20 February 2010

Enough with the Feminism?

A major criticism of my Feminist Advisor is that her classes are "all just the same class about feminism and cinema, rinse, repeat." Male students ask when we can get to the "real" topic of talking about the aesthetics of shots without having to discuss their political or social implications. "Too much theory" they squeel in protest.

It boggles my mind that these students feel that simply describing what is on the screen is a higher level of analysis than describing what is on the screen and analyzing its connection to discourses from other disciplines (philosophy, economics, politics, history, gender studies, etc.). Yes, it takes training to accurately describe shots, camera work, and mise-en-scene. But it's not rocket science! Seriously, isn't there something more to engaging a text (in this case, a film) than simply describing what it does on a formal level?

And having described the formal aesthetics of a shot (say, a close-up of a woman's face, suitably soft-focus, and covered with tears) are we to simply leave it at that?


Does the shot really say nothing to them about how women are depicted in media, how Image and Woman relate, different dynamics of spectatorship, etc.? If the shot is "beautiful" shouldn't we question what makes it beautiful? What in our culture, history, upbringing, and the media around us makes us see a woman in tears as a beautiful image?

I believe this is what Godard was asking in A woman is a woman. How can my male classmates only care about describing the image Godard created, disregarding the implicit question that the director asks?

It almost feels like the "boys" are terrified of having the formal purity of their engagement with cinema "dirtied up" with questions that pertain to women, death, life (and the meaning of life), and "Others" in general.

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