Success of Hollywood Films in the Essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Categories: Film

Hollywood narrative films are known to extol women thus creating a viewing experience catered towards heterosexual men. In Laura Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, she argues that the success of a Hollywood film is how well the sought after subject is portrayed. Social patterns may dictate the certain subjects or objects society is fascinated with. Mulvey mentions the “Male Gaze” to be instrumental in showing some of the unconscious patriarchal shapes molded by society. Mulvey believes the “Male Gaze” causes the audience to view a film through a heterosexual male’s point of view.

This places the female character at the point of attention as she is actively observed by the audience and often portrayed as passive. This ties into Mulvey’s concept of the “patriarchal unconscious” which depicts men as not being able to ignore their fantasies and women’s never ending battle to meet male standards. For this essay I will analyze Season 1, Episode 1 of “The Sopranos”.

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The shot sequence I will analyze is the first set of shots in the entire series. I think this shot sequence includes some of the key ideas mentioned by Mulvey. The first shot of the entire series begins with the male protagonist Tony Soprano triangularly framed between the legs of a naked female sculpture. This right off the bat hints to the viewer that Tony who is centered in the middle of the frame is our main protagonist and that he is caught literally between a woman’s legs.

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As the clock ticks in his psychiatrist’s office Tony is seen pondering his thoughts. Mulvey claims the “Male Gaze” is seen as voyeurism. She is referring to the ways women are objectified and are around “to-be-looked-at” by males or through the lens of a camera. Just as described by Mulvey later in this shot Tony begins examining the naked female figure. Tony tilts his head in observation as he waits. A low angle shot ensues from Tony’s point of view as he stares at the naked sculpture. The sculpture is made of a dark metal and the woman stands naked with her hands behind her head.

The woman stares back at Tony with her own “gaze” as if she is challenging him. From my knowledge of the series later on, this statute represents Tony’s psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi and the crucial counseling sessions that take place in that office. Dr. Melfi is known to challenge Tony and make him question the life that he lives. The next shot begins with Tony sitting with his hands in his lap still thinking. Modern office furniture and abstract art make up the professional office setting. Seconds later the camera begins to track towards Tony who is dressed in casual mob slacks and a black silk shirt. Tony’s “Male Gaze” is constant as he is still locked in on the naked statute. The statute plays a passive role in this shot even though it evokes the attention of Tony.

His scowl gets stronger as the shot progresses. The next shot is a reverse shot of the naked statute. The shot tracks towards the woman’s face making sure her breasts are not missed by the viewer. These are features society has objectified and have accentuated through the outlets of the media. A reverse shot returns back to Tony’s face as he is still staring at the woman. Five seconds pass and Tony’s eyes dart towards the door. The large office door opens and Dr. Melfi greets Tony for the first time. This is the first sight of the most important woman in the entire series. Dr. Melfi is known to have more sway in Tony’s life than even his own wife. The masculine qualities demonstrated by Tony in “The Sopranos” exemplify the many arguments made by Mulvey in her essay regarding male dominance. This shot sequence as a whole encourages viewers to identify with Tony and to fetishize the image of a female.

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Success of Hollywood Films in the Essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. (2022, Oct 10). Retrieved from

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