In spring 2013, HBO conducted a sly experiment on the “elite” TV-viewing public. It aired two new shows – both buddy dramas – back to back. Each was conceived as a short, self-contained season. Each had a single talented and idiosyncratic director for the entire season, and each dispensed with the convention of having a large team of writers in favour of a unified authorial vision. Both shows appeared to belong to one genre, but gestured at several others. Both used excellent actors to anchor a meandering, semi-disciplined style. And both ended by reasserting the romantic bonds of friendship. Those shows were True Detective, and Doll and Em.
Their critical reception was drastically different. One was analysed and investigated to the point of parody. The other show – a much tighter work of art – was breezily and inaccurately labeled a “satire” and forgotten. To be explicit, the show about boys got way too much credit, and the show about girls got way too little.
This is how we approach “male” versus “female” work. Let’s call it the “male glance”– a narrative corollary to the “male gaze”. We all do it, and it is ruining our ability to see good art. The effects are poisonous and cumulative, and have resulted in a huge talent drain. We have been hemorrhaging great work for decades, partly because we are so bad at seeing it.[…]
The male glance is how comedies about women become “chick flicks”. It’s how discussions of serious movies with female protagonists consign them to the unappealing stable of “strong female characters”. It’s how soap operas and reality television become synonymous with trash. It tricks us into pronouncing mothers intrinsically boring, and it quietly convinces us that female friendships come in two strains: conventional jealousy, or the even less appealing non-plot of saccharine love. The third narrative possibility, frenemy-cum-friend, is only slightly less shallow. Who consumes these stories? Who could want to? […]
The male glance is the opposite of the male gaze. Rather than linger lovingly on the parts it wants most to penetrate, it looks, assumes, and moves on. It is, above all else, quick. Under its influence, we rejoice in our distant diagnostic speed. It feeds an inchoate, almost erotic hunger to know without attending – to reject without taking the trouble of analytical labour because our intuition is so searingly accurate that it doesn’t require it. Here again, we are closer to the amateur astronomer than to the explorer. Rather than investigate or discover, we point and classify.
Source/ rest: theguardian.com