Male Gaze

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Meryl: I'll go on ahead, look at my ass.
Snake: Ok. Cool.

The Male Gaze is a term from Gaze theory that describes the tendency of works to assume a (straight) male viewpoint even when they do not have a specific narrative Point of View, and in particular the tendency of works to present female characters as subjects of implicitly male visual appreciation.

One of the most obvious results of Male Gaze is the way a (usually male) director/cameraman's interest in women informs his shots, leading to a focus on breasts, legs, buttocks, and other jiggly bits even when the film isn't necessarily supposed to be a feast for eyes of their admirers. For example, a sex scene between a man and a woman may show more of her body than it does of his, or focus more on her reactions than his (see Right Through His Pants). Alternatively, it could appear in shows that aren't overtly sexual - for example, scenes of bikini-clad female characters talking that emphasize their bodies rather than showing just their heads.

Presenting a character as a collection of body parts with little relationship to one another (called fragmenting) makes them seem like a collection of objects rather than a person, which is why presenting a character this way is called objectification. Audiences are primed to sympathize with, or at least respect, characters if the camerawork concentrates on their face, especially if this is how the character is first shown to us in their Establishing Character Moment. If it shows another body part the audience is more likely to see the character as a threat, or an object of desire. This can be used as a legitimate cinematic effect, but is probably best avoided if you want your audience to subconsciously respond to the characters like human beings.

The term also applies in other mediums, such as video games and comic books. During the Dark Age, comic books were often perfect examples of the male gaze, with scenes being framed to show off a female character's curves over everything else. The trend continues at a lower level today.

If the female in question is aware of the Fourth Wall, she'll likely snap "Ahem, eyes are up here!" at the camera/artist.

The concept was popularized in Laura Mulvey's 1973 essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," quite likely the most cited essay in all of Film Studies.

May overlap with Homosexual Female Gaze. See also Fanservice, Jiggle Physics, Gainaxing. Not to be confused with Male Gays. Contrast Longing Look, Eating the Eye Candy, and Female Gaze.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Film — Animated 

    Music 

    Pinball 
  • In Eight Ball Deluxe, one of the playfield images is a woman in tight jeans with her back to the viewer, leaning over the pool table...
  • The playfield for Bally's Xenon shows a woman with her back to the player, arms upraised.
  • Evel Knievel features several female fans with large breasts and wearing tight T-shirts.
  • The sides of the Baywatch cabinet prominently feature the backsides of three female lifeguards, complete with skimpy swimsuits.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Turn on any WWE show later than 1995. Find a woman wrestling and chances are the cameras are focusing on her breasts falling out of her top, jiggling as she moves, or competing for who can get the most buttocks shots. Even more so if she is any competition that is not wrestling, WWE tending to have "bikini contests" and such seemingly just to facilitate this, though they seem to be on their way out since the return to the PG rating.
  • Played straight during Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling's "sports entertainment" era, where what was once among the most fearsome women's division on the planet was phased for valets with little wrestling or garbage wrestling skills whom the cameras would zoom in on while they attempted to fight one another, often to the point of missing the actual wrestling moves and violence the promotion was built on. However, what was left of the women's division was still fearsome enough to convince the cameramen not to apply this trope when they were wrestling.
  • During a Full Impact Pro falls count anywhere match between Homicide and CM Punk, the camera man, to commentator Prazak's annoyance, became more interested in two nearby strippers performing. Homicide himself soon became more interested in them than Punk too.
  • "Extreme Expose": The segment being the part in the show where three scantily clad women - one just barely over the age of 18 - dance to club music in the ring. It started as the 18-year-old's way to show off how much of an "exhibitionist" she was.
    • Even though Brooke Adams considered her buttocks her best assets (no pun intended), one of the cameras that followed her seemed more obsessed with them than her.
  • Subverted and Justified in OVW during a Leid Tapa vs Blossom Twin match, as the camera was being held by Eddy Valiant, whose girlfriend Epiphany was later seen demanding him to stop filming.

    Sports 
  • NFL cheerleaders and NBA dancers.
  • Thanks to Erin Andrews, it has become for common for sideline and courtside reporters to be female.
  • Very common in the Super Bowl, where most of the national anthem singers are women.
  • Spotting pretty women in the crowds of sporting events has become such an obvious trope that it has it's own name among cameramen, the "Honey Shot." This article details how it was essentially the brainchild of Andy Sidaris, the director for ABC football broadcasts. Note that some women (Jenn Sterger, Pamela Anderson) have even gained careers from being spotted in sports crowds.
  • During the 2012 Olympic Games, NBC had to pull an online video called "Bodies in Motion" because its depiction of female athletes was considered objectifying and demeaning. It didn't help that during the women's volleyball matches, the cameramen would occasionally get...distracted.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, it was common to see published modules describe any female characters (if they existed at all) in detail, usually with terms like "voluptuous" or "svelte", while neglecting to give important male NPCs so much as a hair color.

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