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Ia Hollywood Sexist



Women in Hollywood It is known that Hollywood harbours a corrosive system of inequality; since the start of the Hollywood studio system moguls manipulated women and even though Harvey Weinstein’s crimes have surfaced; nothing has really changed. Everyone’s familiar with the term ‘the casting couch,’ but if you’re not it’s a euphemism for all the forms of sexual harassment that take place in the system. The power imbalance between genders is broadcast but I believe everyone misses the key information that is given – the women keep coming back? Everyone wants to advocate for the male executives for example the Harvey Weinstein case and the dumbfound hashtag me too movement – the women even admit they keep coming back so surely, they must hold some responsibility for leading the man on. A male can only withhold certain amount of temptation before caving and when these actresses seduce him, he returns the favour in fame and fortune – which they certainly do not complain about and it is definitely not hidden as this is broadcast even in Hollywood films as plot device or joke. Some more unfathomable incidents happen in this weighted system such as Shirley Temple and her incident with Arthur Freed when he exposed himself inappropriately to her twelve-year-old eyes. However, this is just one of many cases within the MGM studio – all of their juvenile actresses have been involved in this despicable behaviour – Louis B Mayer forced his protégé Judy Garland to sit on his lap whenever she had free time from the punishing MGM schedule. Judy stated that the schedule “required amphetamines to get through the day and sleeping pills to sleep through the night. Even Marilyn Monroe classed Hollywood as a “overcrowded brothel.” Monroe also warned Joan Collins about the sexual harassment and because she refused to partake, she lost the lead role in Cleopatra. However, before the industry initialised studios consisted of people brought together in the common purpose of production. Once upon a time there were no stars; just familiar faces appearing on Nickelodeon on behalf of their studio’s brand like the Biograph Girl or Vitagraph Girl. In 1909, Carl Laemmle – head of IMP and founder of Universal Studio’s - changed this my hiring Florence Lawrence and manipulating her through life and death. And what that refers to is Laemmle spread a false news story that Florence died in a car accident and once the public presented their dismay Laemmle dismissed her death in the newspapers whilst announcing her new persona under her own name and the upcoming movies, she will be in. Here we can be witness to the true power of manipulation these men have in the system and how they can make or break someone’s career. Lawrence was just a shepherd leading the herd as many others followed pursuit as thousands of young ladies made their way to Hollywood seeking fame. Once the women infiltrated their way inside the colony the odds were weighted against them; aspiring actresses were likely to end up as either a waitress or a prostitute never really having the opportunity of a screen test. In relation, it was Louise Brooks that illustrated the screen test and the contracts were handed out not to those aspirers but those promiscuous women willing to give sexual favours to these influential men via ‘the casting couch’, women could literally copulate their way into a contract just like the hotel room dancers with Lord Beaverbrook who handed his dancer a contract with MGM. This is a clear display of corruption in a system fraught with peril. A huge scandal occurred in 1921 with the preventable death of Virginia Rappe who died in a hotel room in San Francisco; she was raped by Roscoe Arbuckle and it is heavily implicated that the cause of her death; which was a burst bladder caused by the excess weight forced on her. However, his name was cleared under the facade that she has a backstreet abortion and this is where the internal damage came from but he was still blacklisted from Hollywood as a way to allow the public to forget about the incident. Here’s a glimpse to the sordid side of the system and the industries resolution to this was in 1922. This is the year that Will Hays was appointed president of Motion Pictures America, and this gentleman enforced the film censorship ‘production code’ and his work extended far beyond the screen cleansing the system for women. Hay’s chaperoned a sorority for the young aspiring actresses in Hollywood. This sorority aimed to replace the image of women being preyed upon but this doesn’t address the root catalyst but instead is used as a way to comfort the victims because women such as Gloria Swanson are faced with the morality clause because they have signed themselves to be property of the studio. In the 1920’s producers realised that female actresses became a threat to their dominance, Hollywood became a lucrative business and it was now the stars that held the public’s attention not the studios. Brook’s described the women as wanting to create “a concerted war on the system” and women akin to the men also went power crazy with the ability to make or break a male actor’s career. By the 1930’s women producers and writers like June Mathis were reduced out of the industry and once again male superiority ruled the women who starred in their productions. Women who conformed to their morality clauses had their lives controlled by the studio; Margarita Cansino became Rita Hayworth, women were forced to stage romances to ignite the stars persona – all that is left of these women are the creations of the executive’s imagination. In 1937, the Golden Age of Hollywood moguls would tyrannically execute their authority over starlets. The first technicolour release of ‘A Star is Born’ is a palatable presentation of the star-and-studio system; so good it was remade three times (1954,1976 and 2018), despite the dark moments the film entails about the system. Woody Allen has been subjected to many sexual allegations, in 1966 made his debut ‘What’s up, Tiger Lily?’ which depicts the casting couch as a sleazy executive enforces his power over an aspiring actress resulting in China Lee performing a promiscuous striptease in the ending credits. This shows the scopophilic instincts males achieve when objectifying a woman. Molly Haskell’s ‘From Reverence to Rape’ takes us on a tour through the sexism depicted in Hollywood movies and how women are just masturbatory objects. Haskell categorises characters women portray in film into; the Extraordinary woman who’s a powerful figure, the Ordinary woman who’s often a victim and quite passive and lastly the Ordinary who becomes Extraordinary which represent the victim rising to become powerful. This further contends to concerns in films and feminism, the role of a woman in film; a woman’s physical appearance through the visual narrative and how the film communicates with its ideal spectator should be scrutinised. In order to do this, feminists adopted psychoanalysis as a way to understand the way women get represented in film. Feminist film theory has flourished in the past twenty years, using a combination of semiotics, Althusserian Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis and from this, subjects are formed through significatory processes. Laura Mulvey’s theory on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative cinema’ uses psychoanalysis to examine the pre-existing patterns and the social formations already seen in films. This then reflects on how films play with social established interpretations of sexual differences and how women are the spectacle for erotica. The paradox of phallocentrism in all manifestations is dependent on the portrayal of the castrated woman in order to present meaning to the world; women are lynch-pin to the system, the function of a woman symbolises castration threat because she does not have a penis. However, a woman can only exist in relation to castration and cannot transcend it. To feminists this is an obvious interest to analyse the experience of frustration under the phallocentric order, bringing an articulation to problems and getting us closer to the roots of oppression for women. A political and aesthetical avant-garde cinema now exists as an alternative counterpoint to the basic assumptions of mainstream Hollywood. All cinema before this was heavily influenced by the Hollywood styles and its skilful satisfaction from scopophilic visual pleasure. However, it was only through coded visual language was the erotica resonated; the reinforcement of the cinematic ego must be reprimanded not in order to create new cinematic visual pleasure but to ease the plenitude of narrative film fiction. Scopophilic behaviour not just comes in pleasure at looking at others but also pleasure of having others look at yourself. Freud isolates scopophilia as an instinct of sexuality driving the erotogenic zones, allowing them to be subject to a curious gaze; a particular example of this comes from the voyeuristic nature of children and their desire to see what is forbidden (this mostly centres around curiosity about how the body works and its functions). The constitution of the ego continues to exist innate as an erotic basis for achieving visual pleasure by looking at others as an object, but with everything comes extremists and there are voyeurs who only achieve sexual pleasure in viewing and watching a woman as an object; cinema provides a habitat for these people because it provides a remote surreptitious observation of an unknowing victim and the audience can view the unwinding of this in their own comforts. Cinema is full of sexual imbalances and scopophilic behaviour is split between an active/male and passive/female. The male gaze projects fantasy upon a female who is styled to fit the perversion. Women are displayed in films for strong visual, erotic impact; women displayed as a sexual object in cinema is the leit-motif of the erotic escapade. From pin-up to burlesque to striptease; a woman must hold their look to signify male desire. In cinema a active/passive heterosexual sharing of work has controlled narrative structure as the male cannot stand to be objectified to the narrative must support the man’s role as the active lead in the narrative and controlling the films fantasy and neutralising the extra-diegetic tendencies by a spectated woman. A male spectator would identify with the male lead and want to have the life of his cinematic surrogate coinciding with the active power of the erotica giving a sense of omnipotence. A male actors characteristics are not objectified in the gaze but instead, the ideal ego and achievement achieved. Alternatively, the woman is ideal to the ego in the identification process and is used as an icon to the active male allowing the spectator to internalise his own representation of this cinematic existence. This combined with the blurred limits of screen space due to camera technology and invisible editing (to reinforce realism), allowing the male to be free to control the spatial illusion resonating on screen. In the era of the contaminated ‘hashtag Me too’ movement, ‘Revenge’ (2017), is a film critical of the male gaze and rape culture, reversing the roles of hyper-masculinity empowering the female protagonist who seeks retribution against her rapist and enablers. The film uses male gaze directly up to the rape scene for example when Jen leaves the helicopter the camera focuses on her breasts and derriere, and furthers into making her into a masturbatory object by exposing her knickers when she first meets Stan and Dimitri. Even Hitchcock is responsible for applying the male gaze like in his films Vertigo where appearance is the central plot oscillating between voyeurism and narcissism, identification with the male spectators is used as recognition for the perversion. These examples of voyeurism are prevalent in ‘Revenge’ because of how the men conceive Jen, and the film is applied from their perspective. Even Hitchcock’s film ‘Rear Window’ is referenced as Dimitri watches Jen through his binoculars. The structure of how authoritarian, dominant, wealthy males (Marnie) lead the structure of the film with their erotic tendencies are shown to be entitled to do whatever they please, even when Jen refuses. When the men even impale the fleeing Jen on a tree branch, they believe they can get away with murder. How the plot shifts reverses the mainstream tropes associated with the male gaze, alternately reflecting the females perspective. Jen hunts down and murders the men, seizing their objects which can be connotated as visual symbols for masculinity at the beginning of the film. There are films that relate to the female gaze, because not all of us can advocate for women, and it shows that women can be just as perverted and voyeuristic as men. Every cinematographer has their own unique gaze regardless of gender. A female gaze has never really been proven, but it can be applied to films as it does exist; however over a hundred years of monopoly evidences a male gaze, it became the official language of cinema colonizing its own medium and if we as the spectators are enforcers of equality and equity I hope that the female gaze is something that develops and becomes something we too can analyse and take something away from. En.wikipedia.org. (2020). From Reverence to Rape. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Reverence_to_Rape [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020]. Asu.edu. (2020). [online] Available at: https://www.asu.edu/courses/fms504/total-readings/mulvey-visualpleasure.pdf [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. IMDb. (2020). Revenge (2017) - IMDb. [online] Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6738136/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Horror Homeroom. (2020). Revenge and the Power of the Gaze | Horror Movie | Horror Homeroom. [online] Available at: http://www.horrorhomeroom.com/revenge-and-the-power-of-the-gaze/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Telfer, T. (2020). How Do We Define the Female Gaze in 2018?. [online] Vulture. Available at: https://www.vulture.com/2018/08/how-do-we-define-the-female-gaze-in-2018.html [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Telfer, T. (2020). How Do We Define the Female Gaze in 2018?. [online] Vulture. Available at: https://www.vulture.com/2018/08/how-do-we-define-the-female-gaze-in-2018.html [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Uh.edu. (2020). Feminist Film Theory. [online] Available at: https://uh.edu/~cfreelan/courses/femfilm.html [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Time. (2020). This Chart Shows Hollywood's Glaring Gender Gap. [online] Available at: https://time.com/4062700/hollywood-gender-gap/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Medium. (2020). Hollywood was exploring sexuality, gender, and feminism in the 1930s—but one man stopped it. [online] Available at: https://timeline.com/hollywood-hays-code-breen-5f7872604f7b [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. The Globe and Mail. (2020). How Hollywood's ‘golden age’ of cinema created a cultural legacy of sexism. [online] Available at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/how-the-golden-age-of-cinema-created-a-cultural-legacy-ofsexism/article37538621/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Hutchinson, P. (2020). Moguls and starlets: 100 years of Hollywood’s corrosive, systemic sexism. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/19/moguls-and-starlets-100-years-of-hollywoods-corrosive-systemic-sexism [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020]. Jashinsky, E. and Jashinsky, E. (2020). Study Undercuts Hollywood Whining About Moviegoers' Racism, Sexism. [online] The Federalist. Available at: https://thefederalist.com/2020/02/06/study-hollywood-whining-about-moviegoers-racism-and-sexism-is-false/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2020].

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