During the process of research, I have encountered several difficulties. One of them is the narrowing of the study focus. My research topic is “The Representation of Women in the Hollywood Cinema.” Initially, I wanted to focus solely on the noir cinema. Still, then it was decided to include the evaluation of other genres as well to increase research objectivity and credibility. Various movie styles are associated with distinct audience expectations. While some of the women characters are endowed with similar features and are created for similar purposes, the representations of women in other genres may be somewhat vague and less stereotypical. Based on this, it seems that the inclusion of different types of cinema will be very beneficial for my dissertation.
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For this reason, I think that the movie genre should not be the main criterion for the narrowing of research focus. I tend to believe that the character and nature of gender stereotypes in those films should be the measure. It means that I will pay greater attention to particular prejudices associated with female roles rather than the genre of a picture. For instance, along with the femme fatale characters, I would like to research representations of women as victims (e.g., “final girl” in horror movies), sexual objects, supporters and followers of male characters, etc. Additionally, it could be useful to investigate the representation of stereotypical women’s aspirations, goals, and desires, as shown in Hollywood movies, e.g., “Bride Wars” (2009), “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (2009), and so on.
Since the range of genres is broad, I think to focus on the issue of male and female spectatorship and evaluate the selected stereotypes in the given context. For instance, it is possible to apply Mulvey’s Male Gaze Theory and assess how women identify themselves with the passive femininity implied in gender representations in cinema and adopt masculine points of view. Additionally, since my research is meant as a retrospective and historical analysis, I will consider the quantitative side of the issue, i.e., examine the frequency of negative gender representations over time.
Overall, the selection of movies for the review remains in progress, and a lot of work should be done in this area. Since I did not come to the final decision on the genres and movies so far, the structure of my dissertation is under question as well. Nevertheless, I am not much concerned with the given aspect of the research process as it likely will be resolved as soon as the film portfolio is clarified. I will also continue to review the relevant theories and literature findings pertinent to my research topic – it will help me to build a greater understanding of the methodology, and advance my current research questions.
The research process in any field of knowledge is constituted of several basic steps, including the identification of theoretical or philosophical approach, development of research problems, formulation of study objectives, strategy and methodology design, the setting of scopes and boundaries, and data analysis. When working on my dissertation, I attempt to follow all these phases. It turns out that all these different research processes are interrelated. For instance, I started with the selection of a research theme (gender representations in cinema). Then, after the examination of the nature of the topic, the choice of the feminist theory naturally emerged as it is one of the best ways to evaluate gender relationships in cinema.
Nowadays, the findings in the feminist film critical studies are comprehensive, and there is a large pool of the literature from where it is possible to derive valuable information pertinent to the subject of female representation in Hollywood cinema. At the same time, the large amounts of data may be confusing as well and make the establishment of research boundaries challenging. It was a major difficulty in my case. The analysis of cinema throughout over 60 years seems a little bit intimidating because it requires a lot of effort and time. However, my concerns ceased as I continued to review the theories and academic literature in film criticism and feminist studies in particular. At the current moment, I have located nearly twenty pieces of literature, including books, chapters, and articles on gendered expectations, female representations, feminism, etc. Some of these studies are merely theoretical, and the knowledge retrieved from them will be used as a framework for the dissertation.
Additionally, some studies are critical works that evaluate the same problem from various points of view. By reviewing multiple perspectives on the topic of my interest, I understood in what direction I should move with my research. The review of the literature also helped me to understand what films will fit my topic better.
To address the discussed difficulties more efficiently, I would adopt a more systematic approach to the accumulation and storage of the relevant information. For example, it could be useful to keep the notes I wrote on various sources and reviewed movies in a more organised manner, e.g., in an online graph, table, etc. The earlier adoption of such an approach could significantly reduce confusion and, at the same time, increase productivity and speed of work.
I will continue to investigate the existing knowledge supporting my research, and I can certainly say that more new ideas will emerge as a result of the investigation. However, the theoretical perspective will remain unchanged – it can be regarded as the core of the research process. The review of the theory, which I have accomplished so far, was eye-opening and made me appreciate the research direction which I chose. Now I understand that feminism is essential to the implementation of ethical principles within the society. It is a form of a social movement aimed to develop democratic principles, actualise the ideals of civil society, and it is an important element of cultural transformations in the humanitarian context. At the same time, movies, as cultural texts, create and preserve meanings, life values, social orientation, behavioural standards, and so on. When we analyse those texts through the prism of humanitarian culture, i.e., from the feminist perspective, we become able to understand to what extent the ethical values are mirrored in the cinema or other forms of art and, in this way, comprehend the degree to which those values are practised within the society.
In my opinion, the research on gender representation is valuable for two major reasons. First of all, it may contribute to the progression of the theory and knowledge that already exist. Secondly, it may have some practical, social implications because by criticising the traditional patriarchal conception of social and human development, it suggests an alternative in which women are perceived as active subjects of the cultural process, equal to men. I strongly believe that the given idea is worth further evaluation and promotion as it has undeniable ethical value.