Friday, March 21, 2014

Male Gaze: Stop leering at Scarlett Johansson!

That's the plea from Bronwen Clune, a feminist critic writing in The Guardian, fed up with encountering profiles of female celebrities which linger on their bodies, and describe them in excessive detail. She specifically name-checks the male gaze theory:
We’re all familiar with the concept of the “male gaze”, particularly when it comes to Hollywood film – the lens lingering on the curves of leading ladies’ derrieres (Lane talks of Johansson’s “contours” of reputation) – a scopophilic guilty pleasure. And, let’s face it, women’s bodies are delightful things to look at, one of the reasons media executives conveniently argue that the economics of the industry make it impossible to avoid stereotypes of women.
But when respected male writers profile powerful women, is it wrong that we should expect more than lengthy, voyeuristic wet dreams? In the cases of both Hardy and Johansson, the writers of their profiles are accomplished and well-regarded. Their audiences, a “new intelligentsia”, are likely to congratulate themselves on their progressive values. Their subjects are powerful and sexually subversive women. Yet in both cases the women are reduced to something resembling not much more than titillating, slightly fearsome, but ultimately decorative objects.
She notes how one actress was described as having "nice tits" - something the male writer even went as far as to confirm with her housemate - and goes on to note:
I’m reading a profile of Scarlett Johansson by Anthony Lane where she appears as if “made from champagne”, her laugh “dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was [sic] to play a Martini” and her backside, “barely veiled in peach-colored underwear”. As Slate points out this is not the first time Johansson has inspired “culture writers to do horrible things with words”
Does this chime with your experience? Do you think seemingly respectable highbrow media (as opposed to tabloid press/TV) are just as guilty of needless objectification? Any examples you want to share?

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