Hi folks, welcome to the second uh video lesson in our series on race and the oppositional gaze.
This time we’re going to transition from Montia Diora to bell hooks. Think about what she’s doing as a response to spectatorship theory.
As a response to Diawara, her essay is entitled the oppositional gaze, which should remind you of Diora’s essay with the notion of resistance spectatorship.
They’re very much parallel theories, but hooks will make a point and say that when she says oppositional. she means oppositional, which she thinks is a more meaningful term than merely resists. It’s actually a nice comparison to resisting something is much different than opposing something.
There’s a lot more activity there in opposing there’s a lot more constructed-ness going on there. Hence, I want us to think about that a little bit as we get into the connections between diora and hook.
So what do they overlap on? I think there’s a critical point. One of the points that I dwelled on in Diora is the distinction between spectators being socially and historically constituted and psychically constituted.
Hooks say something very similar and why this is important because it’s important for our class.
These figures are not simply adding race to the equation of spectatorship. They’re reflecting upon the blind spots of spectatorship as a set of theories.
More generally, I think that’s super useful for us. The goal of the class is to think about the patterns that are going on and how thinkers in film theory are theorizing. And hooks and Diora are doing that very thing.
Hook says much like Diawara the concept woman faces the difference between women in specific socio-historical contexts right remember that social and historical between women defined precisely as historical subjects rather than as a psychic subject.
Or non-subject it is only as one imagines quote-unquote woman in the abstract when a woman becomes fiction or fantasy can race not to be seen as significant.
So she’s very much saying something similar to Diawara basically; it is a critique of the universality of these sets of theories. The tension between Freudian and leukemia psychoanalysis as a theory for how we operate in the world does not have room for things like race as socially and historically constituted parts of who we are.
And I think that both Diawara and hooks make this claim should give us at least one way to think about the difference between gender and race as it applies to these identity-centric theories of spectatorship.
There are many ways gender and race do not operate in the same way. Still, one of the fundamental ways, at least for Diawara and hooks, is that the significant theories guiding film theory at the time remember that term slav so sure le con Alta ser Bart or just think of the two more prominent figures that loom over them.
Karl Marx Sigmund Freud, none of them, brings race into the equation of how they explain subjectivity not significantly. Of course, there are Marxist and Freudian, and Lacanian thinkers who talk about race.
Diora and hooks are very much part of those camps. Still, they’re responding to the lack of attention to race because things like gender have focused on the Freudian and likening emphasis.
Okay, so that’s a brief acknowledgment of how diora and hooks agree with each other, but how do hooks respond to dor.
Remember that the award will say something like cinema makes you a white subject, not just a male subject.
If he’s responding to moldy but hooks will respond to Diawara and say cinema addresses you as a white male subject, black female spectators are entirely out of the equation.
That’s me paraphrasing her. so what do I mean by out of the equation? Well, I’m referring to this bit that she rehearses throughout the essay I think it’s beneficial to repeat, so she’ll say something like this those black female spectators who attest to the oppositionality of their gaze deconstruct theories of female spectatorship that have relied heavily on the assumption that quote.
And she’s quoting fellow film theorist Marianne Doan. A woman can only assume a position defined by the penis phallus as the supreme judge of lack identifying with neither the phallocentric gaze nor the construction of white womanhood as lack of critical black female spectators construct a theory of looking relations cinematic visual delight is the pleasure of interrogation.
Suppose I had to find a couple sentences that really capture the grandest part of the thesis of the hook’s uh essay. In that case, I’d say it was these sentences that I think are crucial is that hooks are responding to laura moldy here.
And she’s responding to the laura molvean thinkers that would follow Mulvey, who would repeat very much how she talks about sex and gender in a Freudian Lacanian way.
Why is it so important that black female spectators neither occupy the phallocentric gaze nor construct white womanhood as lac?
Well, remember that hooks, in a very brief aside, will say that black male spectators can at the very least feel addressed by the patriarchal structure of Hollywood film.
That if Hollywood film, if laura Mulvey is correct, does play for the objectification of women by imagining a male heterosexual spectator.
Black men can at least fulfill that role under cover of the anonymity of being a spectator. She invokes the violence done at black men casting.
A look upon white women and at the very least hook says in film or in the theater’s space there’s a kind of safety or a feeling of.
But hooks is saying that black women black female spectators do not have that same possibility, nor are they even automatically positioned as the object of the white male gaze for several reasons.
The reasons are having to do with a representation the lack of representation but more so the kind of specific ways in which black women figure in the history of Hollywood cinema which she details throughout her essay. Still, I just want to take this point that she’s making and think of what we would do with this if we were to look again at laura mulvey’s individual points about the objectification of women.
So remember this point that laura Mulvey will make where she’ll say classical films often have moments.
And this is me paraphrasing like these where the narrative is suspended so we can appreciate the spectacle of a woman performing.
Consider this scene from Gilda, so it’s a moment where we have the uh invocation of a male beauty um looking at uh the character Gilda perform and a bit of a striptease act as she’s singing now.
Consider how this scene the movie talks about in her essay is invoked in a film by Julie Dash. We have this moment that in this fictional, you know, fake Hollywood film from the 1940s, a musical that molvely would say is a perfect example of stopping the narrative for the sake of male visual pleasure.
Right we have these glowing close-ups of this white singer. Now, what dash is partly trying to do, and she’s doing quite a bit with this extraordinary sequence, she’s trying to make us think about the other kind of subjugation that’s happening.
If this is for moldy this scene would be a perfect instance of women’s objectification that works to structure the relationship between spectacle and narrative in Hollywood cinema.
Julie dash is trying to show us that within the institution of cinema, a sequence like this could have a hidden subjugation behind it: the voice that is emanating from this white movie star’s mouth is not her own.
And is, in fact, the voice of a young black woman who will not have her name in the credits.
That this woman’s talents and voice are going to be used instrumentalized. The apparatus of cinema, which always has a detachment between sound and image baked into its very materiality, allows for this kind of subjugation to happen.
So hooks will remind us that part of the problem is the lack of representation of black women on screen and the instrumentalization of black women behind the screen.
Um, hooks will make that point clear here. She’ll say most of the black women I talked with were adamant that they never went to movies expecting to see compelling representations of black femaleness.
They were all acutely aware of cinematic racism its violent erasure of black womanhood.
In Friedberg’s essay, a denial of different stresses that quote identification can only be made through recognition.
And all recognition is itself, and all recognition is itself an implicit confirmation of the ideology of the status quo even when representations of black women were present in the film our bodies and being were there to serve to enhance and maintain white womanhood as an object of the phallocentric gaze.
So that’s a perfect example. That sentence is a perfect example of what’s going on here to enhance and maintain white womanhood as an object of the phallocentric gaze.
What else is going on in this sequence other than using a black woman to enhance and maintain white womanhood as this perfect idealistic unreal figure of feminine beauty and charm?
It uses the illusory qualities of cinema to give her qualities that are not part of who she is as an actual person.
That is the white actress. Her voice is enhanced by taking the voice of this black woman right.
And this idea of appropriation of taking of admiring and then objectifying and having admiration and objectification fold into each other is very much the theme of how black men are appropriated in the film.
Get out, so in our next video, we’ll be looking at a couple questions that the bell host asks concerning the specificity of the film could get out.
PrimarilyWe’ll primarily ask what about the black female characters and get out how hooks would respond to them.
And secondly, what about the theme of looking and the gays, which is so central to hooks and so central. I think to get out we’ll see you next time.