“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.