As a male audience member and film creator, I have known, as others have, what it means to objectify women in film to just their physicalities but what it means to subjectify a woman in film, or even a man, has eluded me. When I’ve heard both objectify and subjectify in context, they both have seemed to have negative connotations but, from reading Linda Williams, I’ve interpreted that in order to include a character in plot at all, you either subjectify them or objectify them, which means that they are rivalrous to some degree and thus, in my mind, means that they antagonize each other only in context and don’t have an exclusive connotation of good or bad.
To connect my interpretation of Williams to examples, I will use Hermione from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Steve “Captain America” Rogers from Marvel Comics. These examples act as validation to what I believe it means to subjectify a character, both female and male, in a plot. To start with Captain America, an example I feel more comfortable with in disceminating meaning, he is a manifestation of the rights Americans are meant to be privileged with as well as their sentinel protector. He is subjectified to be a champion of freedom and justice. On the other side of the gender spectrum is Hermione, a character unlike Captain America in many aspects but still can be grouped in much the same way. Although not an avid fan of the Harry Potter series (thus not knowing every little detail), Hermione has always been the character from the trio that I’ve thought to gotten the most development. She has been characterized as the smart (sometimes know-it-all) member of the three main characters and, more than that, has been used not as any kind of sexual object or focus of male gaze, but from my perspective, a character who’s come to represent the nobility in knowing yourself and staying true and confident to what it means to make your own destiny. That representation is her subjectification. She represents something greater than herself just as Captain America has been.
The antithesis to subjectivity, objectivity, can also be found on both ends of the gender spectrum as well. To get it out of the way, there are plenty of examples of women being objectified in film (*coughMeganFoxcough*) but there are also examples of the objectivity of men as well, off the top of my head comes to mind the likes of teenage Zac Efron and Taylor Lautner. From when I’ve seen the two in movies and/or television, they’re usually unclothed in some regard, most generally shirtless. As a male, the same appearance standards apply as they do for women, i.e. “how am I ever supposed to get as good abs as they have within my lifetime?” To some degree, it seems that objectification is embedded within culture to satisfy the fetishization fantasies of men and women, albeit the ratio is widely disproportionate, indicating perhaps the more deep-seeded values intrinsic to male and female cultures.