What if my gaze mattered? On the continuing dominance of the white-male-hetero-gaze and how it’s infiltrating the “feminine” world of Twilight…

All the discussion of making the New Moon film friendlier to male audiences has my feminist panties in a bunch. Why must the Twilight films court the male demographic?

Granted, many feminists have decried the popularity of Twilight, and with good reason. But, I think we have more work to do in terms of scrutinizing why these books have such mass appeal, especially to females. Like Tania Modleski and Janice Radway, I believe the reasons we buy into mainstream narratives of romance are complex.

Liking such texts/films does not necessailry (or only) mean we are strengthening the chains of our oppression, let alone loving the ties that bind us to patriarchy. Many such narratives (Twilight among them) are both regressive and subversive, both rebellious and complicit of dominant mores and ideologies. Women, as we are positioned as lesser in our male dominated world, are drawn to such storylines for complex reasons. They allow us to vent our anger at female oppression, to romanticize the hetero-monogomous couple so that we can swallow this norm in our real lives, to experience the “happy endings” that real life does not foster.

Males are drawn to violence, action, thriller, and suspense for similarly complex reasons.  Yet, these genres are nowhere near as criticized, decried, and mocked. Many films, horror, action, sci-fi among them, speak to a mainly male audience. However, rarely is the need to court female viewers or speak to a “female gaze” ever part of our cultural conversations. In fact,  if one considers the pervasive “male gaze” of virtually all cinema, where women are to-be-looked-at and the camera either obviously or tacitly fondles female bodies to elicit pleasure from the presumed hetero-male-gaze, it can be argued that film in general courts a male demographic. When this is not the case, the rather derisive “chick flick” label is bandied about, with disdainful talk of tears, Kleenexes, and hand-holding.

While the terms “chick lit” and “chick flick” are relatively new, the concept is centuries old. Romance novels, gothic fiction, sentimental fiction, and domestic novels have long wooed a female audience while critics, cultural movers and shakers, and ‘high brow’ audiences have mocked these female forms. Yet, unlike genres identified as male, which are often just as (if not more) “lightweight” in their topics, focus, and messages,  genres labeled as feminine are seen as lesser, as frivolous, as laughable – much the way women have been viewed since patriarchy reared its ugly little head.

Where are the critics rallying about the fact that horror-porn movies  are “male flicks? Where are the cultural analysts deriding the male-centric view of comic book movies, action films, and thrillers? Were Hostel, The Fast and the Furious, and the umpteen zillion boob-filled Bond movies trying to court me? I think not.

I like horror films. I like good sci-fi and mind-bending thrillers. I like anything that has a bit of intelligence, humor, good acting, great effects, heart, and/or provoking ideas. Do most movies play to my gaze? Hell no. But I go anyway, as do most women. This, my friend, is the rub – women will go to “male flicks” far more readily than males will attend anything dubbed “too feminine” – it’s the same way you can call a female a dude, a guy, or ‘one of the boys’ and it’s just fine, complimentary even, but call a male a female, and it’s INSULTING.

So forgive me if me and my female hormones are insulted by the actors and the director falling over themselves to explain all the ways New Moon will be more “guy friendly.” I don’t need the world to be anymore guy friendly, thank you very much. Couldn’t females, once in a while, be seen as just as worthy, just as much a part of humanity, just as interesting as males? And why is it that when something is popular with a mainly female audience, it is heaped with scorn? You know the answer (s) – patriarchy, sexism, misogyny…

If you have men in your life who pooh-pooh the feminine, refusing anything defined as “for chicks,” too bad for them. Hop on your motorbike and leave these jackasses in the dust.

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Cross posted here at Seduced by Twilight.

3 thoughts on “What if my gaze mattered? On the continuing dominance of the white-male-hetero-gaze and how it’s infiltrating the “feminine” world of Twilight…”

  1. It seems like everything is this way; it is more acceptable for women to tread into male territory than vice versa. have you also noticed that society tends to find it cool when women go for the male-oriented entertainment and blow off the “chick flicks/lit”? nothing society likes more than women rejecting womanness in attempts to transcend it. It all goes back to good=male and bad=female.

  2. It seems to me, for finance alone, a movie producer should make it more “gal friendly”. For example, the two biggest movies of all time:

    Titanic
    Lord of the Rings

    Personally, I dislike it when a movie producer tries to court a wider audience, by watering down the source material to make the movie “accessible”, dampening the passion of the original fans.

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