“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” is a 1953 Musical-Comedy released by 20th Century Fox, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Marilyn Munroe and Jane Russell; the two greatest sex symbols of the era. The camera’s point of view is that of the ‘male gaze’, where women are regarded as objects of fascination and the men are assumed to have a position of power. Hawks shows how it can be easily hijacked by females smart enough to control, manipulate and ultimately blur the ‘male gaze’. As much as this film is shot for the ‘male gaze’ it is as much for a female audience as it is for males.
In the song-and-dance sequence, “When Love Goes Wrong”, the two female protagonist had just been expelled from the hotel by Gus. Though the situation for Lorelei and Dorothy should be one where they are left helpless and powerless the scene however displays the opposite. In the entire scene both female protagonist are captured front and center with close ups and the lighting on their faces is well defined which gives them a sense of importance and power. At the same time the men gather around them captivated, giving their undivided attention to the females as they sing and dance; giving them a position of control over the men.
Their position of power is so prominent that they even get the admiration of young boys who seem to be gypsy’s. Gypsy’s are known to be quick, sharp and in control when it comes to stealing but in this scene their heads are turned by the sensual Lorelei and they are totally distracted. Bothe females are well aware of their manipulative powers as Dorothy encourages Lorelei to use her charms, saying, “Do it now, do it!”
What appears to be submissive to the ‘male gaze’, in this scene however they put on a chow in exchange to negotiate their presence and have their voices heard in a dominantly male world. When the females are seated they appear to be two damsels in distress, however the movement of standing up represents liberty and the space they command when dancing communicates freedom and power. A melancholy moment turns to a vibrant and fun sing-and-dance where they reject the actions of men to have power over their emotions.
Though the scene is shot in the view of the ‘male gaze’ the line is blurred when Lorelei and Dorothy use their sensual and attractive appearance to control, manipulate and command power in a dominantly male world. By this the scene takes a turn to cater to the female sight giving a sense of empowerment and independence in a situation where they should be the damsels in distress.
Courtney from Study Moose
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