Comparative Analysis of American and Italian Films

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Mohanty’s Under the Western Eyes offers criticisms to homogenous presuppositions and perspectives associated with texts of Western feminists. These texts give a closer look at the position of women during the Third World War. Mohanty (64) notes that non-Western women have been discursively colonized and rendered the collective other. Arguably, the universal classification of most females in non-Western countries happen based on the developed monolithic classifications and terms (Mohanty 64). The approach implies considering women in third world countries as uneducated, victimized, poor, and conservative. Mohanty challenges the ideas that overlook the categorization of non-Western women without acknowledging the ethnic, class, and racial perspectives to which they are affiliated. Noteworthy, Mohanty not only focuses on revealing the ethnocentric notions that ignore women’s diversity in the large geographical continuum by placing them under a universal identity. She also points out the constructed discourse arising from the dichotomous differences of opposition, which imply invariable relationships of inferiority and superiority.

Mohanty (65) argues that the idea of over-generalizing women disrupts their unity and solidarity while causing their stratification into opposite groups. The first one is a Western woman who enjoys universal liberation and equality, has control over her sexuality and body, and is intelligent, educated, and superior. Then, there is a non-Western woman who is sexually battered, uneducated, and victimized, hence the need for some restoration occurs. As a result of the implicit classification of women, power asymmetries render Western feminism as withholders of knowledge by the way of texts and language, unlike third world women who face oppression (Mohanty 65). Mohanty (72) argues that the consideration of politics in cultural discourses, unconsciousness regarding the impact of Western scholarships on the third world, and conceiving third world women as victims could cause extreme consequences. Western scholarships can trigger modern imperialism; thus, the necessity to appreciate the implications of the third world on a nation’s border becomes prevailing.

Similarities and Differences between American Blaxploitation Films and Italian Filone Erotico Esotico Films

The two films exploit the 19th and 20th centuries in their perspectives of the colonial Black Venus that seeks to establish contemporary stories regarding the dominated female character (Caponetto 192). It considers Eritrea’s top model Zeudi Araya, whose choice as Miss Ethiopia became a clear evidence of Italy’s regal record and the epoch that Ethiopia and Eritrea were under East African Empire. Being a successor of Black Venus, the model became popular by appearing in demonstrated pamphlets that depict the explored swath of Africa by the Italians. The extensive drawings, written accounts, and photographs of Africa made colonialism an influential tool for documenting the Italian thoughts along with its insinuations of the naked and partially nude Black Venuses that intensified territorial conquests. Anne McClintock elucidates on the travel documents of Europe that used native women as an immense resource for Scattini’s style.

The achievements of the European regal endeavor are aligned to a woman’s possession instead of the colonial control and conquest acts. McClintock further discusses the control over a novel land as an unsure prospect whereby the erotic desires for ownership are evident with the dread of becoming demolished (Caponetto 193). By asserting the differences that exist between the ruled and the ruler, colonial power appears to have changed the Black Venus image. Moreover, the erotic notion of black women signifies the imminent risk of the lustful while black womanliness showcased the subjugation appeal, an aspect that was inexistent among the European women. However, the sexism of black females was exploited as a means of supporting gender roles that are instigated by fascism. By safeguarding the racial purity, Italian women were compelled to join their African spouses in order to battle the charm associated with the native females using obedient and submissive actions to enhance faithfulness. It also applies to Sotto la Croce del Sud whereby crucial moments of altering contrasting sight of naked Abyssian women took place. These females performed fertility rites using family scenes while the Italian settlers sat to enjoy the attention from their wives.    

There are also differences between the two films whereby the American films comprise of strong and autonomous black women who help their troubled community through making choices in different aspects of life (Caponetto 195). Thus, they are using their bodies and men as weapons through sexual appeals to accomplish that objective. Despite that Blaxploitation films are criticized for the extreme stereotypes regarding African Americans and the lack of artistic reasons, the feminine spectators may have had varied perspectives and showed fantasies of strong characters. Contrarily, Scattini’s posters and titles failed to allow black characters the identity and the agency they deserve. In the case of the eroticized colonial Black Venus, whose sexuality embraced danger, Zeudi Araya was consistent in playing as a seminude seductress who did not carry weapons. By being uncovered of what rendered the Black Venus as a carnivore, Zeudi’s temperament, especially for the initial Scattini’s films, awarded her a replica of womanliness that varied from the terrorist women of the 1970s.

Films such as De Robertis’s II Mulatto attempted to demonstrate Italy’s cultural locality based in the United States. America was certainly a new friend and accomplice during the period of the Marshall Plan and postwar recovery. In this case, the issue of miscegenation did not just allow II Mulatto’s delivery in the American periphery but also raised the grave question of Italian citizenship and sense of belonging (Caponetto 197). The use of American constitutional democracy and Christian universalism in the film yielded the logic of equal rather than separate. Italy was, therefore, unable to claim its colony rights, hence the lack of politically-instigated art movements in its intellectual groups, unlike in the case of American, occurred.

Laura Mulvey’s Two Avenues

The greatest issue in a woman as a figure is the signification of sexual difference, the threat of castration, and the lack of a penis. These shortcomings are attempts to threaten a woman’s unity and image. As a result, a female depicted as an icon is displayed for the admiration of men who are the active controllers of her appearance (Mulvey 200). Thus, men threaten to evoke the anxiety of their initial signification, which has contradicted their perception of women. Therefore, the woman strives to escape the anxiety of being castrated owing to her desire to maintain her diegesis; thus, there is the need for men to take into consideration the two avenues. First, males ought to consider voyeurism, which implies a direction towards sourcing for anxiety. Therefore, a woman is investigated and demystified as a mystery (Mulvey 205). The anxiety is combined with punishment, devaluation, and restoring the guilty object. In a typical film, a woman has a sadistic element on issues of assuring judgment, punishment, and control.

The second avenue that men should not overlook is fetishtic scopophilia, which entails discouraging the vow of castration by the way of introducing fetishes of female figures. The fetish perspective, in this case, involves taming, reassuring, and providing satisfaction to a woman. Sternberg’s films with Marlene Dietrich give their perspectives of the fetishtic scopophelia, which in essence develops a context for the absence of identification with a male star. In fact, it is about focusing on Dietrich primarily as a fetish object. Therefore, there is little or the lack of mediation of the viewer’s gaze through a male character because the latter is blind, but the spectator can see. Hitchcock’s films, on the other hand, depend on voyeurism to a limited extent since the viewer can see through a male protagonist by assuming subjectivity (Mulvey 206). Hitchcock ensures that the audience voyeurs as much as the pioneer protagonist does. Therefore, the audience is attached to the voyeuristic scenario in the diegesis and satirizing screen scenes.

Works Cited

Caponetto, Rosetta G. "Blaxploitation Italian Style. Exhuming and Consuming the Colonial Black Venus in 1970s Cinema in Italy." In Lombardi-Diop, Cristina, and Caterina Romeo (eds.). Postcolonial Italy. Challenging National Homogeneity (189-201). Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses." Feminist Review, vol. 30, 1988, pp. 61-88.

Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." In Brandy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen (eds.). Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (198-209). Oxford UP, 1999.

August 01, 2023




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