Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Last week, I had the opportunity to host Laura Mulvey on campus. For those who don't know, Mulvey is a famous feminist film theorist. She is the one who developed the idea of the male gaze. In brief, the idea that in classical Hollywood films -- and often other kind of films, including more recent ones -- men have the power to look (they get point of view shots), and women represent to be looked-at-ness; men control the action and women are acted upon; women do not have the power of the gaze (they do not generally get point of view shots and are usually punished if they look) and men do not represent the same kind of fetishistic spectacle.

Now, I have been teaching not only Mulvey's famous "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" for years, but also other essays by her on cinema space, Psycho, melodrama, and more. So, it was great to be able to speak with her, learn more about the origins of her work, revisit her early films, and hear more about where her work is now.

But the even more tremendous pleasure was in seeing the reception she got on campus. Her talk was jam-packed with faculty and students from across the college. And faculty and students were all giddy! Mulvey is a rock star, it's true. And, in fact, while she was speaking at Notre Dame, she was being discussed in an episode of "Parks and Recreation," in which one of the male characters is taking a feminist theory class and was quizzed about Mulvey:

The best part was seeing young women, who do not often, at Notre Dame at least, identify as feminist, come up to Laura Mulvey and thank her for her work, tell her about how her essay changed their lives. These were my students, students whose feminism had not been revealed in film class, who seemed like typical post feminists. So, it was shocking and wonderful to discover their secret passion. But, gals, the secret is out! You love Mulvey! You love Mulvey! Now, we'll get you hooked on the rest of the feminist gals who have rocked my world.

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