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Returning the audience's gaze

by Critical Commons Manager

This remarkable scene from Dorothy Arzner's otherwise forgettable Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) is often used to illustrate Laura Mulvey's theories of voyeurism in cinema. When Maureen O'Hara chooses to confront her audience and 'look back' at those who have paid to objectify her, it reverses the conventional power relations between audience and spectacle. For a few minutes in this nearly unique moment of Hollywood history, her triumph is complete and Dorothy Arzner may be celebrated as an equally rare woman director working subversively within the studio system. The scene that follows may be understood as an effort to reassure cinematic audiences that their own voyeuristic power remains intact. If we are tempted to argue that "only a woman" could have directed the first part of this scene, what do we make of the fact that a woman directed the second part as well?

Audience confrontation in Dance, Girl, Dance

Maureen O'Hara reverses the voyeuristic gaze of the audience then is re-objectified on stage

from Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Creator: Dorothy Arzner
Posted by Critical Commons Manager