OppositionalGaze Film Review
Issuespertaining to the depiction of women and race in film and other formsof entertainment have been particularly controversial. This may betied to the fact that history has not been fair to women and someraces. Indeed, it is well acknowledged that women have beenconsidered as not possessing sufficient intellectual aptitude to makefundamental decisions, not only about the course of life of theirfamily but also for their own lives or even their bodies. This isalso the case for individuals of particular races, especially AfricanAmericans, who are seen as only capable of undertaking certain tasksparticularly those that do not require much thinking or intellectualcapabilities. Nevertheless, recent times have seen an improvement inthe manner in which women and black people are depicted in film andtelevision. Indeed, it may be noted that a large proportion of movieshave been depicting women as more independent in their thoughts andexploits, to the extent of making fundamental decisions regardingtheir lives. However, questions emerge regarding whether the womenare exhibiting independence or are simply fitting themselves into theconventional roles that the society has placed for them. This is thecase for the movie “Daddy’s Little Girls”.
“Daddy’sLittle Girls”details the life of a young mechanic, Monty, who has been abandonedby his wife and left to cater for his three daughters. He leaves thegirls with the ex-wife’s mother as he tries scrapping a living andbringing money for the up-bringing of his girls. Unfortunately, themother in law passes on in which case Monty must take his girls tohis small apartment. However, the girls’ mother, Jennifer, stillseeks to have her girls live with her, something that she manages toget the courts to do when the girls light a fire and burn theneighbor’s house, where they were staying. In essence, Monty goesto see an accomplished lawyer, Julia, in an effort to have herrepresent him in court so he can have his daughters back. Monty hadpreviously worked as Julia’s driver for a single day, a task thathad not worked particularly well. While Julia first castigates himfor expecting favors from her simply because they both are black, sheseems to have a change of heart when he stands up to her and tellsher to “get a man, get a life”. This kicks off an affair betweenthem that triggers opposition from Julia’s friends Lauren andCynthia. The affair, however, is temporarily halted when Juliarealizes that Monty was previously convicted and incarcerated for therape of a 16 year-old girl. However, Monty decides to attackJennifer’s current husband, Joseph, a drug dealer who has beenterrorizing the neighborhood, for having beaten his daughters. Whenhe attacks them, the entire neighborhood comes and supports him innot only beating up the drug lord but also defending Monty againstthe attacks of the drug-lord’s henchmen. Julia happens to see a TVclip on the violence and realizes that Monty had been wrongly accusedfor the crime, in which case she goes and represents him in court. Heis eventually released as there is no witness, while Jennifer and hercurrent husband are taken to prison with the entire neighborhoodvolunteering to give their testimony against the two drug dealers.Eventually, Julia’s relationship with Monty is rekindled.
Ofcourse, the movie has been primarily intended at depicting women aspowerful and capable of taking care of their business. Black womenare particularly shown to have immense intellectual aptitude, asdemonstrated by Julia, a young lawyer who has managed to rise theranks to become one of the most respected lawyers in the legalfraternity and a partner in her firm before getting to her thirties.Similarly, there is the case of Jennifer, who has made a consciousdecision to leave Monty even though her mother would have advisedagainst it. Indeed, she has gone ahead and made a conscious decisionnot to be tied to the role of a housewife or even be married to theconventional “good man” as would have been expected of her by thesociety. Instead, she leaves the kids with Monty and gets married toa drug dealer who is well hated and feared in the society. This isbound to make her an independent woman, just as is the case forLauren and Cynthia, who seem to propel the idea that women choose menand not the other way round, in which case they can determine who isthe best for them.
Whilethis is the case, this dominant interpretation is pretty much flawed.As Bell Hooks notes in “TheOppositional Gaze”,black women are not usually represented in the media (Hooks 118).However, the same way that women are represented in film is the sameway that black people were represented in other films. She notes that“When most black people in the United States first had theopportunity to look at film and television, they did so fully awarethat mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing andmaintaining white supremacy… it was the oppositional black gazethat responded to these looking relations by developing independentblack cinema” (Hooks 117). This separation allows the viewers ofmovies and videos to see the even larger bias that is incorporated inthe media industry.
Similarly,as much as the women in this film are presented asindependent-minded, it is easy to see the conventional ideas that aredepicted regarding the ideal woman. According to Hooks, the idealwoman would be the white, obedient and sexy lover to her partner,with the most fundamental characteristic being “white”.Being white, in this case, should be seen in the context of being inline with the dominant ideas regarding who to love and how to conductoneself as a wife. As much as Jennifer is shown as independent, it istelling that she still needs to cling to another man so as tosurvive. When she was asked by the judge how she would support herthree daughters, she was bold enough to state “myboyfriend has businesses”,which means that she may not be as independent as she likes toportray herself. This is the same case for Julia who still needsvalidation from the society regarding the type of man that she canhave. In spite of being independent and depicting her as successfulin her profession, it is noted that she worked in her father’s lawfirm, with the father pushing her up since he always wanted a son. Onthe same note, it is baffling that she gets to apologize to Monty fornot giving him the opportunity to explain, yet he had not offered totell her about his past when she asked. Is it not appalling that itis expected that Julia would hide her love for Monty and settle forthe “corporate” and “well placed type” in line with thesociety? As Rosalind Gill notes in “Post-feministmedia culture: Elements of a sensibility”,as much as women may have become more independent, the media becomesmore obsessive with the body (Gill 137). This is seen in the case ofthe coverage of Michelle Obama’s toned arms triggering debatesregarding how much muscle a woman should have, with the Americanpopulace expecting that she would cover up her arms rather thanshowing them off. This obsession with the human form is seen asparticularly derogatory of the image of women. According to LauraMulvey in “Visual Pleasure and narrative cinema”, the entireidea of incorporating women in cinema is not really an upliftinggesture but rather an attempt to use their bodily appeal to get awider audience watching the movies. Cinema satisfies the primordialwish pertaining to pleasurable looking while also developingscopophilia in its narcissistic aspect. Mainstream film conventionsconcentrate their attention on the human form with the stories, spaceand scale being anthropomorphic (Murvey 9).
Inconclusion, the place of women in film and in the society at largehas been immensely controversial. Indeed, women have been depicted asdependent and intellectually challenged to the extent that theyalways need validation from other members of the society particularlymen. Even in instances where women are depicted as independent, thesubtle image is that their power is derived from their associationwith men and alignment with the conventions of the society. This isthe message that Hooks sends regarding the failings of contemporaryfeminism.
Gill,Rosalind. Postfeministmedia culture : Elements of a sensibility. EuropeanJournal of Cultural Studies 200710: 147. Print
Hooks,Bell. The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators in “BlackLooks: Race Representation”.Boston South End Press, 1992. Pp. 115-131. Print
Mulvey,Laura. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). Screen16.3Autumn 1975 pp. 6-18. Print