The Male Gaze is a pseudo-derogatory (though generally neutral) term from Gaze theory that describes the tendency of works to assume a 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 a man's 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. This trope can be used as a legitimate cinematic effect, especially when combined with Point of View. (At which point it may become Eating the Eye Candy, though not necessarily.)
The term also applies in other mediums, such as video games and comic books. During the Dark Age, comic books were (and often still are) perfect examples of the male gaze, with scenes being framed to show off a female character's curves over everything else.
Male Gaze does sometimes focus on male attributes, focusing on big pumping biceps and perfect abs, but, crucially, in a way that is sexless and aspirational. The presumed male audience is intended to relate to the character being objectified in this way and wish they had that body themselves, rather than desire them.
The gender reversed version of the Male Gaze is the Female Gaze - where the same rules as above apply except the focus is on more traditionally masculine qualities in a character.
The concept was popularized in Laura Mulvey's 1973 essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema."
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films Live Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- In Arashi no Yoru ni, Gabu has a tendency to stare at Mei's arse, which the POV camera delightedly shows off. Which is a rather unusual example given that Gabu is a wolf, Mei is a goat, and that he's staring because he wants to eat him. (apparently, anyway...)
- Elastigirl in The Incredibles. There's even one scene where she sighs after seeing the size of her behind in a mirror.
- Madagascar had Gloria the hippo, whose big butt is shown on screen several times throughout each movie, video game, and animated short.
- Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has Scratte's big butt shown.
- Dead Prez's music video to Hip Hop started with a shot of a woman's buttocks, which was then captioned with the words: "Now that we got your attention". Then raps about social warfare.
- This is pretty much what Roy Orbison's big hit "Pretty Woman" is all about.
- Male-to-male example: The album art◊ for the VENUS song "Wow Wow VENUS" shows DJ Yoshitaka facing Sota Fujimori and looking down at his crotch.
- Surprisingly averted in Juvenile's video for Rodeo. It goes behind the scenes at a strip club, showing the difficult lives of the strippers. While there are scenes showing them dancing, the camera focuses on their faces, showing how many of them are sad, bored, worried or stressed.
- Three words. BABY GOT BACK.
- Ingrid Michaelson's music video for "Girls Chase Boys" is a frame-by-frame homage to Robert Palmer's music video for "Simply Irresistible" with herself playing Robert Palmer and the genders of the backup dancers randomized.
- Played every which way with ''Because Boobs."
Girl: Um, excuse me, my eyes are up here!
- The Stranglers' "Peaches" may or may not combine this with Dirty Old Man.
- The Zolas's EP Wino Oracle has a track that is literally called this.
- Deliberately over-invoked in Chilly Gonzolas's video for "You Can Dance." The camera stays locked on the female dancers' butts, bosoms and crotches (all clothed), occasionally intercut with shots of Chilly getting slapped across the face in time with the hand-claps, implying that the whole thing is from his perspective.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.