Is “Gaze” Applicable to Masculine Theory?

Last week, a major focus on feminist theory was the objectification of women in film through the three male gazes. While not all of feminist film theory focuses on “the gaze” or how to reverse it, a good portion of the scholars we read discussed the gaze. Not all scholars were as thorough about discussing the gaze as, say, Mulvey, but could not avoid mentioning it in some capacity. This points to the pervasiveness of the male gaze in film.

I found it interesting, then, that the male gaze was seldom discussed in the chapter on masculinity. Obviously the male gaze would take on a different persona. The camera’s male gaze, for instance, would not be as prominent, as the camera’s male gaze was predominately utilized to show fragmentations of women in order to objectify them. However, that still leaves two gazes: the male protagonist and audience

While the male protagonist gaze and audience gaze predominately deal with how a man will look and act around a woman, I believe they are applicable to masculine theory. In Steve Neale’s piece in chapter 10 of Understanding Film Theory, he writes that “in order to divert any homophobic or homoerotic feelings, the male body is defaced in some manner as a way of relieving the sexual tension. This can also apply to male friendships on screen.” This “defacement” of the male body occurs in order to distract from any voyeuristic pleasure on the part of the audience. To me, this implies a heterosexual male audience gaze. If the voyeuristic pleasure took into account a heterosexual female audience or homosexual male audience, then detracting from the voyeurism wouldn’t be necessary. Additionally, the need to undermine any sexual tension between male friendships because they run the risk of exuding homosexual tendencies implies a heterosexual male gaze.

The rest of the chapter discusses the changing definition of masculinity. However, it does not discuss whose “gaze” is considered in the shifting masculinity. Do men go from “beefcakes” to vulnerable to meterosexual for the sake of a male audience or female audience? Or both? It was interesting to me the absence of a more in-depth analysis of gaze that accompanied these shifts considering the prominence of gaze concerns about gaze in feminist film theory.

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