Sexual Difference And Looking Through The Eyes Of Mulvey, Penley, And Hitchcock

1840 words - 7 pages

Even though Mulvey presents some intriguing points on how psychoanalysis affects the way gender is viewed in regards to the look, her writing is restricted and one-dimensional in comparison to Constance Penley’s article, “Feminism, Film Theory, and the Bachelor Machines” (1985). Penley begins by focusing on the idea of the “bachelor machine:” a practice used from approximately 1850-1925 where “numerous artists, writers, and scientists imaginatively or in reality constructed anthropomorphized machines to represent the relation of the body to the social, the relation of sexes to each other, the structure of the psyche, or the workings of history.” It is a perpetually moving, self-sufficient system that, as Michael de Certeau states, has a chief distinction of “being male.” It also includes common themes of, “an ideal time and the magical possibility of its reversal (the time machine is an exemplary bachelor machine) electrification, voyeurism, and masturbatory eroticism, the dream of the mechanical reproduction of art, and artificial birth or reanimation” (Stam and Miller, 456-457). This leads Penley to discuss a similar theory, that of the cinema as an apparatus itself, which focuses on the same characteristics of the bachelor machine. This theory is discussed through the writings of Jean-Louis Baudry and Christian Metz, but Penley points out that their works close off essential questions about sexual difference.
Firstly, Penley informs her readers that, “in Baudry’s Freudian terms, the apparatus induces (as a result of the immobility of the spectator, the darkness of the theater, and the projection of the images from a place behind the spectator’s head) a total regression to an earlier developmental stage in which the subject hallucinates satisfaction; or, in Metz’s more Lacanian scheme, the apparatus mimes the mirror stage and therefore structures for the spectator a completely imaginary relation to the screen in which the subject is given the seamless illusion of unity and totality, as well as an identificatory feeling of mastery over the visual field” (Stam and Miller, 465). The earlier discussed article by Mulvey mirrors Metz’s ideas of the apparatus’ “seamless illusion,” and instead labels it as scopophilia.
Penley, however, claims that there are significant problems with both of Baudry and Metz’s arguments. She also indirectly challenges Mulvey’s opinions. For Penley, “Baudry’s psyche-machine-cinema model is not only ahistorical but also strongly teleological….If the apparatus stages an eternal, universal, and primordial wish to create a simulacrum of the psyche, then Baudry’s argument is blind to the economic, social, or political determinations of cinema as well as its basic difference from other art forms….A further problem is that Baudry’s teleological argument asserts that cinema aims at pleasure alone, and that it unfailingly achieves it, an assertion, moreover, that is merely stated and not supported” (Stam and Miller, 458-459). ...

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