I remember always feeling a bit giggly in film theory classes when we started talking about the gays gaze of the viewer.
Simplified, when talking about the cinematic gaze, you are talking about who is doing the looking and what is being looked at- the act of looking seen as ‘active’ while the act of been looked at as ‘passive’. Traditionally, cinema has been the male gaze – a man looking at woman. This is often true for one character looking at another, but also who is behind the camera – directors, camera men, cinematographers were all traditionally male. The idea goes that men were making movies for other men who also like to look at women. This gaze is characterized in one simple camera move in almost every old movie – the slow ascent from a woman’s shoes up to her face as her character is first introduced.
Women in many movies are there to look at. The camera lingers over their form, whether in close up or in long shot. The most obvious shots are the ones where the woman isn’t even moving but just stands, sits or lies there while a man looks at her.
That gaze is changing – more now, studios are recognizing that women are often the decision makers on what movie to go see. There’s been a rise in films made targeted at the women’s audience, but its also taken some time in order to get the female gaze the same – can it be done with the same traditional techniques?
Cinema is itself an act of voyeurism – we sit in a dark room and watch other people. The looking, in film theory anyways, is often associated with power – the person looking having the power and the person being looked upon reduced to an object to be looked at.
Now we have more women making films and more films made for women, but can the same be said for the LGBTQ community? Gay men have been going to films made for men and films for women and have actively been engaged in both kinds of looking but do we need a kind of looking for ourselves – a gaze for the gays?
Here’s some things to think about while watching this movie:
- Who is the intended audience for this film and why do you think so?
- Who is doing the looking in this film – characters, off screen and audience?
- Are there any subtle power dynamics going on between those who are looking and those who are looked at?
- How is the man as object different than the woman as object? Is being looked at and turned into an object empowering or does it remove them of their power?
- Does viewing give more power to women?
- Do you think they made the film knowing that gay men would also see it? Are there any instances of ‘gay baiting’?
- How is masculinity related to the depiction of the male body?
- Magic Mike XXL Turns Men Into Objects, and We Should Rejoice
- Magic Mike XXL: what it tells us about modern manhood
- Male Strippers and the Female Gaze: Magic Mike XXL and the Pursuit of “Feminist” Film
- The Hollywood Men: ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Masculinity, and the Real World of Male Strippers
- Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze
Screening Related Topics & Reading
The Evolution of the ‘Perfect’ Hero Body
Over the last 60 years, on-screen superheroes have reflected America’s changing ideals for men’s physiques.
Supermanhood: Geek Guys and Hypermasculinity in Superhero Movies
It is essentially male bonding or friendship-building by way of violence and it usually elicits wild cheers from audiences. It’s a plot point that I think should at least raise questions regarding the kinds of behavior being modeled for men about male relationships and communication.