Wrecking Ball and the Male Gaze

My friend likes to say, “When I see a pretty woman, I tell her, ‘You’re so pretty.  I hate you.’  And she says, ‘Aww, thanks,’ and I’m like, ‘No, but I actually hate you.’”  As much as we all roll our eyes at her, it’s an all too familiar story.  It’s pretty impossible to refrain from comparing oneself to other women, and then hating them (or, more likely, ourselves) when we don’t measure up.  The last time I had this conversation with my friend, we proceeded to watch the “Wrecking Ball” video by Miley Cyrus.  We started out trashing her for writhing around naked and licking things for no apparent reason, but by the end we were all admitting that, whether we like Miley or not, she’s hot.  In watching music videos like Miley’s, women take on a bizarre double role.  One of our roles is that of the male gaze.  Whether or not we are attracted to Miley, we are aroused or hypnotized by the male desire that her flailing naked body represents.  Yet at the same time that we have this “loss of ego” that Mulvey writes about, and identify with the viewer to whom the video is targeted, we are also forced to look at ourselves in relation to Miley as the ideal, desirable woman.  We simultaneously adopt the male gaze and become excruciatingly aware of ourselves as inadequate.

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