Thursday, February 23, 2012

Discussion Points for bell hooks, "The Oppositional Gaze"

The Bottom Line...
            In this essay from her 1992 book, Black Looks: Race and Representation, bell hooks argues that as spectators of mass media (and especially, cinema) black women have a unique perspective, which she refers to as the “gaze,” and which is severely underrepresented within both film and academic/feminist film studies.  She describes this oppositional gaze as a natural response to and outgrowth of the socio-historic narrative of gender, race and personal identity that is particular to black women.   Finally, hooks suggests that filmmakers create subjectivities that undermine current dominant narratives while working to establish black female identity through the recognition of this "gaze" in their work. 

My questions for the class are...
       a) As media students & moviegoers, can you think of any black female characters in film that have specifically responded to or anticipated this confrontational, "oppositional" gaze in viewers - in recent years or otherwise?
       b) hooks proposes using this "gaze" to empower black female characters and undermine the dominant hierarchy. Can you think of any other techniques to employ in film to this same end?

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