Mulvey coined the term "male gaze", where heterosexual men see women as an object. Further Mulvey stated that film is powered by patriarchy and patriarchy creates social constructs of gender. When I first read Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema", I was lost in all the psycho babble. Even with a psychology degree, the vocabulary distracted me. When I got to the paragraph about the "female figure" posing a "deeper problem" (Mulvey 840) I applied Mulvey's theory to the film Black Snake Moan. Lazarus is trying to escape castration anxiety by "asserting control and subjecting the guilty person" Rae "through punishment"; he chains Rae to a radiator (Mulvey 840). Lazarus was "forcing a change" in Rae, trying to "cure" her nymphomania (Mulvey 840). Reinforcing the male gaze and keeping the male audience entertained, Rae was in a crop top confederate flag t-shirt and white panties for half of the film. The camera lingered a lot longer around her bare midriff. Lazarus treated her like an animal and offered to modestly cloth her when she is more human and "cured". Then he removes the chains.
Does Oprah have the oppositional gaze? She is the female black spectator. Her perspective is different from that of a white male or white female. She falls prey to Berger's "Women watch themselves being looked at" (47) and is aware of her good side, of being looked at, but that may be a function of her job as talk show host. TV talk shows have come a long way since the "Donahue Show". Shows became diverse in their viewpoints introducing female hosts, including Oprah Winfrey who opened up doors for other TV talk show personalities of ethnic background. "The View" was a talk show that began after the success of Oprah. The concept of the show highlighting the varied viewpoints of women of different backgrounds with typically one caucasian woman, one Asian American woman or Latin American woman, and one African American woman. The viewpoints of people of color is discussed in the "Oppositional Gaze" by Bell Hooks. Where Bell Hooks first discusses the gaze as the physical act of looking, she goes on to discuss the impact of mass media as a way of "introducing and maintaining white supremacy" and power (Hooks 117). The image of black people on TV was the way white people understood to some degree blacks and vice versa (Hooks 117). Hook states that black women that she had talked with did not relate to black women in film. However, today black woman as well as women of all backgrounds identify with Oprah Winfrey. We do not see Oprah as an object. She overcomes and overpowers this notion of white male supremacy. She has the power to influence public opinion. She is a black woman, a person actualizing her dream. And we want to emanate her.