When I was in college, one of my advanced electives was Film Theory with Roy Grundmann. At the time, I remember being particularly interested in the concept of "to-be-looked-at-ness," accompanied in the class by a viewing of "Gentleman Prefer Blondes." I was a terrible undergrad--the graduate students dominated the lecture hall with their superior experience, and I generally just sat quietly and sipped my Starbucks in the back. I also admit to occasional, unintentional snoozing in the warm, dark auditorium, especially in the beginning of the semester when we watched primarily silent films (The Passion of Joan of Arc? Zzzz...). Anyway, some classes were more fascinating than others, and I rather enjoyed eavesdropping on the discourse of my fellow film students in such an open forum.
The concept of "to-be-looked-at-ness," outlined by Laura Mulvey in her 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, applies a psychoanalytical framework to film theory, especially with regard to the portrayal of women in classic cinema. She blamed the patriarchal Hollywood system for casting women as objects "to be looked at" by the (usually) male protagonist. She claimed that there were two modes of the male gaze: voyeuristic and fetishistic, where women were seen as whores or madonnas, respectively.
I wanted to do a camera-conscious blog post because I think the relationship between blogger, camera, and (mostly) unknown audience is a new sort of "to-be-looked-at-ness" that has emerged in full force over the past decade. Ever since the upstart Myspace (thankfully fading) and the overwhelming presence of Facebook in our everyday lives (not mine), and now, perhaps especially, with blogging of the personal-style variety, there is an opportunity to shape our own images--to usurp the power of the human gaze (not necessarily, and not even mostly, male) and funnel it through more favorable channels. We are given an opportunity to take advantage of our "to-be-looked-at-ness"--and, to some extent, to control it. The verdict is still out on whether or not this is a positive thing. While photographic film is still a pretty superficial medium, at least the self-portraiture of most style bloggers is a reflection of the ability of a modern woman to determine her identity, and the "to-be-looked-at-ness" originates with her own inward gaze.
I had a very relaxing extra-long weekend where K and I did pretty much nothing at all. We went for a bike ride up in Isle La Motte, which was delightful, had a champagne-and-baguette picnic lakeside in my hometown, and read--a lot. I finished The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, plowed through A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (yes, please) and already made it halfway through The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (one of my very favorites). I am a frequent visitor of book sales, used book stores, and the book section of Goodwill, so I have quite a library! There is always a new book on hand when I finish one. Also, the September issue of Vogue finally arrived at my door on Friday, which has kept me plenty preoccupied.
Here's to long weekends and short work weeks! Cheers :)