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February 12, 2008

Brainwashed in Love

In “Woman on a Motorcycle,� the main character Rebecca is viewed through the lens of the camera with the eyes of a man. In the first opening scene, she is stripped nude of her clothes under the powerful whip of Daniel, her controlling lover in her dream. Her body is captured with the male gaze through the doorway of her closet prior to her wild adventure on her motorcycle, illustrating the “peeping tom� used for the male viewers’ enjoyment. Rebecca’s entire pursuit of her independent adventure is ironically fueled by her dependence on a male, whom she cannot go living without. Rebecca views are not independent, but in accordance with Daniel’s views. Every narrative throughout the film is driven by Daniel’s view and questioning his approval of any act she commits. It is as if Rebecca has been brainwashed by Daniel and aware of her inferior position stating, “Daniel treats me like a slave.� She is openly aware of her dependence and allows Daniel to know his controlling effect on her, allowing herself to be extremely vulnerable to a man. The first encounter between Daniel and Rebecca was rape and ultimately about Daniel’s control over Rebecca. His control is what fuels his affection for Rebecca. Her intimacy with Daniel leaves Rebecca aware that she “has no identity.� Though she realizes her state with Daniel, she longs for her visits to him and is like a puppy dog begging for affection. “The way you taught me to drink, Daniel.� She is unable to be independent of constant thoughts of Daniel and opportunities to showcase his teachings that she has acquired. Her one independent tool is the motorcycle. Yet, this mode of transportation that she feels is her freedom is ultimately plagued with the thought of her lover and her undying need for him. Every action and thought Rebecca possesses is ultimately a longing for acceptance and love from a man who only sees her as an object of “free love.� Rebecca’s fetishism with her motorcycle represents her obsession with Daniel. The motorcycle was a gift to Rebecca trapping her forever in her love for Daniel. It is with this fetishism which was ironically meant to free her from her everyday life and into Daniel’s refuge that brings her to her ultimate escape, death.

Let's Get Sexy!

In Laura Mulvey's essay, she writes how the average cinematic woman is "isolated, glamorous, on display, sexualised." She continues on to discuss how the "show-girl connotations" in the beginning of a typical linear-plot film morph and are refocused onto the singular entity of the male protagonist. This focus enables him and hands him the power. After watching The Girl on a Motorcycle, it became apparent that this theory was tweaked but still upheld in order to keep the male spectator's role intact. Chronologically speaking, Rebecca starts off as a young, bow-in-the-hair Daddy's girl. We see a prime example of this when she does not share a room with her boyfriend Raymond as they holiday together in the mountains. However, as her affair with Daniel blossoms, so does her glamorous sexuality. She loses her modest skirts and high-necked sweaters for skin-tight leather. By containing yet giving the world a sneak peak at her womanly figure, she is fulfilling the male spectator's fantasy. This is taken even further by inserting a very masculine/testosterone associated piece of machinery between her thighs. As our "liberated heroine" rides off to her eventual death, she makes us feel that her identity is completed by Daniel. She fancies herself as his slave and thus brands herself with that individuality. Her husband Raymond, on the other hand, gives her personal choice on a number of different topics. She dismisses this opportunity to create her identity by becoming, in her own words, "a bitch." Instead she extends herself into the role of sex-slave Goddess and eventually ends up with a lot less than she began with.

The Male Gaze in "Girl on a Motorcycle"

In Girl on a Motorcycle, the motivation for the entire story is the motorcycle. The motorcycle itself is introduced into the story as a phallic object, I think Rebecca describes it as "strong" and "fast". She even refers to it as a "he". This occurs at the beginning of the film and because of this, all plot motivation from then on out stems from a very phallocentric base, the motorcycle. We are continually remimded that it is not normal for a woman to be riding a "man's machine". It is important that she receives the motorcycle as a gift from her lover, Daniel, because she quite obviously treats the motorcycle as she would treat her lover. The motorcycle essentially takes hold of her as she rides it and she is not the one in control. Besides the motorcycle being the motivation for the plot, Marianne Faithfull's female body is constantly being fetishized. From the first scene when she gets up naked and zips up a skin tight body suit as the camera does the classic pan up the body shot, objectifying her body in a way that turns it iinto a sex object (and not by any means as a site of liberation). All of the shots of highly sexualized sections of her body (always shown while she is straddling the motorcycle) work to separate her into different pieces or objects of sexual desire. These different shots do not allow for one, whole cohesive body that can be understood as a person. She can only be understood in terms of her different, sexualized body parts. All of these points speak to an underlying phallocentrism in the film that very clearly marks sexual difference. The female is objectified while the male is given power. The one man in the film who does not objectify Rebecca is "not man enough" while the one that does-- she keeps crawling back to.

February 11, 2008

The Male Gaze

Girl on a Motorcycle attempts to liberate women from oppression by introducing them to life on the open road, a road built around men. Phallocentrism floods the film, with shots of girl on the motorcycle, girl naked under sexy motorcycle suit, girl bored with gentle lover who never takes charge of her, girl in love with man who shows no promise, offering instead mystery and adventure—just like the open road.

Liberation in Girl on Motorcyle means freedom from womanhood and assuming a masculine identity. Freedom is interpreted as masculinity, the vehicle that empowers Faithfull. Even if taking on a more masculine identity was magically liberating for women, constantly casting women in domestic situations prior to their liberation further oppresses them. When Faithfull isn’t throttling the motorcycle on the open road, she ties up her hair and shelves books at her father’s store. In some scenes, Faithfull’s mystery man gets permission from her father to take an adventure, which pa deems a good cure for his daughter.

On the open road, women have two choices: they can stay domestic, or they can take it like a man. Unlike the road, with limitless possibilities, women are given narrow options for reaching their destination in Girl on a Motorcycle, making viewers wonder why Faithfull would ever bother taking the journey.

Continue reading "The Male Gaze" »

The "Freedom" of the Road

"Girl on a Motorcycle" is clearly not a liberating film for women. The main character DOES get to be the driver of a very masculine piece of machinery, and in a very basic sense she is "in control" on the road. She gets to control her speed, her destination - problem is, the bike was given to her by a man. A man who voyeuristically chose her as his prey, raped her, bound her to him physically and psychologically, and treated her with no respect in return for the personal sacrifices she was making of her body and her marriage. The motorcycle superficially gave her the phallus, but it was really only loaned to her by her lover Daniel and her control was limited.

One thing I found interesting stylistically about the film was the difference in camera shots ('the Male gaze') when compared to Easy Rider. When the two men, Billy and Wyatt, were on their bikes, the shots were large panning views of the wild west and the nature around them, with the men looking very manly and powerful on their bikes. When Rebecca took to the road, the shots were of her rear end, bound tightly in leather and perched on the seat. There were also fewer shots of her from the side; most of the camera work was done of her face, with her glazed-over eyes, the "I'm so in love and thinking about my lover" look plastered on her face. There were many not-so-subtle shots representing the phallus in its sexual act - the gas station attendant slowly sliding the gas spout into the motorcycle, the apparatus itself extending from between her legs when she drove, etc.

Also not liberating about this film: 1) though she was 'in control' and behaving like a 'rebel,' Rebecca wore a helmet. She was constrained from total freedom even while on top of her own bike.
2) Rebecca constantly had to fear that the border guards would inappropriately touch her or make comments to her - and relied on her husband to pay for the gas.

Girl on a Motorcycle

It seemed promising but turns out, Girl on a Motorcycle is just another example of a film filled with phallocentrism, fetishism, and the male gaze. Like Easy Rider, the main character is placed upon a motorcycle on the open road. Unlike Easy Rider, the driver is sexualized and degraded. For Wyatt and Billy, intamacy with the road provides liberation. For Rebecca, a false sense of liberation. She repeatedly refers to herself as "stupid" and "silly" revealing that, in fact, she is not in control or liberated. She is controlled by the men in her life. For example when she tells Raymond that he "ought to tell [her] to shut up and tell [her] what to do." Also, that her thoughts center around Daniel... he is always in control of the relationship: SHE always makes the journey to see HIM and can never get him to commit. There are numerous examples of the male gaze, fetishism, and phallocentrism in this film. The movie is meant to appeal to a heterosexual man. Rebecca is the focus of this gaze. There were countless examples of phallocentrism including the not so subtle sexual inuendos (the gas pump going into the tank, twisting of the throttle). Fetishism was also present for example during her dream, Rebeccca's clothes are whipped off her her body in S&M fashion and she as she dresses she says "skin... mmm... I'm like an animal." It's called GIRL on a Motorcycle for a reason. Rebecca is not free. She is naive and submissive like a young girl... the ultimate victim of the male gaze.

Phallocentrism and the Male Gaze

“Sometimes it’s instinct to fly,� Marianne Faithfull’s seemingly rebellious Rebecca thinks aloud at the beginning of Girl On A Motorcycle. “I’m not going to feel guilty!� Finally, you think, the 1960s sex kitten prototype gets her just desserts! How can this film NOT be liberating? It wasn’t often during that era that a restless housewife was given screen time to abandon her dead-end marriage and indulge her need for speed. In between threats that she’ll “turn [herself] on� and that “Rebellion’s the only thing that keeps you alive!� mantra, we appear to be off to a great start. That is, until you learn where this leather-clad lady’s only road leads—yep, to a guy. An aggressive, borderline abusive jerk who clearly has no interest in Rebecca beyond having sex with her. We first learn this when he—get ready—rapes her in her ski lodge hotel room while her fiancée sleeps soundly a skip away. When our heroine starts musing that she “comes to life� when with him and that she knows her body is all he cares about, it suddenly feels like we’ve taken a very wrong turn indeed.

Ultimately, Girl On A Motorcycle depicts a woman manipulated, degraded and, eventually, destroyed by phallocentricity—it is in no way a liberating portrait of sexual freedom or personal independence (especially from the opposite sex). The film is shot completely with a male gaze in mind, turning Rebecca into a subordinate object to be cornered and gawked at. There’s T & A galore as she dons a leather catsuit (with, naturally, nothing on underneath), straddles her motorcycle from all angles, lets her breasts fall out, and has oodles of rigorous extramarital sex. Even when she’s not shown in flesh-and-blood form, Girl On A Motorcycle gives us shots of a gas pump slowly easing into her bike’s tank to keep things "sexy". I also found one student’s mention of the border scene totally accurate: her liberty must be given permission, but not before the patrolmen have had their eyeful. She must sit and be sexually scrutinized before freedom can be attained. By the film’s grim but predictable ending, even Rebecca’s motorcycle, a vehicle so still so uncommon for women to control, feels like another tool of oppression, a phallus she deems “he� and must ride to “find herself.� Rebecca needs men to shape her identity—we all know one. Throughout this whole movie, I couldn’t help but think of a close friend of mine who constantly adopts the habits of and makes excuses for the asshole guys she falls way too hard and way too fast for. Her conclusive death, to me, is not positive or liberating in any way—it simply reinforces the film’s central concept that all women will inevitably be punished for their independence.

Well... at least she's driving

The film Girl on a Motorcycle does create a new physical position for women; the woman can now sit in the driver's position or seat. However, the work is restricted by phallocentrism and by the male gaze. The female progtagonist is caught between two men: Daniel and Raymond. The whole of her personal story in the film revolves around her relationship with her husband and her love affair with Daniel.

Girl on a Motorcycle reveals this Male Gaze in several scenes. For example, when the woman passes from France into Germany (in her dream or memory), we watch her be uncomfortably be touched by man at the border. Here a male spectator would watch the male character in the film touch the female character in a sexual way.

Although this work may be liberating on one hand for the woman as she becomes the driver and protagonist of the plot, it is all controlled by what actually occurs in the story line. The viewer is alloted a shot of the female breasts several times, and we see a shot of her clevage while she zips up her suit she is going to wear while riding her motorcycle. She even says "I'm like an animal", which is a dehumanizing statement to herself. When she puts on the suit, she is no longer a woman but an animal; Keep in mind that she is going to do a very "un-feminine" thing by going on this journey for sexual pleasure and "love". The woman believes she is in love with the man who raped her while on a vacation with her husband. The fact that the film doesn't reveal how a woman could be hurt by becoming a rape victim (or being felt up by a border patrol officer) sends the message that woman are only bodies. Lastly, we see phallocentrism quite literally when the woman has gas put into her motorcycle. The nozzle enteringthe gas tank is a direct association to heterosexual intercourse.

Overall, at least she's driving.

Girl on a Motorcycle

Rebellion is the only thing that keeps you alive!
said Rebecca

At first glance, Girl on a Motorcycle seems to be a liberating film for all women. A woman finally takes control of the wheel. Rebecca could be an inspiration to women everywhere. However, her character and the male figures in her life allow her to do the exact opposite of that. Throughout the entire movie Rebecca is completely controlled by men: her father, her husband, and finally her lover. Even though she does have a motorcycle and considers herself so alive and rebellious for taking trips to see her lover, Rebecca is trapped by the motorcycle. It was a gift given to her from her lover and she cannot refuse to go and see him. The men in her life have her trapped because she simply cannot handle the independence her life would have without their security and control. Rebecca said,

He never give me an identity, he never even says I'm pretty.
This shows that Rebecca seeks approval from men and is not comfortable without them in her life. At the end of the film, the motorcycle is burning up in flames. This shows the failure and eventual death of Rebecca. She was never going to change her ways and her death was almost expected when she would drive so carelessly and life her life with no self-respect.

The male gaze throughout the film is very evident. In fact, that too Rebecca is comfortable with. She expects men to look at her. During the gas station scene, the bar scene, and when she is crossing the border men are constantly looking at her in a sexual way. It is expected and not seen as disrespectful through Rebecca's eyes. She finds in almost flattering. This again shows that Rebecca relies on men for their approval. She doesn't feel confident in herself without their 'gaze' of approval. For all these reasons, Girl on a Motorcycle is definitely not a liberating film for Rebecca or any other women.

Phallocentrism At Its Finest

Girl on a Motorcycle was anything but liberating for a woman. The film, although possibly innovative in its time, was strongly focused around phallocentrism and the male gaze. Phallocentrism is when men are the focal point throughout a production. They have the power and are superior to all others. It is very assuming that this film is based around phallocentrism. This can be seen in almost every production as far back as ancient Greek theatre. Men are superior, while women are put on the back burner for show. Rebecca, the girl on the motorcycle, was controlled and obsessed with men. Instead of being liberated throughout the movie, she because obsessed with the males in the production. Everything Rebecca stood for in this film revolved around a male's visions, thoughts, demands, etc. The narrative is Rebecca’s voice and she is constantly discussing her disgust and love for men. While focusing on men throughout the narrative, we also see Rebecca through the male gaze as an object or possession for the male role.

Male gaze was used throughout this movie and caused Rebecca to be thought of as an object. There would be certain conversations that Rebecca would use her physical beauty to get her way. When Rebecca got gasoline in the beginning of the film was a crucial point to show that men saw her as nothing more than a prize. The film would take very specific shots of her breasts or her buttocks, while a man would slightly caress it. The male gaze helps to show that this film is based on the entertainment of men but it also shows Rebecca as a possession. She does not seem intelligent, or witty, or fun in this film because of her constant thought of men. Her point in the film is to be Daniel's love object, and nothing more. While watching this movie, you can get frustrated with Rebecca's actions. Her thoughts of obsession over Daniel make the audience think that she deserves nothing. I feel that this type of film was the first to show women as an independent, yet unsuccessful at it. She is so adamant about being Daniel’s partner that she ends up dying in the film. This obsession shows the need for men in society because without their assistance woman would not be able to survive. This is an ultimate phalli centered thought and achievement for men. This also makes this film one of the least liberating films I have seen.

In the interview of Marianne Faithful, she discusses being a love object of Mick Jagger. Basically she was a toy and nothing more. Rebecca and Marianne could be comparable to show that women were thought of as inferior objects during the 60s. These women felt that they had no other choice but to be controlled and not really loved. Rebecca is made into a rebel at the time and if we are to watch this film, it makes the rebel seem like a horrible role to have.

"Love is a feeling, so is a toothache" is a phrase that Daniel says to Rebecca. This phrase will stick in my head forever in this movie because it shows the superiority and power the phalli have over women and the world in this movie.

The Male Gaze

Despite the efforts made by the filmmakers of Girl on a Motorcyle to be progressive and liberating for women, the film seems to achieve the exact opposite goal, by oppressing women as sexual objects. The film presents the ideology of the male gaze, in which the female is viewed as a sexual object and subject for the viewing pleasure of men. As writer Laura Mulvey states in regards to the male gaze, "Each is associated with a look: that of the spectator in direct scopophilic contact with female form displayed for his enjoyment (connoting male fantasy)"... (p.42). This is quite evident throughout the film as the main character, Rebecca, is shown wearing seductive clothing, riding the motorcyle (phallic symbol) seductively, on her way to win the man she thinks she loves. Though she is leaving her husband and liberating herself, Rebecca is merely leaving the "oppressed" lifestlye of marriage, to the "oppressed" lifestyle of trying to please a man that will never fully love her. She is constantly trying to please men throughout this film, and once she finally is able to leave both of them at the end, she ends up dying in an accident. This death symbolizes punishment for her as a woman leaving men, and as a woman attempting to be free. Rebecca is far from being liberated in this film, as she is the object of the male gaze, and ultimately dies as a result of her rebellious ways. She is viewed as a threatening and dangerous woman who ultimately must die.

Liberation?

Throughout the film Girl on a Motorcycle, Rebecca is supposed to be seen as an adventurous, woman taking control of her life. However, she is solely dependant on men and seen as a sex object during the film's entirety. She starts out living with her father, then moves on to her fiance, and then under the power of her lover. The scene at the border is very poignant too because there she must receive permission to cross and waits under sexually scrutinizing eyes until the border patrol men have had their fill. Her body is a central image and in close up is framed in a very sexually revealing way that objectifies her as just that, a body. Initially, the film tries to portray Rebecca as powerful, but with every male interaction in the film, she is made into a spectacle and castrated because all her power is essentially taken away. I think that the film was supposed to be liberating in that Rebecca is a woman who drives her own motorcycle and that she does what she wants in the aspects respecting(or not respecting in her case) her husband. However, the film fails because she becomes sickly infatuated with a man who has no respect for her, and that is where her freedom is lost and in no way could Rebecca ever be liberated from underneath the male dominance seen throughout the film through the penetrating male gaze.

February 10, 2008

"Girl" on a motorcycle

Well, after going through the readings and viewing the movie a few new concepts were brought up, one being voyeurism and the other phallocentrism. The female character is degraded in many ways which we will discuss here.

The first way I noticed that she was degraded was by the way she was filmed. It was obvious from the time she puts on her leather pantsuit without clothes on underneath (oh how tantalizing for men!) and the way her breasts are shown as she zips it up, that she is an object. In the scenes with her lover, she is portrayed as emotional and a stereotypical female, except for the fact that she is mostly with him for sex. She later syas though "you would never have me, would you?" Which hints at the stereotypical female "need" for commitment. So although in some ways this film could be sen as putting a woman in control of her life, she is still portrayed as weak, and inferior. She is inferior because she does not posses the phallus. Although seen as sexy, and a little bit out of control, and because of this maybe a bit threatening, she is sentenced to death by flames in the end.

Now for voyeurism, this was interesting because I had never heard the word before. I just have heard "peeping-tom" and in this film there was much opportunity for peeping. The scenes by the window, kissing by the cabin/shed in the snow where they could be caught. There are multitudes of examples, but the way everyone is filmed you feel like you are peeking in on something a bit naughty.

If this film was supposed to be liberating for women, I disagree on that. The only part that was liberating at all was the fact that she was taking control of her happiness when she could by traveling on her motorcycle. The lesson in the end though is pretty obvious so her freedom is later negated and show as a big no-no.

The Male Gaze

In the film Girl on a Motorcycle, the maze gaze and phallocentrism are present throughout the entire film from beginning to end. Indeed the title of the film itself indicates male dominance. Rather than a "woman" on a motorcycle, the director chooses to use the word "girl" instead. This takes away power from the main character, Rebecca, and makes her more passive and seem childish even before the film starts. Girl on a Motorcycle is filmed from the male gaze. The voyeurism in the film can be seen by the many close-ups of Rebecca's body and the focus of just certain body parts. With this kind of camera work it takes Rebecca and turns her into an object rather than a whole person. This takes away power from her and puts it in the hands of the male characters in the film and it is for the enjoyment of the male viewers as well. While this film may seem liberating for women in the sense that a woman is taking control of her life and choosing to spend it with another man and choosing the way in which she displays and uses her body, I would argue that the control she thinks she has is in fact in the hands of the male characters. Rebecca is not drawn to the man that gives her freedom and her own control, she is drawn to the man, Daniel, that controls her and tells her what to do. Throughout the film Daniel controls her actions and inevitably narrates her life.

Unlike Easy Rider, the road in this particular film is not freeing to the main character. For Rebecca, the road only goes in one direction - to Daniel. The road is not a symbol of female freedom as the road that surrounds Rebecca is completely filled with only men and the male gaze. Whether this gaze is from male characters she encounters on the road or her thoughts about men while she is on her bike, the male gaze is always around her and controlling her actions and decisions. Her happiness and desires in life revolve around men and the male gaze. This film is definitely not liberating for women.

Object on a Motorcycle

This movie deceptively tries to show the agency and feedom of a woman taking to the road and embracing her sexual self, however, the overwhelming presence of the "male gaze" and the phallocentric narrative negates any understanding of female control and liberation. Throughout the film, Rebecca (both by the cinemetography and narrative) is manipulated and degraded by phallocentricity. Her motorcycle takes on a male identity and is used to control her narrative and sexuality throughout the film. The bike, the men she encounters, the dialogue, the camera angles and her inaction/reaction to these things enforces her role as an object and not an actor/agent. The camera focuses only on rebecca's body and desirability and the script reads like a male fantasy novel. Lines like "you ought to tell me to shut up and do what you want to do" and "if you weren't so reasonable I wouldn't be such a bitch" reiterates Rebecca's male centered dialogue and obejectification.

Some of my classmates have understood the end (rebecca's death) to be the only positive action in the film. It is my opinion that the end only reinforces the phallocentricity of the film by depicting an out-of-control sexual woman, thus reiterating an assumption that anglo women must be asexual and suboordinate to be considered worthy of success and happiness. This movie was disturbing to me as it did the opposite of being liberating to women during a time that was so full of feminist action and progressive thought. Perhaps it was used as a counter attack against the feminist movement itself.

Woman entangled in patriarchy and phallocentrism

Laura Kaplan is right to say that

Voyeurism and fetishism are mechanisms the dominant cinema uses to construct the male spectator in accordance with the needs of his unconscious
(120). These two mechanisms are main ways that phallocentrism and the male gaze are maintained throughout the film Girl on a Motorcycle. From beginning to end the protagonist is objectified, fetishized and kept under explicit control by a variety of men (i.e. her father and lover). This film is not liberating for women. The form and content of the film is sexist and belittling to women. For example, Rebecca is constantly framed by the camera in eroticized ways, like breast shots. She even rides to see her lover with nothing on but a leather motorcycle jumpsuit. Men control the plot and narrative and although she is the main character, Rebecca acts in accordance to degree of control that her lover has over her. Even minor male characters, such as other restaurant patrons, stare at her and demean her by what Kaplan calls the "male gaze" (forcing a look upon someone in order to control them by imposing sexual desires upon the unwilling). Man's unconscious and the power that it has to have a phallus in society are clearly demonstrated in this film by the way men stare and grope Rebecca throughout the film, disempowering her by portraying her as weak and passive. One quote from the film sums it up the immense phallocentrism of the film: "You're right. I am a stupid bitch. Now take me to him my black pimp."

Phallocentrism and the Male Gaze

"Happiness is a word I'm always a little wary of...I prefer to think about peace and comradeship." - Marianne Faithful, What I Know About Men
This quote shows how Marianne defines happiness and how she is happy with somebody. It is ironic that this is how she feels but the she desires and obssesses over is neither peaceful nor a comrade but a playmate who likes to seduce her a occasion. Phallocentrism is shown in this road film because Raymond, the lover, is the phallus and therefore has control of the women. She wasn't satisfied by her own husband, Danny, because he treated her like a queen and never objected to anything she did or said. For example, when she received the motorcycle from Raymond, she asked Danny whether she should keep it. He said she could do whatever she felt was right for her. He always left the decisions up to her, except for when she wanted intimacy, so she hated that. She had the control in the relationship. But Raymond had the male gaze. He looked at her for the pleasure of looking at her physique, not because she was attractive in his eyes. For example, when she was on the ladder in the bookstore. She was somewhat "in one place and harmless" like discussed in the lecture. Raymond gazed at her for his own satisfaction.
To take everything I just mentioned into regard, I don't find that this film is liberating to women. Well, the fact that she was on a motorcycle the whole movie, was a sex difference that women aren't usually seen as doing, was liberating. As for why the woman left, isn't liberating at all. She drove off to the man that is man that women tend to dislike. These are the men that are demanding, afraid of commitment, sex-oriented, and unappreciative. Danny, on the other hand, loved and respected her, wanted her to be happy, and appreciated her but he couldn't satisfy her sexual needs and he was a bit of a push-over. Danny, despite a couple qualities that could be changed, is the man that most women want. I don''t understand why she decided to leave besides to fulfill her desire to be touched. This wasn't liberating for me because I saw that Daniel was clearly the better man for her, but she was stuck on voyuerism, the phallus(Raymond), and being rebellious.

Girl On A Motorcycle

phal·lo·cen·trism
–noun,
a doctrine or belief centered on the phallus, esp. a belief in the superiority of the male sex.

In the film, Girl On A Motorcycle, Rebecca is viewed as a sexual object to man. The film revolves around her on a huge motorcycle, (which is referred to as a "him" throughout the movie), the fact that she is wearing nothing underneath her jumpsuit, and sex. Even though Rebecca is the one driving the motorcycle, it seems as if the motorcycle is really the one in charge. Phallocentrism and the "male gaze" are very clear in this film. Rebecca is outlined by windows and doors from the very beginning of the film and continues to be throughout the entire movie. She dreams of men rubbing up on her and grabbing her and when in reality they don't, she assumes they are queer. Rebecca is always searching for attention and is extremely dependent on her lover. In the beginning of the film, it's as if it will be a liberating experience for Rebecca, but really, she is just looking for approval and attention from Daniel. Definately not a liberating film for women.

Direct and Indirect Male Gaze

Throughout almost all of this film, there is a feeling of male gaze, even at times when Rebecca is the only character in the shots. Because she objectifies her self and takes pleasure in her abusive relationship, even when she isn't under the gaze of a male character, she has thoughts of being the subject of the male gaze. For example, she often has flashbacks and dreams of her in situations where men are looking at her as little more than an object for visual and sexual pleasure. There is also a sense of an "indirect male gaze" in many shots with her riding her motorcycle. While there are no characters in the film watching her, the viewer is provided with shots of her body in her tight leather outfit, as she rides her motorcycle in an overly sexual manner.
If it weren't for the ending of the film, I would almost go as far as to say that this film is the complete opposite of liberating for women and instead is very objectifying in the way that it almost seems to promote the promiscuous and abusive relationship that she is in. In my mind, the ending seems to be saying that living this crazy, abusive, and "free" lifestyle can only end in failure. The director very well could've had her get to her lover's house and discover him gone, but it wouldn't have provided nearly as intense of feelings about her downfall and the type of life she had been living.

Phallocentrism is rampant

Although the main character of the film is a woman the whole film is geared towards a man's point of view. Even from the first scene of the movie most of the shots of the woman are of her body and very close up on her chest or backside. Her motorcycle suit is referred to as being like skin and she continually thinks of the fact that she is wearing nothing underneath it. The motorcycle is large and powerful and sets the woman free and is constantly referred to as male. Even when it is the woman who is making the trip the whole thing is actually about her boyfriend, the man of the story. She is constantly thinking about him and heading towards him. She even says she feels as if she only comes to life when she is with him, as if she lacks something when she is by herself.
This film is in no way liberating for women. She is portrayed as being a sex object with no worth but what the men give her. Multiple times she almost gets into an accident on the road because she is not paying attention which implies she is stupid or air-headed. Her whole world revolves around the man she wants and the man she is stuck with and that in no way liberates her. She is formed and defined by men and that is all her life is.

Whatever, Woman on a Motorcycle is about as Liberating as Easy Rider.

"Men, that is, turn 'the represented figure itself into a fetish so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous'."
Laura Mulvey.


Woman on a Motorcycle is easy to understand as very phallocentric film that debases women as objects, and places power with the male spectator, and the technology of power. Indeed the camera work supports Mulvey's claims as it captures images of Marianne Faithfull and codifies them with explicit meanings of sexuality.

No doubt the glances exchanged between all the males in the film and Marianee Faithfull are loaded with a multitude of meaning in themes of domination, and all that blah blah.. but...

Continue reading "Whatever, Woman on a Motorcycle is about as Liberating as Easy Rider." »

GOM, still for male gaze

As most of the class has agreed, Girl on a Motorcycle is not a liberating film for women and could be dubbed girl orgasming on a motorcycle. I is phalliocentric by centering the main character, Rebecca around a sexual meeting and concentrating many shots in the film around her body, sexual actions, and sexual innuendos (i.e no clothes under jumpsuit) she's a pretty girl in a tight fitting get- up and believes she is "free" and independant when she is actually riding her motorcycle as a substitute for her abusive lover. This movie used various types of voyerism to display the male gaze including the camera filming sex scenes between the cheating lovers and the look between Rebecca and Daniel.

Although Rebecca seems as though she is an active character by going on a trip to see her lover she is overpowered by him during their "love making" he also says that he will lover her and never love anyone...making the decisions in the relationship.

This film is a poor example for womens liberation and only reminds of how many men like to have power and be in control of situations and sex.

Desperate Woman Deserved it....

Not that I am one to say someone deserves to die, however I feel this is the first movie I have ever watched that in the end, I was hoping she would crash that motorcycle. Rebecca is a desperate woman who thinks her motorcycle and big breasts are liberating her, when she is just digging herself into a hole.
Girl on a Motorcycle was anything but liberating for women. Rebecca felt the victim of her circumstances, when she was the one that made things worse for herself. Her husband was nothing but sweet to her, even if she did find him a bit boring, he didn't force this marriage on her - she got herself into this situation. After her sexual encounter with another man at the resort she pushed the marriage on Raymond, He wanted nothing but to make her happy and she continued to make herself miserable and blame him for it.
The "Male Gaze" is heavily used in this film, and Rebecca hopes for such attention. She expects every man she comes across to berate her and see her as a sexual object. In her dreams, the dark skinned border patrol feels her up and talks sexually to her. Then, when she rides through in real life she accuses the attendant of being queer because he does not make a pass at her. Rebecca thinks that she can use her body to get what she wants. And with this affair she feels as though she is liberating herself, while I feel she is doing the exact opposite.
Throughout the movie Rebecca feels she is liberating herself from her husband and her marriage. By waking up in the middle of the night and talking to herself saying, "if only he would wake up I wouldn't go." She blames her adulteress actions on her husband, when in the end I find he did nothing wrong, and does not deserve to be treated this way by her. She seeks liberation and ends up finding herself caught in another man's tangled web. She is not free, she begs for acceptance from Daniel and hopes he will like her and much as she likes him. She "liberates" herself from her husband while letting another man use her as a sexual object.
Liberation does not come to this woman, and death may have been the only thing to release her from the mess she had gotten herself into.

No Female Liberation

"The Girl On a Motorcycle" tried to present an independent woman on the road- rebellious in nature due to her driving a motorcycle- but she is on the road desperately going toward a man who is clear and blunt about not having feelings for her aside from their sexual encounters. This obviously does not present her in the best light.

Just about every man she faces in the film uses their male gaze toward her. The film is clearly shot with the male gaze with the precise camera shots of her body, and we also only see her naked, not any of the men. There is a hint of her lover's body but it is awkwardly covered by a bouquet of flowers. As a viewer, you can feel the sexual nature of the men's stares, and she is very aware of it as well. In fact, when the boarder patrol does not show interest she assumes he is gay- she is thrown off by not becoming an object through his male gaze and/or touching. She is a sex object, and becomes one through her lover, Daniel. He presents power over her both physically and verbally. Daniel assumes his power beginning with the rape- although she does not put up a fight, she in unaware of who she is sleeping with- and verbally as he speaks to her in a manner of importance over her. For example when she says she is going to stop seeing him he responds, "I give you 10 days." She also says to her husband "You ought to tell me to shut up and tell me what you want to do, " throwing herself further down as a subordinate object.

Furthermore, her motorcycle is the phallocentric object within the film. She has given the motorcycle a male gender when she says "there he is" upon viewing her bike. The motorcycle between her legs acts as her phallus or even just a phallic symbol for the film. There is also the aspect of the sex object while she is at the gas station and the gas pump and the gas tank on the bike are clearly shot to insinuate sex.

Finally, her journey on the road comes to an end through her horrible death suggesting a punishment for her supposed independence and unfaithfulness. This further suggests the fact that this film demeans women rather than promoting sexual freedom and independence of men.

Liberation for Rebecca Only In Death

“Woman on a Motorcycle� is far from a liberating film for women. This can be noted by the use of phallocentrism and the male gaze.

From the motorcycle Rebecca rides to the various actions of the characters, the use of phallocentrism throughout the film reinforces the audience’s perspective that women are marginal, inferior, and passive. As Rebecca sneaks outside to go see Daniel we first lay eyes on the motorcycle. This bike is a phalicized object that is responsible for penetrating all that is in front of Rebecca. The first thing she says as she approaches the bike is “there he is.� Rebecca’s motorcycle, a gift from Daniel and a phalicized object, is at the center of the film. It is the bike that is responsible for the film’s action, as well as a means of control Daniel has over Rebecca. All she can talk about while riding the bike is Daniel and she behaves as though she is a giddy teenage girl. Her behavior and lack of independence from Daniel makes it hard to associate with Rebecca. Even when the motorcycle isn’t present we are still given the impression that women are not free based on the characters actions. For example when Daniel enters Rebecca’s fathers book store the two men exchange dialogue in the center of the screen while Rebecca appears in the margin on a ladder. Or when Rebecca arrives at Daniel’s and falls into his arms. She submissively lays there as he begins to undress her.

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Girl on a Motorcycle/ Female Liberation


Many questions and ideas were raised in my head, while watching Girl on a Motorcycle. First it was very apparent apparent that even though the movie stared a female in the leading role, it somehow still managed to maintain a phallocentristic point of view. Though to Rebecca's credit, she seemed to hold some power over her husband. It was very clear to see that, as they say, she wore the pants in the relationship. Raymond seemed to have no say as to what she did and didn't do. Though I do not think that this film overall was very liberating for women, parts of it gave hint to liberation. The independence that Rebecca showed and the fact that she did what she wanted and when she wanted was very outside the norm for women of her time. So, in that way she showed some liberation. Although, the power of the male gaze was also very evident throughout the film. Mainly at the border of Germany when she was on her way to see Daniel. The way the border men looked at her, and touched her, showed that no matter what she did female liberation could only go so far in those times. The men knew that they had a certain power over her, and her lack of resistance proved them right. It almost seemed as if she thought it was their right to touch her inappropriately which doesn't go far in the goal to liberate women.

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"Girl on a Motorcycle," Liberating?? Huh?!

The movie Girl on a Motorcycle is sometimes deemed as a "liberating" film for women. After watching this movie, I cannot see how this conclusion was created! If anything, this movie signifies a woman's dependence on man. Though there are indeed moments of seeming liberation, it turns out those instances are fueled by male influence. For example, Rebecca, the main character, rides her motorcycle, a trait that is looked at as a rebellious one for women. As the viewer looks deeper into the woman's love for riding, it turns out it is rooted from her lover's authority over her. He bought her the motorcycle so they could continue their love affair. It is the man controlling the relationship, not the woman. She is obsessed with him in a way. In fact, the film makes it look as though she cannot function without him, or any man for that matter.

Rebecca is on a vacation with her fiance and while she is in bed, she is raped by her future lover. Rape itself is one of the most unliberating and abominable acts one can do to a woman, yet Rebecca's character apparently loves it and in turn, starts to have an affair with her rapist. Throughout the film, Rebecca is seen in the male gaze quite frequently. The viewer actually sees her seeing the males in the film look at her through the male gaze. She seemingly thrives off it. Whether it be a man pumping her gas, or the male border patrol officers using it, she appears to love the demeaning attention.

It is as though she craves the male gaze and is not satisfied without it. This film does not represent a society ready to fully liberate women, in fact, it is the direct opposite. This film makes it acceptible, seemingly in the eyes of women, to be confined to men forever.

Transfer of Power from gaze to gaze

Although on the surface, the female focus of Girl on a Motorcyle, Rebecca, appears to be the ultimate liberated bad ass --- taking off on her motorcycle in a leather jumpsuit, taking lovers and commanding the road --- she is actually completely commanded and directed by an outside force, the male gaze.

This is most apparent when we analyze exactly who and what drives the plot, which may or may not necessarily be the focus of the camera. Ultimately it is Daniel, the lover, and enforcer of the male gaze who makes things happen. It is Daniel's gaze which first stirs Rebecca in the ski lodge, the camera purposefully showing Daniels eyes, then Rebecca being beckoned and controlled by the gaze his piercing eyes emit. Again, in her father's bookstore, Rebecca feels she is being viewed erotically by Daniel, guiding her to take action and go with him. She also only takes off on the motorcycle to feed her desire to be 'viewed' by the male gaze, aka Daniel. Her eroticism is only stirred when beckoned by Daniel. So, although she appears to be sexually liberated by taking up with a lover, in reality, it is the male gaze which directs this impetus.

In my mind, this is purposeful for the reasons that Mulvey states:

"As the narrative progresses she falls in love with the main male protagonist and becomes his property, losing her outward glamorous characteristics, her generalized sexuality...her eroticism is subjected to the male star alone. By mean of identification with him, through participation in his power, the spectator can indirectly possess her too."(Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, 42)

Rebecca simply shifts from one creation of the patriarchy (subordination by her father, getting married, etc.), to another that is simply shrouded in a veil of faux-rebellion. Rebecca is still controlled by a man's gaze. Thoughout the film, we see the transfer of control of Rebecca's sexuality from father, to fiance, to lover. But Rebecca never possesses it.

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February 9, 2008

Girl on a Motorcycle as Liberation?

While some view Girl on a Motorcycle to be a very liberating movie for women there are just as many, if not more, that see it in a different light. Although Rebecca’s actions can be very liberating and rebellious, Rebecca’s liberation is disguised behind the constant view of the male gaze and phallocentrism, both of which are commonly present throughout the entire film. Rebecca finds a struggle with herself early in the film whether or not to feel guilty about leaving Raymond for her lover, but as the film progresses she becomes more in tune with her rebellious side and decides that she feels more free and liberated through her actions. “Rebelling is the only thing that keeps you alive.� Although Rebecca’s thoughts and actions make the film seem liberating to women she is still constantly controlled by the men around her. This can be seen while she is filling up her gas tank or passing through customs on her way to see her lover. She is continually being looked at as an object that is meant to be taken control of, which, in turn, strays far away from liberation. Rebecca’s entire road trip, which is meant to express her rebelliousness and freedom as a woman, is completely controlled by the men that she comes in contact with. She is no more liberated than she was before she decided to leave Raymond for her lover, David.

February 8, 2008

Liberating?

"Rebellion's the only thing that keeps you alive," says Rebecca. (Girl on a Motorcycle)

In this 1968 film, Rebecca rebels against the normality of "femininity" and seems to be enjoying the freedom of the open road on a motorcycle. At first glance, this film looks as though it is liberating for women. However, as one watches the film, even from the beginning the male gaze and phallocentrism comes into play. From Rebecca's husband to the gas station man to the men at the bar, the male gaze takes control once again. This film is far from escaping the male gaze. Her lover can't even handle just gazing at her, but fondles her to show his power and dominance of her. She thinks she has freedom, but does she really? Has her rebellion to ride a motorcycle to her lover take away this gaze of the female body and liberated her from male dominance? No.
This film is far from liberating.

Woman on a Motorcycle is the definition of phallocentrism!

"...the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification. Hence the split between spectacle and narrative supports the man's role as the active one of advancing the story, making things happen." (Lauren Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema pg. 6) Woman on a Motorcycle starts off using phallocentrism and male gaze immediately when the film starts with her getting out of bed naked and then dressing herself in a skin-too-tight leather suit and up until the very end where her body is gracefully thrown in the air through a car windshield. Rebecca's lover Daniel who definitly has a case of scopophilia is constantly touching her body reemphazing that his male gaze just isn't enough. Daniel's creepy intrusion on Rebecca while she is sleeping at the Resort leads watchers to believe everything is just fine and dandy because Rebecca was secretly glad that he had come in to her room. The film does not question the idea of what Daniel would have done if she had said no. This film also defines what a real man is and what he is not. For example, a real man does not ask a lady for permission to have sex with her a.k.a. Daniel. A real man also does not display too much love or affection because that is something a wimp would do. a.k.a. Raymond. Rebecca to me is the opposite of a heroine. She represents a woman who rather than fights the oppressive patriarchal role goes along with it and the only time she stirs from it is when a man indirectly tells her to. Rebecca does not go take to the road to free her spirit or damn the role that she was given. No, she takes to the road to let some barbaric, twisted man fondle her breasts and talk about how love doesn't exsist.

Liberating for women?

At first, the 1960s film "Girl on a Motorcycle" might seem like a revolutionary movie having the woman play the main role. However, after just a short time of watching the film the viewer realizes the woman doesn't represent liberation or freedom at all. The male gaze is repeated over and over again in this film. Whether it is the woman being framed by the way her zipper moves, or she is standing in front of a window or mirror, she is portrayed as a sex object more than anything else. But what's more, is that she wants to be treated this way. She "castrates" Raymond many times by yelling at him to just tell her what to do, and by the simple fact that he won't have sex with her without her approval. Also, when the guard doesn't hit on her she assumes he must be queer. Finally, the movie shows that the men really have the power when, after Daniel rapes her, the first thing she says is,"I've never been so happy". "Girl on a Motorcycle" is clearly a movie for men, telling them that it's okay, and actually encouraged to treat women poorly, hit on them, and have sex with them without their consent, because if you do, they will never be happier.

Girl On A Phallus

"...the female image as a castration threat constantly endangers the unity of the diegesis and bursts through the world of illusion as an intrusive, static, one-dimensional fetish" (Mulvey, 47). This quotation couldn't be more relevant to the way in which phalocentricism bursts through the film, "Girl On A Motorcycle" and creates not a liberation for women, but rather a prison of sexual fetish. The male gaze and phalocentricism dominate the entire film, making it ridiculous to think that it is at all liberating for women. In the film, Rebecca leaves her husband, Raymond, for her lover, Daniel, by way of her motorcycle, a giant phallic symbol in itself. Rebecca, throughout the film, drives on and relives her affair. Though driving and the road are often meant to be symbols of liberation, in this film they make it clear that a woman cannot escape a man's world.
On the road, Rebecca is the victim of endless voyeurism. From the gas station attendent who studies her body, to the bar/restaurant full of men who undress her with their eyes, she becomes the subject of unwanted attention. The male gaze on her sexually alive body helps to establish her character and femininity as a means of castration, as she is lacking a phallus. This lack becomes all too apparent when she turns her life over to Daniel.

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Girl on a Motorcycle

In a film that is characterized as one that flaunts women’s independence, that independence is drastically lacking. The film Girl on a Motorcycle is centered on men and how they control women through their actions and the ways in which they dominate the main female characters’ every move and thought. While there may be certain points in the movie where Rebecca attempts to portray a free woman, such as riding her motorcycle cross country, leaving her husband, and having relationships with two men, there are also many parts of the movie in which the freedom she is attempting to have has been overshadowed by the reasons she wants to be free. Phallocentrism is central to the main theme, as the movie is focused on Rebecca leaving one man for another. Her fate (not to be seen as the same as her freedom) is determined by the men she is attached to- she considers herself to be free of Raymond, her husband, only to be trapped in an affair with a man who will not love her and who appears to have a great deal of control over her. Her thoughts are constantly dominated by the two men she is involved with and their feelings and actions. She is seen as a sexual object by her lover, and is portrayed that way throughout the entire film, even to other characters, as she dons a tight-fitting leather motorcycle suit, which causes her to encounter many male stares along her trip.
A film cannot be liberating for women if the entire film is controlled by men’s desires and their ability to control women. The male gaze and phallocentrism are prevalent and recurring themes throughout this film, neither of which allow for women to truly be free. In order for this to be considered liberating for women, it would have to completely factor out males as being anything remotely sexually related- or make the women be the dominant role within the story.

February 7, 2008

Girl on a Motorcyle and the Male Gaze

The film Girl on a Motorcycle disguises itself as a revolutionary feminist film of its era by ‘liberating women’, however, even though the film portrays a female alone taking to the road, there is still the phallocentric dominance throughout the film. This main gesture of having the male be the center of the plot and directing the storyline is focused on the basis of Rebecca, the lead female character, only taking to the road and “freeing� herself by going to a man. If she didn’t have Daniel, her lover, to coerce feelings of love and freedom, Rebecca would remain captive in her home, and never take to the road. Rebecca never ventures away from her husband or the home she deems a prison on her own will, leaving for herself, it is always for Daniel, and Daniel having a “hold� upon her and keeping her continually coming back to him. Throughout the film as well we are consistently having a phallocentric point of view dominant by having the ‘male gaze’ continuingly upheld by how Rebecca is viewed and framed. From the beginning of the film, even within Rebecca’s mind, we the spectators and among the spectators of her dream being shown a paraded, naked body of Rebecca as numerous shots glorifies her body as a male would in his dreams. From there, various shots throughout the film are placed from a male perspective, looking at Rebecca both on and off the road, having the audience members both male and female identifying with the male gaze displayed on screen. Shots of only parts of her body as she rides on the road, various shots panning up and down Rebecca’s body, and others shots of men gazing at Rebecca and treating her as their own visual and literal object of sexual pleasure as with the border control attendant only treating her as he is there for her. Though this film does breakthrough the barrier of having a women, alone, taking to the road and embarking on the land on a motorcycle, which is deemed a male vehicle, the overall context of the film is still placed in a phallocentric world. The girl on a motorcycle, is in the end, controlled by a man.

February 6, 2008

Where is the Male Gaze?

Rebecca's rebellious spirit and independence may lead some to consider Girl on a Motorcycle to be a film that is liberating for women. But when examined more closely, it is clear that this is just another movie whose action is propelled by a phallocentric male gaze.
Rebecca leaves her loving husband, Raymond, for a man who raped her some time earlier. When she decides to set off on the road, the male gaze is made apparent as she zips up her leather suit and her breasts are squeezed tight against the leather. She leaves town, thinking about how pathetic Raymond is and how much more desirable David is. We are then shown a scene in which Raymond is made a fool by his young students. This is done to let the spectator know that Rebecca needs a "real" man, which is certainly not Raymond. The film is narrated by Rebecca's inner thoughts, leading the viewers to believe that this is a true desire for women--to be dominated, taken, controlled. The most clear instance of this desire is when Rebecca says "it's his bloody kindness that's killing me", referring to Raymond. This is proof that the film has a phallocentric drive in that it is implying that women should not be treated well because they don't want to be treated well.
What at first seems as a liberating act, Rebecca's road trip is in fact just a product of a man's, David's, control over her.