Tag Archives: Laura Mulvey

Film Spectatorship and Visual Pleasure

When analyzing film it is important to understand the relationship between the many attributes of cinema and its audience. In addition, it is just as vital to be aware that many of our world’s beliefs are represented within our films, music, and even advertisements. According to film theorist, Laura Mulvey, there is a great importance placed on film spectatorship and gender within Hollywood cinema. Many of these Hollywood cinema elements are those that traditionally reflect the ideologies of society through mise-en-scene. To Mulvey, these elements are conceived by the patriarchal sentiments that exist within our unconsciousness, which consists of viewing and portraying women as mere sex symbols. In cinema, “the man controls the film’s fantasy and keeps the story going” (Mulvey 716). In other words, without a direct connection to the male protagonist, a female character seizes to exist on screen. Throughout my post, I will further explain Mulvey’s ideas through an analysis given on the film “Gilda.”


In Charles Vidor’s film, “Gilda,” we can see many examples of visual pleasure being used throughout the story. When the audience is first introduced to Gilda, Johnny Farrell’s ex-wife, there is a long establishing shot that is used to thoroughly express Gilda’s beauty. I also found it interesting how when Ballin Mundson called out to Gilda, he first asked if she was “decent” so he could “introduce” her to Johnny. In other words, he asked if she was naked or still undressed. This choice of diction even shows how the first impression of Gilda is meant to be associated with sex. Mulvey refers to these particular shots, as “the gaze,” which is a shot that is used to establish pleasure through a male’s perspective. Ultimately, the gaze works to establish emotions of pleasure through phallocentricism, which means to be centered on the masculine viewpoint. The spectator watching the film is more or less supposes to identify with the male character (narcissism). That way when “ the gaze” shot is established, it as if the spectator is seeing and feeling the same emotions at the exact same time as the male character. This type of cinema style is also how directors try to re-create fantasy in order to keep viewers completely engaged within the world of the film (illusion).

Gilda’s role throughout the entire film was to cause continuous conflict between Johnny and the men around him. Gilda’s interaction on screen is what keeps the film going in the directors desired direction. Her role is important, however only important if made that way by the male protagonist. In addition to being a sex symbol, Gilda was always seen in scenes with various men. These men would all share the same gaze, which insinuated their hopes for sexual intercourse or some type of pleasure. Likewise, there are several scenes were Gilda is seen talking with a male in a bedroom. We can see the continuous re-established female role that the director made sure to emphasize throughout the story. It starts to become clear that Gilda is the only woman that is given an important role, simply because she has a significant relationship with the protagonist of the story. Mulvey explains that without a male, Gilda has no importance, no power.