Women are subjected to a lot of things and unfortunately are taught to become accustomed to certain types of subjection. Whether it be in careers or American domesticity, women are subjected to unfair and unequal standards in comparison to men. Laura Mulvey published an essay in 1975 that argued that the camera in film forced the same kind of unfair standards that existed for women in the outside world also in the world of film. She argued that there is an inherent male gaze in cinema that often portrays women in parts or in inferior positions to their male counterparts. Even when a woman is a main character in the film her role is often subjected to the decisions and emotions of the men in her life. The camera also focuses on women in ways that it rarely focuses on men. While a woman is talking it may often travel her body and linger on/highlight her legs, breasts, or hair. It constantly is compartmentalizing her. Mulvey uses examples from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and other popular films during the time to make her argument.
What’s interesting about Mo’ Better Blues is that the camera interacts with Denzel’s character, Bleek, in the way that Mulvey says it does to women. Bleek is constantly being compartmentalizing by the camera. He is cast as a musical genius and a playboy, and both those categories make the audience understand and like him for his physical capabilities. The camera is consistently zooming into his lips while he plays– forcing the viewer to admire them. When is he not playing his instrument is he often hooking up with women and therefore other parts of his body are highlighted along side his lips: his eyes, his hands, and his chest specifically. The women in the movie are not sexualized nearly as much as Bleek is– which is a rarity in this period of film (late 20th century.) Lee’s use of the male gaze on Bleek deviceful and adds to his character development or lack thereof to be honest. It is not until the end of the movie that the audience gets the chance to see Bleek as more than just a player or a musician. He becomes a father and a husband. When he transitions into these roles then the camera stops viewing him in parts and starts showing him in more full body shots and as a complex individual that had a planned out past but now an unknown future.