Analysis Project #2: Formal Analysis

December 9th, 2011

The Lady Eve

Mirror scene

“The Male/Female Gaze”

The male gaze is a theory by Laura Mulvey, that says that women are only objects “to-be-looked-at.” It shows that men have control of the camera, because these types of scenes are shown in their point of view. But in the film The Lady Eve, these ideas are challenged as the character Jean, gets the upper hand by being able to watch the man for once, with him not being able to do anything about it. However, the audience can notice that even though Jean is shown being the stronger power, other women are still shown as objects to be seen. In the end, Laura Mulvey is correct when she states that the gaze enforces male perspective, and it shows with this certain mirror scene.

In The Lady Eve, there is a mirror scene that shows a “female gaze,” instead of the male gaze, and that the man (Charlie) is the one being looked at, instead of a womanThis scene shows Jean looking into a mirror, with Charles behind her reading a book. Jean sees that almost every woman is looking at him, and she makes comments about the ones that stand. One shakes her hips while she passes by Charles’s table; the other drops her handkerchief on the floor; and another goes straight to his table and talks to him, trying to get his attention. However, Charles does not seem fazed at all by their actions. When he finally gets up and walks to leave, she trips him smugly, even blaming her broken heel on him, and he just goes along with it.

The most important clue that the audience is shown that this scene is indeed a female gaze is the use of Jean’s mirror, thus making the known title of the scene. The audience sees that Jean looks into the mirror uninterestingly, her eyes lighting up in amusement only when women do something ridiculus. Her comments towards the other women are sarcastic when they look at Charles, knowing what women are like when it comes to men. The lighting around Jean is bright, showing Jean as the eyes of the viewers. She is also the only person who is speaking during this scene, (besides the brief answer her father gave her when she asked a question) giving her power to create a mood for the audience. The romantic, yet funny music also helps create the mood of the scene, making certain parts funnier.

Then suddenly, we are put into the eyes of Jean looking at the sight behind her. I noticed that in the mirror, Charles looks small and unimportant, because it is a medium long-shot, making him look like the rest of people within the frame. The only difference is that he is in the middle reading a book, not socializing like the others around him. And after he talks to Jean, I see that he is a clumsy and nervous person, not the type of guy that is usually shown in other movies. This is different from the women in male gazes, who are made to seem as seductive and inviting, with them undressing or dancing while men watch them. In this scene, men are portrayed as quiet, as opposed to being sexual objects, to parallel the way women are portrayed as in other films.

However, even though the scene shows a female gaze, there are obvious hints of male influence, because women are still being focused on. One woman passing by Charlie shakes her hips as she walks, supposedly being seductive. Another drops her handkerchief close to him, yet she ends up picking it up herself. Then, the camera (mirror) follows another woman to the right who is slowly getting up to talk to him. She is wearing a dress that has no sleeves, creating a “sexy” look. But all that time, Charles is shown not paying attention to these women who are basically throwing themselves at him. Even though this is supposed to be looking at a man, Charles is only shown as a boring guy focused on his book, and focuses on the whole frame (with other women more interesting to look at).

So as I’ve stated, I agree with Laura Mulvey when she states that cinema mostly uses the male perspective. Even the female audience doesn’t mind, because we are used to seeing it in many movies. Even when a scene is supposed to be a “female gaze” scene, it turns to a male gaze instead, and focuses more on the women and what they are doing. The mirror scene minimizes the man’s presence and replaces it with women and other distractions. Filmmakers can’t seem to grasp the idea of there being a “female gaze,” as shown.

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3 Responses to “Analysis Project #2: Formal Analysis”

  1. Amy Herzog on December 15, 2011 12:42 am

    Quite a few students have analyzed this scene, but you present an argument I haven’t encountered so far!! This is a pretty sophisticated point– even though Jean controls the camera’s (and our) gaze in dictating what we see, Charles is not truly depicted as the object of our desire. In fact, most of the women are still performing for the male gaze, even if the affect is comical in its failure. Very insightful, and nicely argued.

  2. yeongbinkim on December 16, 2011 2:13 am

    i liked how u explained the mirror scene by details and your thoughts. i never thought like that… i think this write is really nice. Good work.

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