Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The power of the gaze

Do you ever have those existential kind of out-of-body days where you feel like an observer on the outskirts of your own life? You're kind of moving through the day like you're in a dream...like a little silver pinball just banging around from one thing to the next. What is that? Is it ennui? Depression? Fatigue? Brain gas?

I'm in a gaze-out-the-window kind of mood.

I visited x17online for the first time ever last week. I'm not gonna link to it because that would be like passing along scabies.

It's a celebrity site. They pay photographer-terrorists to stalk celebrities 24/7. It's interesting in a social-experiment kind of way. You get to see what life is like for celebs hounded by photographers 24/7, if you're into that kind of thing. But even if you aren't into that kind of thing, it's still kind of fascinating to think that Lindsay Lohan can't get her hair coloured without a swarm of photographers shoving lenses--literally--in her face, blocking her car, screaming at her, asking her personal questions, etc.

The cumulative effect of all the paparazzi video is sort of mind-numbing, especially when you realize that you're mostly watching video of people video-taping famous people. The whole idea of the "gaze" (Schroeder, Mulvey) and the power relationship between observer and observed is fascinating in this context. In some way, the dynamic now is: we (regular people visiting x17online) sit at our computers judging the scummy paparazzi, who are judging celebs (in the sense that the camera has no mercy), who fascinate us (regular people), so we visit x17 online watching video of paparazzi, whom we're judging...etc ad insanitum.

I'd get into the celeb obsession thing more, but to be honest, I find it a little tedious. Not the obsession itself (well, yeah, that too), but more the obsession with discussing the celeb obsession. Although...What are your thoughts on this? Do you think about celebs often? Are you tired of seeing them? What is your opinion on celebrity's place in our culture at the moment? (Someone will say that "celebrities need the paparazzi as much as the paparazzi need celebrities"...but I'm not talking about that so much as what's driving the whole crazy carnival ride? Is it us? Is it money? Is it sex? Is it technology?? I need answers!)

Speaking of the gaze of power, I've also been thinking about Marie Antoinette a lot. The woman and the movie. Rented the DVD not long ago. I understand why it was booed at Cannes, and yet I disagree with the booers. I think Antonia Fraser, who wrote the book (which I'm now reading) upon which the film was "based" (loosely and yet specifically...Coppola really pulls out only specific fashion and lifestyle-themed parts of MA's life...but when she pulls them out, she does so verbatim), said it best: "Marie Antoinette doesn't belong to me or to the French...she is a historical figure and she belongs to everyone." That would be my response to the French film critics who booed it at Cannes.

It's a visually affecting movie if you're someone who is at all drawn to the kind of esthetic that would make you, say, be sure to visit Versailles if you are in Paris (I've been to Versailles twice). It's sort of the...maybe the Pretty in Pink?...of today.

But it's largely about the gaze, on many levels that Coppola may or may not have intended. M.A.'s whole life was lived under the gaze, and eventually she lost her head because of it--an event witnessed by thousands of eyes. Princess Diana lost her life because of it too. Britney lost her hair and, seemingly, her sanity because of it. It's a powerful thing.

Speaking of which...back to my window I go.


Blogger Rafe Totengco said...

I totally loved Sophia's movie, despite what a lot of people thought. But then again I'm always swayed by a good sountrack, amazing costumes and set design, etc. I'm an aesthete, I can't help it. It's all about that GAZE! Love that portrait!

12:09 PM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

Couldn't agree more, rafe. I love depth/ideas too, but preferrably when set against a beautiful backdrop!

p.s. Welcome and thanks for dropping by...

12:55 PM  

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