Tuesday, March 18, 2008

star power

I have often wondered about the power that woman have over the (male) gaze, and whether by controlling it power is transferred to her, or whether the power remains the voyeur’s, as I think many would have it. Is a woman’s to-be-looked-at-ness a mark of her weakness––a sort of deer-in-the-headlights situation, in which she is trapped by the gaze and laid bare to it––a mark of objectification (when she, ironically, becomes the subject of a gaze), or a mark of her power over the one who’s gaze she is controlling?

Burgin’s discussion of the JenniCam raises similar questions. If Jennifer Ringley cannot control when the camera takes the pictures or who her audience is, is she still in control? If people can take the pictures of her when she is naked or when she is having sex and put them on the internet, without her knowledge, can she possibly have power in this situation?

Burgin remarks on page 86 that “Jenni plays not only the revelation and concealment of parts of her body. More significantly, it is her entire person whose coming and going she controls.” She has successfully made her entire person the object of desire, because .

By being gone for the majority of the time, her fans miss her. By being present only ever in three minute intervals, her fans want to know what is happening in between the photos. By only showing her dorm room, her fans want to know what goes on in the rest of her life, and probably, they want to know what she is like, what they don’t get to see. And isn’t this what everyone wants? For not only your body to be the desired object, but also the rest of you? Has Jennifer achieved what we all hanker after?

And this is the allure of movie stars. The popularity of tabloids reveals a desire to get to know the movies stars better. Fans want to meet them, speak to them, be recognized by the stars, even though it is they themselves who are under the public’s eye. Where they go, their watchers will follow. So my question is, I suppose, a question of desire. Does the fact that no voyeur can see all of a subject give that subject of his scrutiny the power?


akhines said...
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akhines said...

Haha, we have talked about this before! I think its a combination of the two, or that it depends on whether the woman decides to wield her potential power or not. HOWEVER, we shouldn't restrict this to gender. I think that this is a power dynamic that is in play in Lacan and Freud's models of development, and also reminds me a lot of Keenan's article about vulnerability. The window both lets the subject affirm his "self" by gazing upon others, yet also makes him vulnerable to the gaze of others and to light. Essentially, I think there is always a power in vulnerability. We should talk about this more and you should read my college admissions essay about modeling that i told you about. (that last comment was addressed specifically to maud)