Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Opressed Majority

I recently came across a very interesting French short film, The Oppressed Majority created by director Elenore Pourriat. The film features a middle aged man Pierre, father to a young child and husband, and his struggles as a male in a world where females are the ones who hold the dominant power. Pierre lives in a world of jogging, bare chested women, highly ranked female police officers, Muslim men who must shave and wear head scarves, male child care workers, a world where masculism is now an actual thing! In Pierre's world, the roles in society are reversed where it is now the average male experiencing the things that we, as women have experienced ever since the very beginning of well - "mankind".

We see Pierre taking his child off to a child minder, a task usually performed by a female in our society. As Pierre approaches the door of the nursery, he is greeted by a Muslim man wearing a head scarf. Pierre comments on the man's new head gear and the way that he has been made to shave his facial hair. "Be a man!" Pierre exclaims. It was quiet fascinating, hearing the thought of a man needing to take charge of his manhood, in the way that we as women tell each other to make use of our own Independence, in such seriousness.  A man is hardly ever encouraged to take charge of his manhood. Male dominance in today's society is generally asserted. 

However, the next bit was quite interesting, and if you do not look for it, it's quite easy to miss.  As Pierre rides back home, the camera pans in such a way that it accentuates his figure. It pans down his legs as he pedals, and the whole scene is in slow motion, expressing his sexuality. Now, if Pierre was a woman, this whole scene would have felt normal. In fact, I hardly think I would have noticed what the director did. But as Pierre was a male, something about the scene seemed odd and quite offensive.

I think, taking the issue of sexism, and using a film camera to capture the irony is a genius idea, as it expressed the theme of voyeurism quite well. 

For those of you who do not know, voyeurism comes from the French word "voyeur" which means "one who looks". Voyeurism is when someone gains sexual pleasure from watching intimate sexual behaviour. In my English Lit class, we recently learnt about this theory in relation to feminism. In general society, a man is the active subject, or the one doing an action, such as looking, and a female almost always plays a passive role. She is to be looked at. A man does the looking, whereas the women does the "being". The camera lens can be seen as the male eye. When we watch a movie, the filmography is almost always going to view things from the male perspective. The next time you watch a film, try to notice the way that a woman's face is usually framed with her bust, and a males face, quite plainly shoved into our faces, without the romantics that the woman's face has. 

Elenore Pouriat played with this concept by reversing the role of a camera lens. Accentuating Pierre's neck, his legs as he rides, and the little bit of bare chest that can be seen as he takes of the top button of his shirt, in the way that a woman may pull down her shirt, or hike up her skirt. 

So in the film, Pierre is sexually assaulted by a group of vulgar, violent women. He is then taken to a police station where he is questioned by a female officer, and taken to hospital where he meets his wife, who simply just "couldn't make out if work". Now where have we heard that before?

The film ends with he wife callously stating that it was all his fault. What with those corduroy pants!? Like...no wonder you got raped bro. Undone top shirt button! Ergh! You were just asking for it weren't you? We then see her  walking into the dark empty street by herself without a care in the world, with poor Pierre left on his own. A male seen in a state of vulnerability, and women seen with self assured confidence and asserted power. The subtle things that we, only as women notice in our daily life stand out so much more in this film. As the roles are reversed, our brain is made to shift from its automatic state of "oh I'm so used to this that I'm just going to ignore it" to - "hang on, something is not right".

Elenore Pouriat is a genius. A true genius. At times I found myself smirking at the irony, the wife's callous disregard for Pierre's well being, the ignorance, the sexual abuse. The film really makes us think, it really makes us realise that this society in in a dire need for change. 

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