather narrow interpretation of spectatorship; one of an omnipotent male spectator who takes pleasure in the objectification of the female characters. However, Mulvey's essay sparked a development of various theories of spectatorship by scholars such as John Berger, Tom Gunning, Mary Ann Doane, Linda Williams, Rhona J. Berenstein and Carol J. Clover. While tracing these theoretical positions, this paper illustrates the utility of applying these models and the fertile ground that remains to be explored as we continue to synthesize and develop theories of spectatorship and identification.

© Etan Jonathan Ilfeld


Berger, John Ways of Seeing. Penguin Books, London, 1985. Borden, Daniel, et al Film A World History. Abrams, New York, 2008.
Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen Film Theory and Criticism. (Sixth Edition) Oxford University Press, 2004.
Butler, Judith The Judith Butler Reader. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2004.
Clover, Carol. Men, Women and Chainsaws. Gender in the modern horror film. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA, 1992.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Continuum, 2004.
Freud, Sigmund Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Penguin Books, London, 1991. Grieveson, Lee, et al Inventing Film Studies. Duke University Press, 2008.
Friedberg, Anne Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1994.
Hayles, Katherine N. How We Become Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. The University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Knopf, Robert Theater and Film: A Comparative Anthology. Yale University, 200
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell Film History: An Introductin. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003.
Mulvey, Laura Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen, Volume 16, Number 3, 1975. Telotte, J.P. Replications. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1995. Williams, Linda Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film. Rutgers, 1994.


1 Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey, quoted from Film Theory and Criticism, edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Coehn, 2004; page 844. 2Cinema Studies and the Conduct of Conduct, Grieveson, Lee, page 23. 3Ibid, pages 23-25.
4 Note that according to Mulvey, as long as the male gaze is in control, Mulvey claims that "the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification," because "man is reluctant to gaze at his exhibitionist like." Ibid., page 842. 5 Doane's Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator, Marry Ann Doane, an essay from Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, Patricia Erens, 1990; page 48.
6 The Eye of Horror, Carol J. Clover, an essay within Linda William's Viewing Positions, 1994; page 214 7 Ibid., page 229 footnote 84. 8 Ibid., 229, footnote 84. One obvious example of appropriations is white culture's consumption of hip hop, which does not necessarily imply a white identification with black culture. 9 Ibid,. 229, footnote 84. Clover also claims that pornography provides numerous examples of downward identification but she does not elaborate; perhaps, she is referring less to mainstream porn—in which women are objectified by men —and more to deviant porn such as female domination of submissive men. 10 Men, Women, and Chain Saws, Carol J. Clover, page 46, quoted from Linda William's Viewing Positions, 1994; page 266, footnote 48. 11 Cinema and the Postmodern Condition, Anne Friedberg, quoted from Linda William's Viewing Positions, 1994; page 65. 12 The biblical story of David and Goliath is but one of many examples. 13 Obviously, social hierarchies do not have to adhere to binaries; one could have white/Asian/black as a hierarchal subset. 14 Of course, none of this works if we restrict identification to a strictly upward movement within each single parameter, but such a theory would practically eliminate the ability to identify with another individual because it would demand an upward movement within an almost infinite number of parameters. For example, a boy who prefers his blond hair over dark hair would be unable to identify with a non-blonde protagonist—such as Sean Connery's James Bond character, for example—regardless of the protagonist's other positive assets. Therefore, a strictly upward movement in all parameters would make it very difficult for people to identify in general. 15 Ibid., page 192 16 Note that Clover's Eye of Horror focuses on the male spectator. Clover claims that the audience of modern horror films is primarily male—a claim which Berenstein later contests—and theorizes that the masochistic pleasure that males get from horror may be different than women's masochistic fantasies: "It seems to me equally possible that, in the same way horror exploits male masochistic fantasies, weepies [(also known as 'chick flicks')] exploit female ones. In either case, the markers of these films go about jerking tears in ways manipulative enough to be compared with the sadistic tactics of horror. Ibid., page 213 and page 228 (footnote 77). 17 Otherwise, if we do not associate the assaultive gaze as masculine, then the male spectator is automatically able to assume a non masculine viewing position. On another note, disassociating gender with gaze may be the simplest formulation of fluid identification in spectatorship. 18 Ibid., page 209. 19 Ibid., page 205. 20 Ibid., page 205. 21 Ibid., page 217. 22 In addition to assaulting the spectator's eyes, as Clover points out, horror soundtracks assault the spectator's ears with spooky sounds, screams and shrieking violins. In fact, it is often the case that the sound track is scarier than the moving images. Thus, one could theorize a reactive type of hearing. Ibid., page 202. 23 As Clover points out, the victim is by definition feminine regardless of biological sex, because the assaultive penetration of the victim—by a knife, sword, bullet, etcetera—feminizes the victim. 24 At the level of a meta-criticism it is interesting to consider the fact that Clover, a woman, is writing about the experience of the male spectator for whom she is formulating a vulnerable gaze. One can only speculate as to why a woman would be the first to fully articulate a vulnerable male gaze, and why Metz himself did not follow through on his analysis of the introjective gaze. And yet, perhaps, it is due to the fact that macho culture teaches men to hide their vulnerability, which may explain why a woman was necessary in developing the reactive gaze for the male spectator. 25 Note that Un chien andalou's usage of a female victim emphasizes the femininity of the reactive gaze. 26Gunning appropriates Eisenstein's term 'attraction' to underscore the confrontational relationship to the spectator. 27Curiously, Gunning points out that in the 1920s Eisenstein entertained the notion of placing firecrackers underneath spectators—much in accord with the earlier cinema of attractions (Tom Gunning, The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde, quoted in Knopf, Theater and Film, 44) 28 Ibid., page 202. 29 Ibid., page 213. 30 Ibid., page 213. 31 Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender, Sexuality, and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema, Chapter 2: Spectatorship as Drag: The Act of Viewing and Classic Horror Cinema, Rhona J. Berenstein, 1996; page 38. 32 Ibid., page 38.
33 Spectatorship-as-Drag: Re-Dressing Classic Horror Cinema, Rohna J. Berenstein from Linda Williams' Viewing Positions, 1994; page 246. 34 Ibid., page 233. 35 Note that transvestism in spectatorship should be accessible to heterosexual men. In 'real' life, cross-dressing men are rarely attracted to other men, and over two-thirds are married and have children. Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, Bryan Strong, Christine DeVault, Barbara Werner Sayad, 1999; Page 297.
36 Ibid., page 260. 37 Ibid., page 260. 38 Ibid., page 261. 39 Of course, the classical horror genre which Berenstein investigates can include classical sci-fi films. 40 Gender Imitation and Insubordination, Judith Butler from within The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory, edited by Linda Nicholson, 1997; page 306.
41 “The ‘Turing test...’ is a hypothesis offered by the mathematician Alan Turing for determining whether a suitably complex machine ‘intelligence’ can be distinguished from the human” by having a panel of computers and humans chat (via a keyboard and PC) with one another. The human judges are asked to determine if they have communicated with a human or machine. Although, at first, it was extremely easy to differentiate, recent software programs have been able to fool the human judges—often causing them to believe that the programs are human, and to categorize some humans as computers. Replications, Telotte, J.P. , Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995; page 26. The reference to a 'gender Turing test,' is meant as a situation in which a human attempts to conceal his gender in a chat room.
42Judith Butler's claim that drag challenges the notion of an original gender in that all gender is a copy in some sense, seems to be paralleled by the way in which technology today is creating a culture in which the notion of 'original' as better is quickly evaporating. In fact, the digital age has reversed the power structure and promotes the notion that 'original' is inferior. In terms of software, the latest version is always better (i.e. – version 3.0 is better than version 2.1), and a re-released DVD is a superior product than its original because it often contains additional special features.
43 Reincarnation films make the argument for an availability of a feminine viewing position for the male spectator quite trivial. Similarly, approaching spectatorship from a Buddhist perspective—in which reincarnation is foregrounded— would easily allow cross-gender identification, or even cross-species identification for that matter. 44 In the Ocean of Streams of Story, Grahame Weinbren, Millennium Film Journal, 28, Spring 1995, also mentioned in Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media, page 44. Grahame Weinbren is referring to interactive media, but his comment applies to film spectatorship, which as Manovich points out, is also interactive.
45 Keeping Clover's spectatorship in mind, note that giving birth is one of the masochistic male fantasies of Freud's patients and is a form of feminine masochism. 46Ways of Seeing, John Berger, 1985; page 46-54.. 47 Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey, quoted from Film Theory and Criticism, edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Coehn, 2004; page 842.
48 On another note, the DVD cover refrains from using Dil's image, and instead uses the femme fatale image of Jude played by Miranda Richardson, who only has a minor role in the narrative. Perhaps, this indicates that the male gaze can't bear to objectify another male—even one who passes in drag, or, maybe it was just easier to conceal Dil's gender this way; another possibility, of course, is that Mirada Richardson's image just sells better.
49 On a side note, viewed within a Freudian context, perhaps Dil's image can be interpreted as a manifestation of a woman with a man's body, which is a literal manifestation of disavowal; thus, the image of the transvestite or transsexual may eradicate the castration anxiety threatened by the female body. 50It's interesting to consider the notions of drag and performativity as they relate to the construct of a celebrity. Furthermore, it is worth contemplating if giving awards based on gender in—such as in the Oscars' best actor and best actress categories—is a form of socialization of gender roles. How does this relate to acting awards based on race? What is the significance of the socialization of drag-as-performance by awarding Oscars based on the celebrity's gender rather than their performed roles? Certainly, the Crying Game's Jay Davidson, TransAmerica's Felicity Huffman, Boys Don't Cry's Hillary Swank, and Cate Blanchett's performance as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There, provide plenty of food for thought. In all these cases, the nomination was based on the celebrity's gender; for example, Cate Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, despite the fact that she played a passable male character. What if an Oscar-winning actor undergoes a sex change and then later wins an Oscar in another gender?

Share |
More about Film


© Hackwriters 1999-2011 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.