Skip to main content
Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2018 Abstracts

Constructing the female gaze: a comparison of the careers and filmography of Sofia Coppola and Lucrecia Martel

Summer Perez, Brigham Young University

What difference do women make behind the camera? I examine this question through the lens of two female hybrid writer-directors who have emerged as prominent voices within their respective film industries: Sofia Coppola in Hollywood and Lucrecia Martel in Argentina. First, I recognize the accomplishments of Coppola and Martel in their respective film industries which have historically been male-dominated and remain so today. Coppola stands in an elite group of only four women to have ever been nominated for the Best Director Academy Award and Martel is credited with ushering in the era of “New Argentine Cinema” which began around 1998. Through my study of their access to power, I explain how these women have been able to navigate the “old-boy” network within their respective film industries which have consistently displayed a strong hiring gender bias against women, resulting in female directors filling only 9% of positions in Hollywood for example. With their unique voices as auteurs in cinema, both writer-directors have rejected gender norms in the film industry and paved their own way through their own ambitions and as provided through the patronage of their families or other prominent industry celebrities. Secondly, I recognize the female perspective introduced by both directors in their work through the female gaze. In her famous essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Laura Mulvey pioneers the concept of the male gaze, which analyzes women as objects of male desire within cinema. Current research is identifying the female or feminist gaze which emphasizes the female perspective in cinema either through female protagonists or a woman behind the camera. My research builds on this scholarship, exploring how Coppola and Martel’s films carefully craft female perspective through cultural and cinematic expressions. My proposition is that female identity in cinema has historically been defined in relation to male-specific interests, and that by breaking with such visual and aural conventions of cinema, Coppola and Martel have forged a distinctly independent female gaze. Each director has transformed conventional cinematic perspectives, which either objectify or fetishize the female presence to cater to a voyeuristic male audience. In contrast to the male-centered tradition, Coppola and Martel offer a distinct female cinematic expression which I contextualize within their specific cultures and within the global conversation on female representation in cinema.