Ways of Femininity

In the novel Ways of Seeing, John Berger says that the expressions of the two women below are similar- and they are indeed similar. But does that necessarily mean that both images are a representation of offering up their femininity?

La Grande Odalisque by Ingres & Photograph from a girlie magazine.

La Grande Odalisque by Ingres & Photograph from a girlie magazine. (Pg. 55)

I agree somewhat with Berger on the idea that their expressions looks similar, but to say that they hold the same meaning seems a little far-fetched. As similar as they may look, they are from two very different time periods. The model in the famous painting by Ingres is of an odalisque, a concubine. That said, already the two women are very different in terms of why they are posing for the painter/photographer. Not only do their occupations differ, they have very different figures. The odalisque is more plump than the skinnier model who is baring her breasts unashamedly compared to the odalisque who is looking over her shoulder to create a more demure look.

As Berger also points out, “hair is associated with with sexual power, with passion”, this creates a need to decrease woman’s sexual charms so the man can feel that he is more dominant. Once again, the difference between the odalisque and the woman in the photograph have a significant difference in the fact that the odalisque has her hair tied back with a shawl of some sort and the woman from the magazine has her hair untied and free.

That said, because of the many differences that the women have, I think that the two women are not just simply representations of offering up their femininity. I think there is more to take away from the expressions. For example, the odalisque is probably being submissive to the King’s command to have her portrait done. This can be interpreted that the odalisque might not even want to have her portrait painted; she may just be acquiescing to the command of her king.

On the other hand, the woman posing for her picture in the girlie magazine is probably posing for a very different reason in contrast to the odalisque. First off, her job, as a model, is to have her picture taken so therefore, she probably wasn’t as reluctant to have her picture taken; this leads to the conclusion that she had a completely different expression when the two are compared. Also, a major significance is the fact that the model is using her hair, a symbol of sexual power, flaunting it to her full advantage to ensnare and captivate the reader of the magazine. This shows that there is a lesser power struggle in the sense that she is not submissive as the odalisque, nor is she regarded as tool-like as a woman would have been in the time period of the odalisque. Indeed, women are sexualised and objectified to this day, but when the two images are compared, it can clearly be seen that the two woman have a vast difference in the time period in which they belong as well as the audience the images were made for.

Thanks for reading this long post and feel free to leave me a comment! 🙂

Dr. Caligari & Nosferatu… The Mystery of the Characters

Okay so personally, the silent German films that we have been told to watch would most definitely not make it onto my recommendations to others list but there are quite a few interesting themes and scenes that keep popping up in my head…

Honestly, I think that everyone is insane in some shape or form in both movies and that they all need some help.

For Caligari:

A.) Was Alan ever real or was he just an entity that Francis made up in his head?

B.) If Dr. Caligari is not an evil puppeteer and is, in fact, the insane asylum director, why does he say that he can fix Francis?

C.) Can anyone honestly find the “correct answer” to any of the questions above?

So obviously, there is no one, right answer. In fact, much of the film is shrouded in ambiguity and leaves much of it to the interpretation of the viewer. To the first question I addressed above, I really don’t know if Alan was real or if he was simply a figment of  Francis’s imagination. If Alan was an actual character, who really killed him and why? It doesn’t quite add up for someone to randomly kill him off.

Secondly, it is really odd that Dr. Caligari says that he knows how to fix Fancis. In fact, to fix him, he would have to have known or understood what Francis was thinking but that is something that is entirely in Francis’s mind. Therefore, is Dr. Caligari good or bad? To me, I believe that Dr. Caligari is still the evil puppeteer who has everyone in the palm of his hand and is secretly manipulating those around him. Or, is he really is a benevolent insane asylum director who had nothing to do with the so-called persona of Dr. Caligari? It’s quite confusing and I think it’s an open ending which is up for interpretation …. Although, The name Caligari is a foreign name, it’s Italian, not German. Therefore, it could be trying to show the fear of foreign people, ideas, or things during the Weimar Republic.

Okay, thanks for reading this and I know this is like two weeks ago but just thought it would be interesting to share! 🙂

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