The Oscars and the White Male Gaze
Jess McCabe // 25 February 2009
Campbell has a great post up about the effect of mainstream cinema’s white male bias, and the general lack of women directors:
Cinema is a way for people to get lost in a fantasy world. A way to experience life through others eyes, a way of reviewing history, or a way of re-learning our cultures. Film is accessible and visual so has a far reach because any person who has functioning vision or hearing can participate in the magic that is cinema.
But whose world are we re-visioning? It would seem to me that what has crept up on us all, is a view of the world through Eurocentric male eyes. This is somehow being presented to us via mainstream cinema as benign, neutral, and universal entertainment. Meaning that although the themes represented are universal to all humans – love, betrayal, greed, power etc these stories are projected to us through the lens that is instrument of the white male gaze.
What we are being shown in wonderful close up is men’s lives, men’s stories. It is so blatant that even when a White male vision is transported on to an Indian story as in Slumdog Millionaire there is no comment on the erasing through the non-mention of the contribution of the Asian female co-director Loveleen Tandan. This somehow leaves a nasty memory of cinema from back in the day when in certain movies the white actresses singing voice was actually provided by non credited African American singers like Etta Moten. Plus ca change?
Is it that women are just really bad at directing great films which is why their names rarely come up for directing awards? Are they really crap at writing screenplays? I am referring to films that the majority of us have easy access to and will have no barriers to viewing. There is not a single female name in any of directing and writing categories for the BAFTAs. Would Jane Austen have gotten a film break in 21st Century Britain? The statistics do not look encouraging.
Meanwhile, Renee points out that the Oscars were happy to honour homophobe Jerry Lewis, and 300 million viewers saw a censored version of speeches by Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black, as the sound went quiet at all mentions of the words “gay” and “lesbian”.
Of course, we’re just coming up to the Birds Eye View Film Festival here in London – let’s try and redress the balance when we can, by supporting the work of women film-makers.