Sleeping with the Enemy: The Male Gaze and Same-Sex Relationships on Broadcast Network Television
With 1975’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey forced us to acknowledge that our “fascination with film” hinges on seeing women through a male gaze. But in recent years, the concept has been derided as irrelevant with today’s fragmented intellectual and media landscape that favors intersectionality. Cory Albertson redeploys Mulvey’s theoretical acumen to analyze how the male gaze still functions as a mechanism to illuminate patriarchal influence, but within societal representations (and acceptability of) lesbian, bisexual, and queer relationships. Albertson situates his analysis around a 2011 Gallup poll which marked the first year a majority of the American public “favored” same-sex marriage—a nine-point (and largest ever year to year) increase from 2010. The previous year’s GLAAD “Where We Are on TV” report found the 2010–2011 television season’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Queer (LGBQ) characters had their highest percentage in the report’s then-15-year history. This season saw Glee and The Good Wife hit their ratings zenith while stalwarts like Grey’s Anatomy hit new, important LGBQ milestones. Using these shows, Albertson demonstrates how the male gaze, as a feminist methodology (and, by extension, feminism as an activist ideology) maintains its relevance through its mobilization in/by the aesthetics, sexual practices, and gender acceptability of LGBQ characters. He finds the shows create “normal” same-sex relationships remarkably similar to the heteronormative ideal. And the central component of that normalcy hinges on being bound by the male gaze where lesbian, bisexual, and queer characters are sexualized in service of heterosexual men’s pleasure.
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