One of my friends, we will just call her Sarah, is performing in a skit for Arabic Culture Night. Last night they had to film something for it, and she was acting as one of the broadcasters. Before she began filming her teacher came over to her and said that she should remove her sweater. And why should she do this? Sarah’s teacher proceeded to tell her that she should not wear her cardigan because she was wearing such a pretty dress and has a nice chest. In other words, Sarah should remove her sweater in order to look sexier for the camera.
When Sarah was recounting this tale to me, she passed it off as an awkward and laugh-worthy situation. I have been thinking about it though, and it’s more than just a little anecdote to share at dinner. I immediately thought of Mulvey’s piece on the male gaze. In removing her sweater Sarah would be exposing her shoulders and showing off her chest, appealing to the heterosexual male gaze. It’s interesting to note that Sarah’s teacher is a woman. She did not tell Sarah to remove her sweater for any gain of her own, but rather she has bought into the idea that one should look as sexy as possible for the camera. Have you ever considered why nearly almost every actor is ridiculously attractive, at least in the eyes of some majority of people? It doesn’t stop with movies and television. Sports broadcasters, news anchors, reporters, and the like all face (and often reinforce) the expectation to be as attractive as possible before going on camera. And if they don’t their producers and make-up team have something to say about it. When thinking about Sarah’s situation I also recalled the airbrushed photograph of Katie Couric that my class discussed freshman year of high school. Couric, who became the first ever female network news anchor, was airbrushed in a promotional photograph. Apparently intelligence, success, and realistic beauty don’t cut it. Here’s the picture to see for yourself:
In my discussion of Sarah and Couric, I have taken a heteronormative approach, as we have discussed with Millet and Rich. I have only talked about the woman looking the part for the male viewer. We also must acknowledge that men, too, face expectation and objectification regarding their appearances on camera. Ten minutes into the Twilight series and you’ll realize there’s no argument to be had. Nevertheless, regardless of the gender of the looker or the one on camera, it is clear that appearance on camera is meant to target human sexuality. And why is this so? Because we go for it. After all, Sarah did take off her sweater.