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Mulvey's Thesis - Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

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In her thesis "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema", Laura Mulvey claims that man is being portrayed as the bearer of the look and woman as an image to be looked at . The main objective of a woman in the film is to incite feelings and provoke actions of the male lead and is usually without her own voice and subjectivity. The woman by herself is hence regarded as having little importance. Mulvey then discusses the theory of scopophilia by Sigmund Freud, which is the pleasure derived from looking at erotic objects, and how it manifests its presence in classical Hollywood cinema. In her article, Mulvey also cites several examples from Alfred Hitchcock's films to illustrate her points. However, once the article was published in 1975, many took on differing views and a large amount of controversies was generated with film theorists. Many objected to the generalisation of the male gaze theory as it does not take into account that female spectators may not necessarily take on a passive role and other spectators such as the homosexual population .

The objective of this paper is to analyze the controversies of Mulvey's thesis through two specific films, Peeping Tom by Michael Powell and Alien by Ridley Scott in 1979, where Peeping Tom supports the views of Mulvey while the latter argues against it.

Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell in 1960, is a psychological thriller. It features a serial killer, Mark Lewis, who is obsessed with expressions of terror the dying victims portrayed during the murders and strives to capture these expressions using his portable movie camera. The film caused a huge sensation when it was first released and the critical backlash on its disturbing contents ended the career of director Powell.

The theme of voyeurism is very much evident in the film Peeping Tom. Consistent with the theories of Mulvey who states that woman functions 'as erotic objects for the characters within the screen story and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium' , Peeping Tom shows how the female victims are being objectified and positioned in such a way that is submissive and killed by a male that is dominant and powerful. The woman is thus powerless and the fact that the male protagonist chooses his victims as women instead of men shows the dominance males have over females.

Audience is also subjected to the male gaze right from the beginning of the film when they are forced to look through the eyes of the male protagonist, Mark Lewis, at the killing done and through the viewfinder of the camera. The film is structured in such a way that compels spectators to identify with the male protagonist, the main controlling figure in the film and this coincides with Mulvey's thesis. The three different looks associated with cinema as mentioned in Mulvey's article is thus depicted in Peeping Tom, that of the camera, the audience and that of the characters at each other.

Alien is a science fiction film developed in the mid 1970s. It is considered as a landmark of science fiction and horror by many in the subsequent decades and the masterful direction by Ridley Scott is what brought it to greater heights. The film Alien has its plot set in the deep outer space in a distant future and is about a spaceship crew receiving a distress call for help and being invaded by an alien in the process of exploration and investigation of the source of the distress signal. The remaining part of the film narrated how the alien eventually grew larger and more powerful by devouring the rest of the crew, leaving only one survivor on board.

The reason why Alien is chosen as

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