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A Social Conscience

April 28th, 2010 by btrachtenberg100

The idea that part of the thrill from watching a film, particularly one which exploits the body, of vicariously experiencing a kind of pleasure is something that is very fetishistic and potentially jarring when one analyzes these triggers. Linda Williams’ article delves into interesting points regarding a spectrum of body genres that are chastised for their sensationalist nature without taking into account the various conflicting components that trigger the psychological effect which continues to draw in an audience. She creates a spectrum upon she rates the audience appeal as well as participation. Pornography being appealing to the active male, weepies appeal to the passive female. Most interesting is the horror film that plays with gender creating a sort of androgyny that appeals to both groups and reflects a target audience still struggling to formulate a personal identity. Films that deal with the body and manipulation of emotional states due to the body in the grips of an intense sensation characterize perverse sadomasochism. While I agree to a certain extent that the act of submitting oneself to experience fear, or lust, or sadness is what society would construe as perversity, the root of it’s appeal is in it’s cathartic function. Society puts so much pressure on people to follow the rules and costumes that people become conflicted when their minds propose a thought to consciousness that conflicts with societies beliefs. The safety of the cinema is reflected in the fantasy element that combines the presupposition of these mental states with the possibility of what will happen. The human component of the audience is a contemporary one. The variation of formulas within genres over the years is a response to changes in society. The cinema reacts to the world, just as the world reacts to the cinema, its part of the social consciousness. Moreover I find the cinema represents the unconscious part of society. A part that when it becomes too prominent and direct in its message which violates what’s acceptable, is immediately tried and repressed. The horror cinema allows us to indulge in the sex depicted while objectively pleasuring from the knowledge of the conventions of the genre that they will die and it is fun because you are really safe.
On a side note I feel that may have been a sub-textual message in “AVATAR”, in terms of trying of trying to the technology of the film that puts one safely in the body of a superior being. If so would we be able to make a new category out of the excessive in terms of exploiting complex computer technology in developing new ways to manipulate the body onscreen? They are already considering using the same technology to resurrect dead stars such as Bruce Lee, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, or even make another Indiana Jones film with Harrison Ford looking 35.

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Cinema; a Gender Bender Fetish

April 20th, 2010 by btrachtenberg100

The idea that is proposed in Christian Metz’s article regarding the scopic aspect of the cinema is a fascinating one that helps decipher the drawing power of the cinema and its power to fulfill needs we can’t find in the real world. There is a certain psychological function of scopophilia that I find inherently amusing. If people inherently desire to be looked at with the same desire to gaze then the cinema allows one to fulfill this voyeuristic need. The person sitting in the theatre is using what is described as “senses of distance”, meaning the eyes and ears, the absence of contact between the stimulus and sense creates this chasm of imaginary potential. The idea of the fetish comes into play here, but I would like to explore it with the help of Laura Mulvey’s psychoanalytic take regarding the functions of the gaze that comes as a result of the chasm that the cinema’s physical discrepancy creates. She makes a very bold statement by assuming that the cinema appeals to the narcissistic nature that exists in all people to some degree to allow the transposition of the image into a meaningful idea. The images on the screen satisfy a sexual curiosity, by seeing the beautiful heroine we desire to keep watching her. By identifying with the male in the film combined with the anonymity of the theatre allows us to essentially project ourselves on screen. This seems to be the fundamentals of the fetish idea that ultimately embodies these existing conflicts of the desire to be with the knowing that we aren’t actually there. We know the image isn’t real, the actors are nowhere around, yet we buy into the illusion of the 2d screen. It’s interesting that the fetish idea is derived from castration anxiety considering that half of the people who go to the movies are women, and they too experience this transposition of meaning. Being that film bears the social language of the society it’s made in, it unconsciously creates these gender roles. Being that women and men are in similar roles in life, they can therefore more easily identify with the figures on the screen, despite how exaggerated these roles are portrayed.
The mirror stage and the creation of the ego is an important factor here. Just like the figure in the image is thought to be similar to oneself yet perceived as superior, a model for self realization. This is how both sexes identify with the figures on screen. Granted in real life the roles that people play, gender and social class wise, are more complicated because film is in fact a medium that portrays a subjective vision and I feel that part of the fetishistic aspect that is inherent to the cinema. The film is not just a scopophilic exercise in the characters onscreen, but also the artist who put them there. Christian Metz, says that the unique identity of the director emerges in the form of signature camera angles and shots. This seems like a very shortsighted view, considering that there are so many elements that contribute to the film and that the entire experience is in fact a journey into the mind of another, which is truly the root of the gaze pleasure. This makes the cinema simultaneously more perceptual, in that there is identification with the character or the film itself which allows the exchange of ideas from the screen (visually represented mind of the filmmaker) to where we sit. While it may seem that cinema is less perceptual because of the lack of immediate contact, this is the core paradox of the psychoanalytic apparatus of cinema. With this said, I propose that the camera captures the underlying workings of the artists mind allowing them to be displayed on a screen, just as though we were able to press our eyeballs to that of the director himself and watch the impossible nerve ending peepshow that performs in his skull. In this sense the cinema is a fetishistic object not because of the confirmation and disavowal of the image, but that of the desire to be someone else or see the world through another lens while simultaneously reinforcing our own ego through the refutation of these ideas based on personal experience. I would then raise an issue related to gender. If this identification with the artist is the fundamental desire of the cinema, and most directors are men, does the cinema fulfill the fetishistic desires of women because they’re roles are confirmed through depictions of the desirable woman onscreen, they simultaneously reject these ideals because they are vicariously experiencing it through the psyche of a man. This alluring power may have more to do with Freud’s idea of penis envy that he says girls experience at an early age. Therefore cinema is the regression back to this state of being.
With this question brought to the forefront, I wonder about the difference in the experience of a movie based on gender regarding the sex of the director versus the sex of the audience member and if films made by women have a different psychological function when viewed by women and by men.

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