The Gaze” and representations of Gender in Lady Eve

 Laura Mulvey’s theory of the “male gaze,” is something that most people are going to talk about. We all know that what she says is true regarding the camera tending to reinforce a male perspective. The fact is that we are not created equal- thanks God for that- as a male has the tendency to feel attracted to a woman by pure looks initially- and the rest is about the personality of the male and female involved.

Men enjoy looking at beautiful women and women, as part of their natural instinct care a lot about their looks and use this weakness in men to their advantage. So far, all of this is normal and accepted.

Different societies have different ideas about how a good woman or good man has to behave and when any one gets out of those norms or ideas, that person is punished or even killed by the laws of society or in subtle ways by how the members of society treat the “wrong doer.”

In the film Lady Eve, Jean is a beautiful con artist that works with a partner to manipulate rich men and take their money. Charles is a rich, handsome Biologist that comes on board the ship as he is coming back from the Amazon jungle- after studying snakes native to the Amazon jungle. Charles is portrayed as a little bit of a fool and women in the Cruise ship look at him as prey that needs to be caught.

In the movie, as in real life, the women do not approach Charles directly but they try to attract his attention using different tricks that seem to lead to casually engage Charles in conversation to motivate his attention. Throughout all this action Jean is directing our  attention through a mirror; by doing this Jean is controlling the camera and our attention to what she wants to see and she is studying Charles and makes fun of the  foolish attempts that other women use to get Charles attention. This is the female gaze and its intention to get what she wants without being direct. This intention of women to get what they want without being direct is, in my opinion, what causes so many misunderstanding between men and women.

Because men feel pleasure to look at beautiful women, they are easy to read and understand. Women attraction to men is more complicated as they are attracted by looks but also by security and other subjectivities that can be different in each woman. Men, at least initially, are purely attracted by the looks of a woman.

In Lady Eve, this gaze is extremely magnified to an abnormal point because Jean is a con artist, a manipulator of men, a bad person who attracts men to take advantage of them without caring for their feelings or well being. I would compare Jean’s gaze to the male gaze of Norman in the film Psycho, when he is looking, through a peephole, at Marion getting undressed.

I believe that I have gone too far in choosing to talk about Norman and Jean’s gaze as they do not represent the normal gaze of a men or women but these extreme representations are good to express the idea of the male and female gaze.

Professor Herzog, thank you for this wonderful class/experience.

Ricardo La Rosa.

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2 thoughts on “

  1. This is an interesting discussion. I think one issue here is working to distinguish between stereotyped ideas about gender roles (men are cads and women are manipulators), filmed representations of those roles (which might reinforce, or challenge the stereotypes to different degrees), and the real ways in which we experience gender in our lives (which hopefully don’t conform to those stereotypes too directly!). I’d say that both Sturges (via comedy) and Hitchcock (via the thriller) created complicated works that engage with, and then subvert stereotypes. In this sense, I can see how you might see a connection between the voyeurism in each film, but also can feel how that comparison might rub people (especially women!!) the wrong way (Jean is no serial killer!). One point I’d argue differently here– I don’t think Jean is a bad character at all. In fact, I thought her commentary was pretty direct and honest about the cons we all pretend not to take part in every day! Paradoxically, she’s the most honest and direct character in the bunch, because she’s willing to discuss the rules of the game. This does open into a great debate…

  2. I am just going to say that to be honest I feel that you have no real understanding about how women think. I am almost offended by the fact that you are comparing a strong, independent female character such as Jean (regardless of whether or not she was a con artist) to a man with psychological problems looking through a peephole. Of course they are both taking advantage of another person who is unaware of their intentions but I just cant agree with that comparison. Also, man or woman, everyone is going to be initially attracted to another person based solely on appearance. If you do not know a person you have nothing else to be attracted to. Also, you mention that Jean is getting what she wants without being direct. Well, of course she isn’t being direct. She is a con. Her allusive, sarcastic behavior when looking through the mirror at the scene is a play on her character. I hate to be so forward but to honestly, your entry really got my mind racing.

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