This week in Savannah, Georgia, SCAD has been host to the Southeastern College Art Conference.
SECAC is a non-profit organization that is all about spreading the visual arts love across the land. Members include anyone interested in promoting the visual arts and range from university faculty and students, museums, scholars and of course, artists.
I’m presenting at one of the sessions for their annual conference tomorrow. I get to talk about The Bachelor. Yes, that one.
So, at these academic conference things, a lot goes on. People present on their work ranging from art history during WWII to the ways new media influences the form. There are lectures, exhibitions and lots of networking. I’ve never seen so many art historians in one place. It’s kind of cool. And strange, even for an art school student. People are making jokes about post-structuralism. You had to be there.
The panel I’m sitting on is discussing the male gaze as it relates to E. Ann Kaplan’s essay about the way female subjects are viewed as objects in cinema. The essay, published about 30 years ago, took from Freud, Lacan and the fabulous Laura Mulvey to craft a new way of dealing with the way we view women in visual media and the impacts of the patriarchal system in which the media was developed. It can get pretty intense. I sometimes feel like I’m over my head. The past few days, tightening up my presentation, I’ve had a lot of reason to believe that is actually the case. But then, how often do you get the chance to talk about the societal ramifications of this:
Season 11, Bachelor Brad Womack (l) discusses his options with host Chris Harrison. Image via ABC.
Looks innocent enough, right? I’m arguing in my paper that even though The Bachelor appears like a female-driven show, it is actually quite patriarchal in its concept and execution. That not only do female viewers get sucked into the male gaze, one that objectifies both the viewer and object, but that the show perpetuates the stereotypical roles women have played since Kaplan first published her essay several decades ago.
I like exploring these kinds of things. Even though all this theory can drive a person nuts, it really does change the way you see the world. This is my first major academic conference and I’ve heard that sometimes, people can get a bit ornery. Academics like to be right. I come in peace, folks. Peace and theory. Should be fun.