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Media Theory Revision Guide

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Returned

The male gaze in The Returned

van Zoonen

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van Zoonen also reminds us that masculine power is encoded within media texts via the male gaze. Male characters, van Zoonen argues, are routinely invested with the power to look at their female counterparts. 


Audiences, correspondingly, are positioned to internalise female objectification as a social norm - a process that is readily apparent across the first episode of The Returned.


Lucy, for example, constructs an immediate objectified presence as the town’s prostitute in the opening scene, her apology to Jerome when he is unable to perform sexually combined with her righthand framing clearly constructing her as a secondary character, as an object who solely exists to enable male gratification.


The problematic construction of women as objectified trophies continues: Camille readily offers herself up to a disinterested Simon, while Lena’s sole worth as a character is evaluated in terms of the impact of her losing her virginity. 


Even Julie’s neighbour, Mademoiselle Payet, presents as a sexually wanton character, a two-dimensional stereotype of a dissatisfied middle-aged woman - a woman whose powerlessness is based upon her inability to provoke the male gaze of Simon.


This, most certainly, is a problematic text in terms of female representation, with most female characters conforming to a deeply conservative view of how women ought to behave within French society - a view that evaluates female worth in terms of sexual attraction.

Proppian Princess

A passive and dependent female stereotype, problematic because they typically suggest that women need to be rescued by males, or that females need a man to be happy.

Media terminology used

Internalized male gaze

Women who internalise the male gaze actively try to meet the beauty and behaviour ideals that patriarchal representations impose.

Madonna/whore stereotypes

The whore stereotype is a highly sexualised version of womanhood. In contrast, Madonna stereotypes emphasise innocence and incorruptibility as a socially desired female ideal.

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