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This review appeared in Volume 7 (3) of the Semiotic Review of Books.

The Implicated Spectator

Betsy Weiss

Cinema and Spectatorship. By Judith Mayne. Routledge, 1993. 192 pp. ISBN 0-415-03416-7.

In Cinema and Spectatorship Judith Mayne outlines the development of the study of spectatorship and explores many of the contradictions inherent in theorizing film viewing. In the introduction, Mayne distinguishes between what has been commonly considered in film studies as two oppositional types of spectatorship; 1) that which is critical of the dominant ideology (usually that of a white, heterosexual male-centered perspective) and 2) that which is complicit with the dominant ideology. She writes:

It will be evident in the following chapters that I think spectatorship is at once the most valuable area of film studies, and the one that has been the most misunderstood, largely because of the obsessive preoccupation with dualistic categories of critique versus celebration, or "critical" versus "complacent" spectatorship.

Mayne asserts that her intention in writing the book is to point to the problematic nature of previous discussions of spectatorship in which this dualistic framework has been supported, to recognize the contradictions inherent in addressing spectatorship, and to expand the discussion of the subject. In addition to outlining the content and intention of her study, Mayne discusses the way in which she has chosen to limit her work, primarily by concentrating on commercial, mainstream film.

Part One of Mayne's book is entitled "Theories of Spectatorship." Throughout this initial section of her book, Mayne attempts to give an overview of the development of the study of spectatorship in film theory. She states, "The notion of cinema as an institution is central both to spectatorship as defined in 1970s film theory and to more recent reformulations." Mayne suggests that cinema is an institution which simultaneously acts upon the viewer and is shaped by the viewer. In the attempt to define ideology, as well as to illustrate the concept of cinema as institution and the "cinematic spectator" as intrinsic to this institution, Mayne concentrates much of her discussion on the work of Louis Althusser and Roland Barthes. She is especially interested in Althusser's essay "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation)" and Barthes's S/Z.

Mayne asserts that Althusser's work challenges the Marxist concept that ideology is a simple distortion of the economic infrastructure of a given society. Rather, ideology, according to Althusser, "represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence." Mayne emphasizes that AlthusserŐs definition of ideology became the basis for much 1970s film theory, from which emerged the study of spectatorship. She develops a discussion based on this concept of ideology as serving both an interpretative and obligatory function in society. Mayne applies AlthusserŐs theory to cinema by suggesting that in terms of critical studies, both the film content and the act of film viewing itself need to be examined. Also applicable to cinema, Mayne postulates, is what Althusser has referred to as "interpellation," whereby film viewers recognize themselves as the subjects of the ideology put forth in the films viewed. Mayne writes, "Study of interpellation, or the subject effect in film, then, was designed to explore how film-goers become subjects, how the various devices and components of the cinema function to create ideological subjects."

Purporting that Althusser laid the groundwork but did not work out a fully detailed analysis which could be applied to film studies, Mayne next discusses Barthes's S/Z, proposing that this work had a far more direct application to film theory, particularly in the development of textual analysis. In his groundbreaking work S/Z, Barthes deconstructs Balzac's novella Sarrazine into 561 units of meaning. Mayne highlights two aspects of Barthes's work as being pertinent to the development of film studies and specifically studies of spectatorship. First, she notes Barthes's distinction between the "readerly" and the "writerly," defined, respectively, as that which allows for complacent reading and that which challenges the reader. Mayne elaborates upon this notion:

The distinction between the readerly and writerly appears to reflect the distinction between realist and experimental writing, but Barthes undoes anysuch easy opposition by proposing what he called the "limited plurality" of the realist text, a plurality uncovered by the strategies of reading. This "limited plurality" challenges the order and coherence of realism, allowing for possibilities of multiple, shifting and sometimes contradictory meanings.

Mayne also points to the way in which Barthes proposed five codes through which to order his interpretation of Sarrazine. She writes, "...Barthes's analysis defines an approach to the study of textuality that 'read' in a 'writerly' fashion, attentive not to any single determination but rather to how textuality is formed by interplay of different discourses - political, narrative, psychoanalytic."

The work of both Althusser and Barthes, according to Mayne, is important to the development of 1970s film theory and the development of spectatorship studies as they both call for the need to reexamine the concept of ideology as interacting with the subjects of a given society. For Mayne, the work of both Althusser and of Barthes reveals ideology as a representational system that addresses subjectivity. She also differentiates between the two writers, stating that while Althusser strives for a subjectless discourse, Barthes acknowledges multiple subject positions but no discourse without a subject.

Recalling her discussion of Althusser and Barthes, Mayne considers film theorists prevalent in the 1970s as falling into two different, yet not entirely oppositional groups. First she touches on the work of those theorists whose work might be more closely aligned with Althusser; those theorists who, she states, "have been most important to the definition of how cinema functions as an institutional apparatus, a standardized arrangement of component parts, a machine with a variety of interlocking functions." Mayne includes in this group Jean-Louis Baudry, Christian Metz, and Laura Mulvey. These theorists, Mayne proposes, are primarily concerned with the way in which the cinematic institution influences spectators to seek out pleasures in film viewing that reflect the dominant ideology. Mayne states, "For all three of these theorists, these pleasures are identified through the insights of psychoanalysis as they illuminate the study of ideology."

The work of a second group of film theorists, while influenced by the concept of the cinematic apparatus, is concerned primarily with textual analyses of films, according to Mayne. These theorists include Raymond Bellour, Stephen Heath, and Thierry Kuntzel. This second group of theorists often spends time looking at individual shots, editing methods, timing and other textual elements in order to discern the way meaning is constructed.

Despite some differences between these two groups of theorists, Mayne makes it clear that her system of classification is conditional. She purports that these two groups of theorists often arrive at the same point of understanding, but through the use of different means. She emphasizes that both apparatus and textual theorists were concerned with psychoanalysis, far more so, she adds, than were Althusser or Barthes.

Developing her overview of the history of spectatorship studies, Mayne asserts that psychoanalysis is perhaps "the single common denominator to all of 1970s film theory." She emphasizes that cinema developed both at the same time as modern advertising and Freudian psychoanalysis. For Mayne, cinema and psychoanalysis are connected in how cinema draws upon the desires of spectators. She writes, "...cinema was assumed to possess a unique metaphoric quality. Going to the movies and seeking their pleasures were seen as activities that reflected deep-seated assumptions about what it means to be a subject in Western discourse." Even the very act of sitting in a darkened theater, according to Mayne, suggests the psychoanalytic emphasis on dreams and regression.

In her discussion of psychoanalysis, Mayne notes Freud's focus on oedipal desire and his subsequent influence on film theorists such as Mulvey and Raymond Bellour. Mayne cites the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan as having been even more influential to the development of studies of spectatorship. She writes:

Looking relations are central to Lacan's revision of Freud, with particular attention paid to the gaze as a primary structure of identity and its failures. The dual emphasis on identity and its failures is crucial to how Lacan was brought to bear on film theory, for central to the Lacanian notion of desire is a continuous process whereby desires are never satisfied, thus assuring aneconomy of desire which reinforces, in its turn, the wish to return to the cinema again and again.

Continuing her discussion of desire in the cinema, Mayne stresses that both Freud and Lacan influence film theory in helping theorists to understand the state that film viewers enter when watching films. Both Mulvey and Bellour are concerned with the process of identification that the film viewer goes through. Mulvey explores the way in which the spectator is encouraged to identify with the male protagonist, acting out a combination of voyeurism and fetishism. Bellour emphasized oedipal desire, which Mayne describes as "the desire to become like the father, to take his place in the heterosexual and familial economy of Western, industrialized culture." Therefore, Mayne asserts, the fact that much of classical cinema if resolved with the formation of the heterosexual couple is not a mere coincidence, but rather works to maintain oedipal desire as integral to the Western cinematic institution.

Mayne also discusses the narrative in classical Hollywood cinema as connected to oedipal desire. She writes, "If one can speak of 'oedipal narrative' in the cinema, then it consists of a series of structures whereby (male) infantile crises of individuation, separation, and autonomy are rekindled in order to be smoothed over, naturalized." Continuing this line of reasoning, Mayne states that much of classical narrative cinema depends on a dominant narrative form that introduces disorder and then restores order. Referring to Barthes, Mayne writes that the classic Hollywood cinema is debatably homogenous, readerly rather than writerly, a closed system. This system, she alleges, often relies on a series of oppositions, which serve as a point of departure for much of textual analysis.

Continuing her examination of the issues that are introduced by institutional theories, Mayne next considers identification in the cinema. Stressing the complexity inherent in the topic of identification, Mayne points out that psychoanalytic theory does not always challenge the assumption that emerges from the classical cinema's quest to maintain an illusion of realism, namely that the spectator primarily identifies with the human characters on the screen. Mayne cites the work of Metz as attempting to conceive alternatively of this process of identification. Mayne addresses Christian Metz's delineation of primary and secondary identification. Primary identification is simply the act of looking, connected to the projection of the image upon the screen. Secondary identification involves identification with the characters on screen. Mayne contests the assumption that the spectator would identify most closely with a character like him or herself:

To assume such identification, a stable notion of identity needs to be in place. But the theories to which 1970s film theorists were drawn, and the work of Lacan in particular, questioned any such evident stability. As a result, identification understood as a position - and more properly as a series of shifting positions - assumes that cinematic identification is as fragile and unstable as identity itself. Indeed, the possibilities opened up by this reconsideration of identification are enormous, challenging as they do both excessively literal assumptions about the pleasure taken in the cinema as well as any notion of identification as a simple one-way process from one individual to his or her like.

In the next section, Mayne cites Guy Debord's, The Society of the Spectacle. In this work, Debord delineates a society consuming images and using them to replace all forms of human communication. Mayne states that the act of viewing a film means subjecting oneself to the power of another's vision, whether that of the filmmaker or an agent of the social order. Living in a society of the spectacle, cinema becomes a training ground for acculturation to the form of the spectacle. Here Mayne addresses what she refers to as the greatest paradox of 1970s film theory: the examination of the complexities of the cinema revealed the dominant ideology as a construction, rendering it open to change, yet also revealing the difficulty in effecting any change.

In Chapter Two, "Spectatorship As Institution," Mayne considers the increasing interest in spectatorship as reflecting a desire on the part of theorists to understand more fully the shifting and interdependent preoccupations of culture and society. She relates an emphasis onspectatorship in film to similar movements in other fields such as literature. Mayne suggests that film studies were influenced by Barthes's 1968 declaration concerning the "death of the author," which led theorists to begin to consider the reader as a displacement of the author as the primary producer of meaning. Mayne contrasts the "subject" with the "viewer." She states: "I am opposing...the cinematic subject and the film viewer so as better to situate the spectator as a viewer who is and is not the cinematic subject, and as a subject who is and is not a film viewer." Here, Mayne refers to the "subject" as a position in the filmic discourse constructed by the cinematic institution. In contrast, Mayne equates the viewer with the "real person." Mayne suggests that the spectator (which she also refers to as the viewer) is perhaps a reflection of both concepts, the interplay of the institution upon the real person.

In tracing further the development of spectatorship studies, Mayne next delineates several models of spectatorship. She begins by examining the "institutional model." Mayne purports that virtually all of the major 1970s film theorists assume the institutional nature of the cinema in developing their work.

Mayne characterizes the institutional model as totalizing and monolithic. Citing the intersection of what she calls the social and the psychic in addressing film theory and spectatorship, Mayne associates the institutional model with the work of Michel Foucault. She discusses Foucault's analyses of power and discourse, modern systems that function by creating a series of ruptures that are then reconstituted into what she terms "the dominant order." Referring to Foucault's work, Mayne writes, "Only by understanding the tenacity of the cinema as an ideological institution is it possible to explore the possibilities of genuine alternatives." She reiterates that it is not opposition to the institutional model of cinema and spectatorship which will bring about change, but rather the acknowledgment of the power of the ideological institution and the investigation of the interplay of many related factors.

Mayne asserts that "apparatus theory" and the work of Baudry are integral to the institutional model. Citing two influential articles by Baudry, Mayne interprets his definition of apparatus theory as the idea that "...the cinema produces an ideological position through its very mechanics of representation - i.e., the camera, editing, the immobile spectator situated before a screen. Ideology is not imposed upon the cinema, it is always already implicated in it." The apparatus theory works to maintain the dominant ideology within the viewer, both psychically and culturally, thus supporting the institutional model of spectatorship.

In her discussion of apparatus theory and the institutional model of spectatorship, Mayne contrasts Mulvey's seminal essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" with the work of Baudry. Mayne concludes that apparatus theory as discussed by Baudry implies a monolithic structure regarding cinema and spectatorship. In comparison, Mayne writes that Mulvey's work has been criticized for assuming a totalizing interpretation of both male and female viewer positions and Hollywood's affiliation with patriarchy, yet actually opens up a critical space by acknowledging the many factors that work together to support the positioning of the spectator.

In her discussion of apparatus theory and the institutional model, Mayne addresses the importance of the theorist's recognition of her or his own implication in the mechanisms at work. She points to work by Bellour in particular. Bellour explains his own implication in the maintenance of the apparatus by stating that his attempts to analyze films take him through the workings of the film, thus repeating and strengthening the ideology that is represented.

In Chapter Three "Spectatorship Reconsidered," Mayne examines more recent and ostensibly more productive models which move away from the monolithic aspects of the institutional model. She designates these models as the empirical , historical, and feminist models. Mayne states that these models take into account a more heterogeneous spectator than the passive, white, heterosexual male or male-identified viewer that is associated with the institutional model.

Mayne defines the empirical model as that which is dependent on research findings. She divides this model into the study of cognitivism and ethnographics. Mayne writes, "The appeal to cognitive perspectives takes cinematic perception as its key point of departure." Citing the work of David Bordwell, Mayne asserts that the cognitive perspective conceives of a more active spectator than that of the institutional model. While the cognitive aspect of the empiricalmodel is based on studies of perception , the ethnographic aspect centers on qualitative and critical observations of how individuals respond to film viewing. Mayne writes that film scholars interested in this ethnographic realm have been inspired by Stuart Hall's work on "encoding" and "decoding" - "on the relationship between the ideology contained within texts and the various ways in which individuals 'decode' or interpret that ideology based on their own social positioning...."

Next, Mayne turns her attention to the historical model. This model takes into consideration the specific cultural and historical conditions of an audience and the way in which this consideration affects spectatorship. Some of the questions Mayne raises in the discussion of the historical models are as follows:

What did film going represent for historically different audiences? Do different film genres address spectators in radically different ways? How are the cinema and individual films contextualized in a given culture? What are the different texts and institutions that define how individual films, groups of films, audiences, and film-going patterns are defined? In short, the central question raised is two-fold: what are the histories of spectatorship, and what is historical about spectatorship?

Finally, Mayne turns to a consideration of feminist models. She posits that feminist theorists are overwhelmingly concerned with accounting for the female spectator. While some theorists believe that classic Hollywood cinema fails to allow for a female spectator, others feel that many classical films do not cleanly fit into the boundaries of the male look. Mayne elaborates on the way in which feminist film theorists attempt to find a common ground between "real" women and cinematic representations of women.

In Chapter Four "Paradoxes of Spectatorship," Mayne discusses the contradictions inherent in the analysis of spectatorship. She begin this section by pointing to what she views as one of the primary paradoxes: "Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of contemporary film studies is that the obsessive attention devoted to the cinematic institution occurred at a time when there has perhaps existed more diversity than ever before insofar as modes of cinematic representation and address are concerned." Mayne asserts that spectatorship studies need to be vigilant in the recognition that diversity can serve as a smokescreen that masks rather than reveals and challenges the illusions in mainstream cinema.

Mayne breaks down her discussion of the paradoxes of spectatorship into three sections. These sections include "Address and Reception," "Fantasy," and "Negotiation." Mayne asserts that she has chosen these terms in order to theorize the contradictions inherent in the way spectatorship functions.

Mayne writes, "Address refers to the ways in which a text assumes certain responses, which may or may not be operative in different reception conditions. Central to this apparent paradox is the role of the cinematic 'text,' whether defined as the individual film or as a set of operations which situate the spectator in certain way." Mayne suggests that inquiry into address and reception can open up a critical space between the "real" viewer and the "ideal" viewer. Mayne believes that such an investigation must be conducted in terms of textual analysis as well. She states, "If spectators can and do respond to films in ways that contradict, reject, or otherwise problematize the presumably 'ideal' spectator structured into the text, then the value of textual analysis - arguably the most significant methodological direction undertaken by 1970s film theory - needs to be seriously rethought or re-evaluated."

Next, Mayne considers "fantasy" as a paradox of spectatorship. She examines the work of Freud, Jean LaPlanche, and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis in exploring the intersection of psychoanalysis, fantasy, and film spectatorship. Mayne stresses that the authors show how different fantasies intersect and exist through a variety of subject positionings. She writes, "Fantasy does offer the possibility of engaging different desires, contradictory effects, and multiple stagings...(but) it is questionable whether fantasy can engage with the effects of spectatorship without some understanding of how its own categories - of sexual difference, the couple and desire - are themselves historically determined and culturally variable." Mayne also points to the risk of allowing the study of fantasy and psychoanalysis to be interpreted by onemaster code, with the unconscious serving as yet another totalizing system. Another concern for Mayne is that the theorist investigating fantasy in spectatorship may in fact be addressing his or her own fantasies of and fascination with the cinema.

Mayne next considers "Negotiation," as a means to avoid any totalizing viewpoint, whether conservative or radical, in the analysis of spectatorship. Using specific case examples, Mayne defines negotiation as a resistance to reading difference in a film as purely "liberatory" or "contestatory." She cites Hall's work "Encoding/Decoding" as initially defining negotiation as a means by which to attend to difference in reading a film, without reading the film in purely oppositional terms, i.e. supporting or contradicting the dominant ideology. Throughout this section, she emphasizes the need to look toward specific examples in considering negotiation. She also maintains a self-reflexivity, stating, "I see theoretical self-consciousness...as an attention to how and why certain modes of theoretical discourse, certain tropes, certain preoccupations, are foregrounded in specific critical and cultural contexts."

In the second section of her book entitled "Readings of Spectatorship," Mayne attempts to illustrate the ideas about spectatorship that she has developed in the first section. Chapter Five addresses "Textual Analysis and Portraits of Spectatorship." Mayne discusses general critiques of textual analysis, such as its failure to consider the complexity of the cinematic institution, its support of the idea of text versus context, and its prescription of a general, universalizing way in which the Hollywood film might be read.

Mayne then begins her own textual analysis. She chooses for her analysis Albert Lewin's The Portrait of Dorian Gray (1945) because, she notes, the film is about portraiture, and therefore shows an obvious connection to spectatorship. Mayne notes that she is also interested in the gay persona of the author Oscar Wilde and the homosexual implications of the novella on which the film is predicated. Despite some commonalities with classical Hollywood cinema, the film focuses primarily on the looking relations between the male characters in the film and, Mayne suggests, an implicit homosexuality.

Contrasting Mulvey's analysis of Hollywood cinema with her own study of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mayne writes:

The mostly anonymous women who are framed in the film are done so in relationship to the position of the spectator of (not within) the film, i.e. not in relationship to the three male figures whose spectatorial activities function so centrally. Mulvey's analysis of the classical Hollywood cinema assumes that the masculine film viewer is aligned in fairly unproblematic terms with the 'ego ideal' represented by the male protagonist, but in the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, no such alignment exists. The woman framed in the doorway is an object of spectacle in spite of the looks of the male characters, not because of them."

Mayne concludes this chapter claiming that because this film is both typical and atypical of standard Hollywood fare, it illustrates the possibilities for textual analysis to expand the study of spectatorship.

In Chapter 6, Mayne turns to "Star-gazing." Here, she investigates the role of film stars in studies of spectatorship, considering in detail the star image of Bette Davis. She points out that Davis's persona was generated and molded not only by her film performances, but also by her inclusion in fan magazines and women's magazines. Mayne cites several areas of conflict within the image developed of Bette Davis. For example, many fans were drawn to Davis's depiction in her film roles and personal life as a devoted wife. However, Mayne writes, "...Davis' own description of her failed marriages in her autobiographies suggest the supposed incompatibility (for women) of career and family in a cynical rather than an emancipatory sense."

Another example of the contradictions that mark the star persona of Bette Davis is in the area of race relations. Davis was known for her anti-racist beliefs and many blacks, including James Baldwin, held her in high regard. But she was also accused by the biographer of Hattie McDaniel, an actress who is featured with Davis in The Great Lie, of attempting to have some of McDaniel's scenes cut because of a fear of rivalry. Mayne points out, "...rarely is spectatorship examined in terms of race--in the case of Bette Davis, for instance, rarely is it acknowledged that feminist readings of her appeal may project specifically white ideals of feminism onto thefemale spectator."

In the next chapter, Mayne considers "White Spectatorship and Genre-Mixing." She analyzes the films Ghost and Field of Dreams. After noting that Whoopi Goldberg was the first black actress to win an Academy Award since Hattie McDaniel won for her role in Gone with the Wind fifty years earlier, Mayne conveys that Goldberg's role was actually similar to McDaniel's role, a "mammy type" serving a white couple. Parallel to the way in which Goldberg's part reprised an old stereotypical role, both Ghost and Field of Dreams recycle and mix older genres. Ghost combines the genres of romantic drama with screwball comedy and fantasy, while Field of Dreams also employs fantasy combined with the sports picture and the "save-the-farm" film.

Mayne explains her reasons for wanting to examine these films in terms of white spectatorship:

The risk in such an undertaking is obvious, since this can be yet another way of establishing white concerns as primary, albeit in a self-conscious way. Nonetheless, I think that the considerations of race and spectatorship need to account for what it means to be a white spectator; otherwise, spectatorship only acquires the contours of race through the classic dichotomy of dominance and marginality.

The tendency of film theorists to discuss race in terms of the white spectator is mirrored by the makers of the film Ghost. Mayne remarks that in Ghost the only comment referring to race comes from the black character Oda Mae Brown. She writes, "With Oda Mae as the only character in the film who speaks of race, a central tenet of racial ideology is confirmed, i.e., that white people only have a race when a black person walks in the room, and that (in Ghost) it is blacks who have a race, and who are conscious of race, not whites."

Mayne further develops her points about white spectatorship and the portrayal of blacks by citing James Baldwin's book The Devil Finds Work. According to Mayne, Baldwin uses an analysis of The Defiant Ones to illustrate the way in which the films tell "white myths of black and white race relations" in which black characters act as whites imagine them to act.

In the final chapter of her book, Mayne examines "The Critical Audience." Mayne chooses to focus specifically on gay and lesbian audiences and offers this explanation for her choice:

That the constitution of gays and lesbians as an audience presents a threat is suggested by the obsessive assumption made by right-wing groups that audiences are all heterosexual, with the attendant fear that anything other than blanket condemnation of homosexuality will upset the subject/object dichotomy, that is, will make homosexuality something other than the object of heterosexual scorn.

Mayne also chooses this particular group as the focus of the chapter because she believes the group is overwhelmingly concerned with its visibility. She establishes three points of entry into the definition of gay/lesbian audiences:

...first, as an essentialist notion of how lesbians and gay men see the cinema; second, an examination of the place of cinema in the development of gay and lesbian identities and the consolidation of lesbian and gay communities; third, a conception of lesbian and gay audiences as constituting a political force, whether to pressure existing film productions or to create new ones....The composition of gay and lesbian audiences foregrounds the very nature of film spectatorship as an activity wherein distinctions between center and margin dissolve."

Again, Mayne emphasizes the need for spectatorship studies to resist totalizing viewpoints that characterize the institutional model, viewpoints reflecting the still predominantly white, heterosexual male ideology.

As a final example of how lesbian and gay audiences are addressed and of the way in which studies of spectatorship can open a critical space in which a variety of theories can interact, Mayne examines Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. She writes that in her 1977 article "Fassbinder and Spectatorship," she was greatly interested in the way Fassbinder appropriated Hollywood melodramas to explore critically the political implications of racism, class issues, and immigrant labor in Germany. She also notes that Fassbinder plays on a type of spectatorship involving gay camp as well: Ali's body is twice shown fully nude, objectifying the male body instead of the female body. "Yet," Mayne writes, "that challenge to conventional(heterosexual) spectatorship does not mesh easily, if at all, with the more conventional category of class exploitation." Mayne also acknowledges the difficulty in Fassbinder's attempt to integrate ideas regarding racism and spectatorship. Despite these problems, Mayne uses Fassbinder's film as an example of how radically diverse ideas of spectatorship can be embodied more or less successful within one film.

Mayne's work is complex in terms of both content and methodology. In the first section of the book Mayne attempts to provide a comprehensive overview of the history and development of spectatorship studies, covering many of the major film movements and theories. Mayne attempts to avoid the use of oppositions she critiques in other film theorists, yet being bound by a language predicated on oppositional thinking, she often contradicts herself, although, to her credit, she usually acknowledges such contradictions. The combination of Mayne's writing style and the sheer density of information can sometimes hinder the reader. The convoluted style, one feels, follows from Mayne's expressed goal of avoiding the type of oppositional thinking inherent in spectatorship theory: one senses that Mayne is attempting to move beyond that oppositional thinking, which in turn, forces her into a somewhat awkard syntax.

Mayne's attempt to avoid such oppositional thinking recalls the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, who in her essay "All-Owning Spectatorship" also suggests a study of spectatorship that does not succumb to traditional polarizing thought. Trinh's work, however, employs an entirely different though no less challenging methodology. Trinh integrates anecdotes about and allusions to Asian life, as well as quotes from other theorists, which are incorporated in a way that does not interrupt the flow of her writing. Unlike Trinh, however, Mayne attempts to use a more traditional scholarly language to point to the limits of the scholarly practice she has chosen to undertake.

Unfortunately, there are several other areas in which Mayne falls short. First of all, she does not clearly explain why she has chosen to limit her study of spectatorship to classic Hollywood cinema. Her explanation sounds like a more eloquent way of saying "Well that's what all the other theorists do so I am going to do it too." In addition, Mayne emphasizes a standard for theorists of spectatorship that she herself fails to uphold: namely the need for theorists to cite specific examples to illustrate general theories. In the first section of her book, Mayne primarily works on a broad level, citing the general theories of a number of people who helped to shape spectatorship studies. At this juncture, Mayne fails to acknowledge that the large scope of her intention, to provide an overview of the development of spectatorship studies, limits her ability to include specific applications to analyses of films.

In addition, Mayne stresses throughout her book the need for theorists to consider their own influences in any analysis of spectatorship, yet allusions to her own positioning are limited. She refers more often to "the theorist's need" to consider the effects of society upon themselves more than she discusses her own personal interactions. References to her own self-consciousness are restricted primarily to the introduction, in which she significantly discusses her role as spectator and how that influences her study, to the section on negotiation, and also to brief references to her own race and class status in the chapter "White Spectatorship and Genre-Mixing."

These flaws are, however, slight in light of what Mayne has accomplished. The author has crafted a book that offers a thought-provoking look at spectatorship. While at times redundant, Mayne often allows certain theories to resonate throughout the book, giving readers just enough information to make connections themselves. For example, Mayne refers to Foucault's analyses of power and discourse in which modern systems function by creating series of ruptures which are then integrated back into the dominant order. This example recalls the idea of the classical narrative device in which order is disrupted and later restored.

Mayne's work is most engaging when she undertakes specific case studies. Throughout the book's second section, she uses examples to illustrate ideas she previously presented in the book's far more unwieldy first section. For example, in choosing to analyze The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mayne reveals a film that simultaneously maintains and subverts the devices of classical Hollywood cinema. In this film, order is disrupted, then restored, while the classic heterosexual couple is reunited. At the same time, Mayne is also able to illustrate the way in which the film does not fit into the classical model, particularly in terms of challenging the appropriation of thegaze. Mayne succeeds in showing how vigilant spectatorship can reveal the contradictions in Hollywood narrative cinema, which may simultaneously maintain the illusion of heterosexual harmony, while implying homosexual relationships.

Equally compelling are Mayne's additional references to issues of race, gender, and economic class. Her discussion of white spectatorship may break new ground. Mayne points to white spectatorship and the classic Hollywood cinema as a means by which white stereotypes regarding blacks and race relations are perpetuated. By examining white spectatorship in this light, Mayne suggests the possibility of moving beyond racist imagery.

Throughout her book, Mayne addresses issues of feminist film theory in relation to spectatorship. Mayne considers the position of the female spectator by drawing attention to the work of Teresa de Lauretis, Laura Mulvey, Linda Williams, and others. Mayne is particularly concerned with the system of duality that has played a large role in the consideration of the female spectator on the part of feminist film theory.

Perhaps because other feminist film theorists have laid the groundwork, Mayne avoids a lengthy analysis of the contradictions which are discussed in other works regarding female spectatorship. For example, Mary Ann Doane also addresses the female spectator, but suggests more strongly the need for theorists to investigate a series of oppositions in order to expand the work of spectatorship. In her article, "Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator," Doane writes:

The cinema is characterized by an illusory sensory plenitude (there is "so much to see") and yet haunted by the absence of those very objects which are there to be seen....It is precisely this opposition between proximity and distance, control of the image and its loss, which locates the possibilities of spectatorship within the problematic of sexual difference.

Mulvey, in her article "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," also sets up a series of opposing components of the psychoanalytic framework such as recognition/misrecognition, activity/passivity, and subject/object to consider women's position in the cinema, both as spectator and as traditional object of men's visual pleasure. Mulvey suggests that freeing film from the classical oppositional structure will liberate women from the confining role they had traditionally played in cinema. Mayne conversely argues throughout her book that the converse of the traditionally oppositional structure is not necessarily liberating; there already exists useful information between the dualities that the film theorist should consider in any examination of spectatorship. Mayne highlights the need for theorists to conceive of female spectatorship as including and moving beyond the classical system of oppositions. She ends her ambitious work with a call to theorists to avoid dualities and to look at the spaces in between:

Spectatorship usually remains locked into an either/or situation - a micropolitics where everything is a contestatory act, or a macropolitics where nothing is contestatory unless part of a globally defined politicalagenda... Instead spectatorship needs to be treated as one of those ordinary activities, and theorizing this activity can open up spaces between seemingly opposing terms, thus leading us to attend more closely to how stubbornly our pleasure in the movies refuse any rigid dichotomies.


Barthes, Roland (1973). The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang.

--- (1970). S/Z. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang.

Debord, Guy (1967). Society of the Spectacle. Trans. NA. Detroit: Black & Red.

Metz, Christian (1977). The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema. Trans. Celia Britton, Annwyl Williams, Ben Brewster and Alfred Guzzetti. Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Mulvey, Laura (1989). Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Trinh, T. Minh-ha (1991). When the Moon Waxes Red. New York: Routledge.

Williams, Linda,ed. (1995). Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers UP.

Betsy Weiss is an independent filmmaker and critic living in San Francisco.

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