Sunday, October 12, 2014

Affirmative consent, sitcom edition

The Mindy Project season premiere may well be the first time female heterosexuality was depicted on television. Wait, what could I possibly mean? Aren't virtually all the women on TV straight? Perhaps so, but they're basically always objects of male sexuality, in one way or another. Even Sex And The City - there, there was so much focus on looking perfect (despite the tremendous tragedy of crossing the threshold of 35) so as to get a high-status mate. Mr. Big... I mean, separate from my subjective indifference to Chris Noth, there's the fact that Carrie was always interested in being rescued by a car-and-driver, and a Big without those trappings clearly wouldn't have been of interest. There wasn't a whole lot of... female gaze, I suppose, with the exception of Samantha, who was always sort of a hollering-at-Chippendales joke of a character. And her lust had to be presented as mutually exclusive with any interest in a relationship - something never expected of men.

But TV changed when Mindy, at the end of the episode, put on her nerdy-but-not-hipster glasses to get a better look. A look at what, well, go check out Hulu, or, if you don't care about context, click here. But the gaze is definitively in the female-looking-at-male direction. Female vanity in no way enters into the scene. There's no desire-to-be-thought-beautiful. That's not the fantasy. This has been the case for a while on The Mindy Project - thus the way that every episode finds an excuse to have two hot guys in a "fight" of some kind. But that's a bit too subtle - it's possible for male viewers to take that in as slapstick, without catching on to the fact that it's the same, for the equivalent audience, as if two hot women were in an equivalent tumble. This was... quite a bit more straightforward.


Anonymous said...

"Female gaze" is directed at other women, i.e. the competition, not at men. Several eye-tracking studies have shown that human female attention, just like that of human males, is drawn towards the female subjects in a given enviroment. Other studies show that they retain no memory of the men they do view. It's why both men's and women's magazines feature women on the cover. It's why women spend their time looking at pictures of famous, attractive, and high status women, not the equivalent men. It's why when a married couple meets for the first time, the women look each other up and down, whilst the men check out each others' wives. Women are just not interested in looking at men, and the scenario presented in that show you linked to is a complete joke. The only people who salivate over men are male homosexuals. The Sex and the City dynamic that you dismissed is far more accurate to reality. Women's desire for men involves the fantasy of (and this is important) winning him from other women, rather than a straightforward physical hunger for the man himself. This is why the man in question has to be socially validated by being desired by other women. For the female mind, the fantasy just doesn't work without the presence of other women. Compare with men, who just want to get their hands on objective beauty and youth, even if they're alone in the wilderness somewhere. On your other point, I expect that the male-on-male fighting in that show was over the star, rather than all the abstract motivations that can spark conflict between men. That goes right back to the being desired angle. Btw, men like looking at girl fights because they think they're watching the prelude to a lesbian sex act.

Anonymous said...

The above comment brought to you by a giant fedora.

caryatis said...

"Women's desire for men involves the fantasy of (and this is important) winning him from other women, rather than a straightforward physical hunger for the man himself."

Not true in my experience. If there were a lot of other women interested in a man I wanted, and I had to steal him away, that would... seem like a lot of work. I'd rather have a man who doesn't need to be won away from other women, because he likes me.