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Maybe the most feminist thing about Buffy is the near-total lack of a male gaze. Buffy, Willow, and Anya are all very attractive, but they are never ogled. Their clothes are casual and practical, and the camera doesn't linger on their bodies. There's no particular effort at modesty, but you know how when many shows introduce a particularly good-looking female character, there'll be a little "va va voom, fellas" shot, a sweep up her body or a shot of her flipping her hair in that apparently irresistible way? Buffy doesn't go for that shit. Not that Buffy et al. aren't sexy, but they're sexy in that unconscious way that men on TV so often are. They're sexy while they go about their lives, rather than stopping to be sexy at the camera. -- Cliff Pervocracy: Buffybuffybuffybuffy!, 2009


Hoss's first slide from the presentation

The Male gaze means a quality of a visual work, where the audience is put into the perspective of a (heterosexual) man. It emphasizes and focuses on aspects considered interesting, pleasing, titillating to the assumed viewer (for instance, zeroing in on a female character's derrière as she walks away from the camera), and averting aspects considered awkward or uninteresting to the assumed viewer (for instance, zeroing in on a male character's derrière as he walks away from the camera).

The term is discussed by Laura Mulvey in her essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975). It is used to describe when female characters are sexualized, and the camera may zero in on female body parts considered sexual. This takes after the psychoanalytical term brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan

Quick litmus test
  • Consider a visual work or an excerpt of such.
  • Imagine a gender-flipped version.

Further reading[]