The Male Gaze in "Alien"

The Gaze

The concept of Gaze is one that deals with how an audience views the people presented.

For feminist theories it can be thought of in three different ways:

    - How men look at women
    - How women look at women
    - How women look at themselves

Male Gaze

The writer Laura Mulvey, introduced the term “Male Gaze” in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1975. In it, Mulvey states that in film women are typically the objects, rather than the owner/possessors of the gaze, because the control of the camera (and thus the gaze) comes from factors such as the heterosexual men as the default taget audience for most film genres. Also most (camera-)crew members on a film set are male, as well as the dominant characters and decision makers in film and TV production, which therefore underlines the male ideologies.
Mulvey argues, that women where given two character types: the sexually active and the powerless female. Especially horror films present this image of women simply for the gratification of male viewers.
While this was more true in the time it was written, when Hollywood protagonist were mostly male, the base concept of men as watchers and women as watched still applies today, despite the growing number of movies targeted towards women and films featuring female heroes.

Male Gaze in “Alien” (1979)

While Ripley’s subjectivity is made dominant thoughout the film, the director also used two notable scenes to paint the classical Hollywood sexual gaze as oppressive to females. The first occurs when Ash abuses Ripley. After Ash forces the porno magazine down her throat, we see his face in close-up as he begins to gyrate uncontrollably, as if reaching a sexual climax through Ripley’s degradation. In such a way, the film establishes that Ash’s gaze at Ripley is not only violent but sexual in nature, thereby making the male gaze horrific by association. In the background the viewer can see pictures of naked women stuck to the...