Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power is a documentary by Nina Menkes and it will make you see the way women are portrayed on screen differently, even those classic, much loved films have all objectified women reinforcing a toxic status quo.
We’re all aware of how women are often, systematically sexualized on screen but this documentary brings it into sharp focus. What Nina does is take the jumping off point of “the male gaze” to dissect how camera angles are used to reinforce the objectification of women, often just parts of a woman’s torso are shown usually preceded by the long panning shots up a woman’s body etc.
The male gaze is not exclusive to male directors, female directors continue to use these types of shots as well. The example used is the opening title scene from Lost in Translation written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Most of us wouldn’t have registered the scene as being reductive but dissected you feel the full impact. Bill Murray’s character is first introduced to the audience full of thought in the back of a taxi. Yet Scarlett Johannsson’s character is introduced by a camera panning up her thighs and focusing on the sheer knickers covering her bum. When a man is shown naked or in a state of undress he is still the subject and always in motion. It’s a really interesting documentary and much needed because it’s this toxicity that reinforces how women are treated in the real world.
The team reached out to many well known male filmmakers as well as Sofia Coppola who all declined to feature in this documentary. I thought this was a well constructed documentary and when you see the evidence laid bare it does give pause for thought. Education is needed but does the audience also need to start saying we will reject films that portray women dehumanised or reduced to body parts in films?
Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power is released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from Friday 12 May.