Films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Imitation of Life all possess strong performative elements that allow their viewers to evaluate the characters in the these films in somewhat unique ways. With these films, the term “performance” seems to be a relative. The primary female characters in both films perform both on and off the stage. The way these women perform off of the stage provides the viewer with an additional layer with which to understand them. This layer opens windows through which we can understand certain aspects of desire and femininity and a host of other qualities that we can evaluate.
Let me begin by discussing Marilyn Monroe's role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It saddens ...view middle of the document...
The second layer to Mulvey's theory is the gaze. The central idea is that men gaze at the women under the condition that there is some sort of performance happening in which women are the central component. Mulvey details not only the excitement that is won by looking, but also the excitement that is won by being gazed upon. This clearly show during the scene in which Lorelei and Dorothy enter the dining room. The woman stroll around the dining room of captivated men with rather excited looking grins. However, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds goes beyond just showing the pleasure that Dorothy and Lorelei get from being gazed upon, it also shows that they often use what power they have to attract men’s attention in order to get their way (Beach 126.) This can be seen when Lorelei asks one of the men at their diner table to forfeit his seat for Dorothy, and of course, it should be no surprise that the man submits to her request. Mulvey's theory of men as gazer and women as the objectified remains consistent throughout much of the musical.
However, it should be noted that there portions of the film in which the roles that Mulvey discusses in her piece seem reversed. Women are not the only ones being desired throughout the film, they are also doing their fair share of the admiring. Lorelei admires objects because, after all, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” and Dorothy admires men. For example, Dorothy seems to view men as sexual objects during the gym scene. The gaze she places upon the men is not the only instance during the scene in which we see a gender-role reversal. Let us examine what she is wearing. Dorothy has decided to wear a rather masculine looking black pant-suit. The men are wearing next to nothing with their nude-colored shorts which leave little to the imagination. Parts of this scene make it appear
as though the men are preparing for a stint with the Rockettes. Everything seems to shift the minute Dorothy is knocked into the pool. The men feel compelled to jump in and save the day. So much for shifting gender roles.
When Lorelei initially meets Piggy, we lay witness to another example of reversed gender roles with regards to Mulvey's theory. As I previously mentioned, Lorelei's main motives evolve around material objects. When she learns of Piggy's role in diamond mines, she becomes entranced and literally views his head as a giant diamond. Her “Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” act puts on display yet another example of the value she places on material objects. The entire scene is excessive and allows viewers to realize just how absurd her diamond obsession is. During this scene, Lorelei reinforces the objectified women concept. The scene literally incorporates women into the set design.
Mulvey details the ways in which women are objects of the male gaze and how men are the ones doing the gazing. In order to dig deeper into the reasons why this adds an additional layer to...