Hi guys, I know that it's been a while since I've logged in. A lost of $h!t has happened in my life.
First, I would like to mention that I got accepted into a foreign exchange program and i will be going to Japan at the end of May. I'm so freaken excited, and this month is just dragging on. :P
Next, I just got done with my 4th semester in college (I still need to take 2 finals, but I'm done for the most part). And I have a habbit of posting some of my term papers because I want people to read what I write. Please read my paper and let me know what you think.
One of my favorite animated movies is Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon, and it wasn't until I took this cl@ss that I realized that there was more to that movie than what I had noticed before. From the moment it was mentioned in the cl@ss the gaze was something that caught my attention from the moment it was mentioned in the cl@ss. I never knew that we (the audience) could be able to see the same film with so many different points of view, sometimes switching back and forth seamlessly unable to see the subtle differences. This was something that was talked about extensively by Susan Napier and Laura Mulvey in the articles that were assigned to us.
The purpose of this paper is to try to understand a few of the concepts and ideas that are discussed in the articles of both authors. I will try to focus on different types of gazes used in the film Perfect Blue. I will only use the film Perfect Blue as an example since it's the only work by Satoshi Kon that I'm the most familiar with.
First off, the gaze comes from feminist film theory where a woman is objectified by the camera and become a mere object to be looked at by the audience. Most of the time this is called the "Male Gaze" since it usually involves scenes where the camera focus on the body of the female. Mulvey points out the Male Gaze is always active, because it's men that are always in power while the women are passive. Mulvey points out that to a certain point, women don't even matter in most films. All that matter is how the female makes the protagonist act. An example that she gives in her article is that is the female is in danger, she will make the protagonist act out of desperation and save her in the climatic point of the movie. (23) But Satoshi Kon treats her female characters a little different, and that's what makes Perfect Blue a great film to analyze with relation to the gaze.
Second, while the male gaze is always present in a film, there are many different types of gaze that can show up in a single film. This is where I would like to introduce the film Perfect Blue. Napier talks about this in her article, and she points out that from the very beginning we are first shown us a camera that is recording a show of some Power Ranger-like character. Then we are shown the many fan boys that are talking about her in a very possessive way. Then it jump to show us the backstage view of all three girls getting ready for their last performance together. (28-29) I think that it's interesting how we are shown these many types of gazes from the very beginning. Like Napier says, this sets up the whole movie in a way to let us know that not everything that we see is necessarily real.
A scene comes to mind when mentioning "that not everything is real," is probably the most graphic scene in the whole movie: the rape scene. Before this scene is even shown to us, the people in the film as arguing on whether Mima should do the scene. Mima decides to act out the scene, even if we later find out that she only did it so that she wouldn't be a bother to anyone, but she never wanted to do it. (31) In that scene, she plays the part of a striper and while on her first night on the job, she gets attacked and raped by one of the customers of the bar. The audience can obviously tell that this isn't part of "reality" because you can hear all the different voices of the people on the set that are getting ready to take the shot. And it's in this precise scene we are shown many different gazes.
First we have the cameras, which are only there to record the actors and their surroundings. But the cameras view can be extended beyond that; to a certain point, the camera will represent how people will perceive Mima. This can also serve as a way for Mima to become objectified beyond what she is normally used to. Before the actual rape scene begins, she is show dancing and looking all pretty. This is where the audience only see her as an object that lures them, but yet they can never truly posses her since she is merely an image being broadcasted. At the same time, the camera serve as a way for the director of the show to manipulate the audience, this is due to the fact that he can decide what they will and will not see.
The next gaze that I would like to point out is that of Rumi, her manager. Since the beginning of the film, she didn't like the idea of Mima leaving behind her life as a pop idol. She was also against Mima taking part in the rape scene, and tried hard to convince Mima not to do it. The rape scene is the turning point in the film, because this is where we can see Rumi crying because all she can do is watch by as Mima is "raped". Like Napier mentioned in her article, Rumi's gaze is probably the most important in the whole movie.
Napier says that Rumi's actions are an attempt to protect Mima, but that she isn't really trying to protect the real Mima, which has abandoned her old life as a pop idol. Rumi wants to protect the Mima that she identifies with, the old Mima that exists in her imagination. But at the same time, she wants to become Mima and be the center of attention that Rumi was originally trying to protect Mima from. (33 – 34)
Last, it's worth noting that many people have asked Satoshi Kon why he didn't just do this film in live action. But he defends his work by saying that Perfect Blue is more interesting because it's an animation. (24) Also, at the beginning of the article he was also asked why he focused so much on his female characters. He responded by saying: "I can project my obsession onto the character and expand the aspects I want to describe." (23) Even if Satoshi Kon is showing us how the same person can be viewed in many different ways, I belief that this film can also be seen as his own attempt to make us see the world through his eyes (since Perfect Blue has been described as a critique on Japanese pop culture and consumerism).
While I'm perfectly aware that every director will always include their own personal bias in any movie they are in charge of, I belief that this is trying to tells that we need to be careful in what we consume (ex: celebrities, pop culture, etc.). There's nothing wrong with being a fan of a particular thing, but it's when we take it beyond just being a normal fan. We have to be careful that we don't fall prey to the exact same thing that we are always chasing after. If we let anything take too much out of personal lives, it moves from being a mere hobby or pastime and evolves into something a sick and twisted obsession like the one displayed by Mimania.
Hiroaki, I. (Producer), & Satoshi, K. (Director). (1997). Perfect Blue. [Motion Picture]. Japan: Rex Entertainment.
Mulvey, L. (1989). Visual pleasure and narrative cinema. 14 – 26.
Napier, S. (2006). Cinema anime. "Excuse Me, Who Are You?": Performance, the Gaze, and the Female in the Works of Kon Satoshi. 23 – 42.
Thanks for reading my paper, and please let me know what you think. C ya around.