BY FIONNUALA HALLIGAN
Audiences will hopefully never look at perspective, slow-mo, fragmented bodies or female faces presented in 2D in the same way again, thanks to Menkes’ two-decades-plus of research. She certainly proves that shot design is gendered. As her eloquent interviewee Amy Zierling notes: “It’s invisible, and you don’t notice the air.”
Menkes moves beyond the predatory camera and the subject-object set-up, though. With her commentators — who also include Eliza Hittman, Julie Dash, Laura Mulvey, the intimacy co-ordinator Ita O’Brien and Joey Soloway, amongst others, she talks about the implied violence hidden in these tropes. The up-the-bum shot, the slow-pan down the body, the whole idea of a beautiful unconscious woman — taken to an extreme, recalls Rosanna Arquette, when her dead character was embraced by the camera in a sexual manner in Scorsese’s After Hours. Dead women, silent women - as with Cathy Moriarty’s character in Raging Bull, who literally couldn’t be heard - women seen bent over from behind - these turn into women whose consent is immaterial. The ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ trope where Harrison Ford, for example, smacks a resisting Sean Young in Bladerunner and she’s suddenly aroused, as with Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). It’s disempowerment at its essence and, as Menkes said, it worms its way into the collective consciousness through the global power of Hollywood. (Or, in other words, forms the “bedrock of the language of rape culture”.)
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