Film Theory: Phallic Domination(Kaplan)

Kaplan: Forms of Phallic Domination (1984)

Two main cycles of films have dominated commercial cinema from the mid 1960s, in the wake of the women’s movement.

The first excluded women (the buddy-buddy film), avoiding the problem of sexual difference altogether.

The second, emerging when the problem of sexual difference could no longer be avoided, showed women being raped and subjected to violence.

The first deals with problems of production, exhibition. and distribution of independent women’s films. I focus here particularly on the contradiction inherent in the very notion of an “alternate” cinematic practice and raise questions that must be answered if we are to move out of the impasse that both feminist filmmakers and feminist critics have now reached.

We need to combine the “correct” cinematic strategy (theoretically) with consideration of the practical problems of how individual films are received (read) and of the contexts of production and reception as these affect what films can be made and how films are read.

The final chapter, a conclusion, looks at future directions in relation to the possibilities for challenging dominant patriarchal discourses.  I suggest that the figure of the Mother offers a possible way to break through patriarchal discourses since, as critics have noted, she has not been totally appropriated by dominant culture.  But this is clearly a problematic area in which much work remains to be done.

For the benefit of readers new to current film theory, I have listed below definitions of terms, concepts, and theoretical models that are used frequently throughout this book and are central to the theoretical arguments being developed.