Short scene from movie or TV show from the point of view of a female director.
It was a usual day at the studio and we were about to shoot the third episode ever of ‘Unseen’, a brand new TV show featuring an all women cast. I helped write the show and I was also the appointed camera woman. When we thought up the idea for the show, Liz and I were adamant we were going to create a show that would represent women of all different backgrounds, genders, sexualities and cultures. Our cast was made up entirely of new and unknown actresses. So far we had gotten a really positive response and women all over the country were calling us up and asking to have a part in the show. As I turned the camera on, our star actress walked in and got ready for her scene. Liz clapped her clapboard (she never got tired of it) and rolling we were.
Ekema is the main character in our TV show. This particular episode starts with her waking up in the morning and getting ready. She does not try to look attractive as she rolls over in her bed and disables her alarm clock with a bang of her fist. Her hair isn’t brushed and she is not wearing any makeup (as most people don’t first thing in the morning). Liz and I were so tired of watching women in movies waking up gracefully with a full face of makeup and perfect hair. As she gets up and has a shower my camera isn’t focused on sexualising her body, the scenes of her undressing reflect the tired, mechanic movements of an early morning. She walks into the kitchen where her flatmate Giovanna is already sitting at the table. They exchange good mornings and proceed to have a brief conversation about Giovanna’s girlfriend coming over for a movie night that evening. As she talks she is eating her breakfast, which is substantial. She is portrayed as a woman who enjoys eating good food, and I took great pleasure in filming her eat, zooming in slightly. In most films and TV shows the camera avoids filming women eating meals, in the media this is not perceived as ‘attractive’. Well sod that, I thought, as Ekema was taking big mouthfuls of toast.
‘And… cut!’ I shout, satisfied with the footage, ‘That’s this morning done, folks, good work’. Today was going to be productive I could tell.
To further my research and develop a final outcome I am going to randomly associate pictures together
- sandwich and foot
- ice cream and bra
- filling and skull
- stomach and seeds
- pizza and boobs
- ice cream cone and thorax
- knickers and lemon
- fish and bum
- shoe and brain
- fish bowl and heart
Imagery to come soon based on those associations
My primary resource is an advert in the London tube that was banned in April 2015. It shows a conventionally attractive woman wearing a bright yellow bikini. Her body type is very toned, athletic, slender yet curvy. She has fair skin and hair, full lips, a small nose and defined cheekbones. This in modern society is considered to be beautiful and it is a standard women are often held up to. Next to her the ad says ‘Are you beach body ready?’. It is extremely eye catching due to the bright yellow bikini and background. The viewer of this ad, targeted at teenage and adult women, will look at it and compare themselves to this very white caucasian and limited vision of beauty.
According to Michael Foucault, ‘subject and object, spectator and model reverse their roles into infinity’ (1966). Essentially, women that come across this advert cannot ignore it because of its’ loud and obnoxious appearance. This ad is designed so the viewer will be immediately drawn to it, see the model in the bikini first, then the tag line and in third place the actual product, namely ‘the weight loss collection’ by Protein World. The simple question ‘Are you beach body ready?’ suggests that the woman looking at this probably isn’t and she needs to lose weight as a result of that. This isn’t really an advert about going to the beach, this is an excuse to continuously demonise and persecute women’s bodies for having fat and cellulite in their natural state. This is done because the industry relies on women feeling bad about their bodies to make money. The viewer of this ad is however also capable of rupturing the male, patriarchal gaze and recognising this ad as being unrealistic and unattainable. According to Bell Hooks this is called the Oppositional Gaze (1999). The ad has indeed been taken down because of the controversy it caused and because people kept subverting it by writing messages on it or destroying it.
The underlying problem is that the Oppositional Gaze is mainly female. Many men will walk past adverts like this every day and see no problem in them because they are not being targeted, and the objectified woman in the picture is also there for their ‘enjoyment’. Women that have spoken up against this ad have received abuse from the company and its CEO Arjun Seth. BBC reporter Juliette Burton was one of the many people to sign the petition to remove the ad, and she received tweets from the company saying she shouldn’t make her own insecurities their problem, and accusing her of being unbalanced and confused due to her mental illness and eating disorder (2015). The company went on to tweet ‘We are a nation of sympathisers for fatties #doesnthelpanyone’. This is a classic example of everyday sexism in an industry where men take control of the way women see themselves.
The Order Of Things (Michael Foucault, 1966)
The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators (Bell Hooks, 1999)
Burton, J. (2015) Viewpoint: My twitter battle with the people behind the beach body ad. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-32497580 (Accessed: 18/10/16)