And then she takes off her ape costume.
Don’t believe me?
Add to the scene the fact there are women dressed as “natives” dancing behind her, sinking into the dark while the white woman gleams, the markings on their faces the only remarkable thing visible on film. These are not women, but backdrops to the vision of Marlene as blonde goddess. They are positioned as animals alongside the ape. They are scenery.
Now ask yourself:
But what Mulvey claims the camera (and thereby, the director) does to Dietrich- put her on display, sexualize, objectify, and thereby define her – holds true for every woman, and every person (don’t forget poor Cary – he looks like a bit of a sap with his bulging eyes and sweat building around his tie) put to film. And so her call to action, “destruction of pleasure is a radical weapon,” is just as pertinent as ever. We just need to apply it to all of us.
When I watch Blonde Venus, I see all the things I wish I didn’t. A woman on display, women of colour reduced to decoration, men devouring female bodies with their eyes, a tradition of performance and storytelling that transcends film and echoes through past and future, even current, representations of women. It hurts. And it takes something from me – a lover of film, a believer in the power of stories, a worshipper of actors like Dietrich and Grant – to see myself and other women symbolically reduced to so little.
2015 Films/Shows That Question, Subvert, or Uphold Traditional Gender Roles
– Alex Landers (www.onecriticalbitch.com)