Narrative of Unpleasure: Teresa de Lauretis Vs Laura Mulvey

Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” published in 1975 called for a a women’s cinema that spoke with “a new language of desire,” one that would bring about the destruction of visual pleasure (qtd. in de Lauretis 589).

Teresa de Lauretis in “Desire in Narrative” published in 1984, however prefers a “women’s cinema [that] must embody the working through of desire: such an objective demands the use of the entertainment film” (577). She does not advocate “the replacement or the appropriation or, even less, the emasculation of Oedipus” (590). Instead what she finds exciting about feminism in cinema is “not anti-narrative or anti-Oedipal… It is narrative and Oedipal with a vengeance, for it seeks to stress the duplicity of that scenario and the specific contradiction of the female subject in it” (590).

This is EXACTLY what one finds in ALL three films in the essay. It’s not hard to justify why The Company of Wolves (1985) with its Angela Carter rewrite of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale turning it pornographic and in the process reclaiming it for women; and Ginger Snaps (2000) with its female head writer, Karen Walton, controlling the reigns of the narrative, repositioning the werewolf narrative as a distinctly female narrative by tying the lunar cycles to menstrual cycles are pieces of women’s cinema.

But Cat People (1942)  too, addresses de Lauretis’ call to action for women’s cinema and can be read retroactively as a feminist text. This, despite its all-male behind the scenes cast and crew, because of the way in which the female lead, Irena Dubrovna, is cast as BOTH victim and villain. The duplicity of the character highlights the contradictory roles women have been cast in.

Furthermore, all three films are highly watchable, unlike certain landmark films in feminist cinema *cough*cough*Born in Flames (1983) *cough* which I had to sit through last semester and didn’t enjoy at all…………………..

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