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How Women Are Portrayed in Stanley Kubrick's Films

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Philogyny is the love, admiration and fondness towards women, not to be mistaken for gynephilia which is the sexual attraction towards femininity or women (Groes-Green, 2012). On the other hand, misogyny is the contempt for, prejudice or hatred towards women. Misogyny can be traced in women’s social exclusion, hostility, androcentrism, sexual discrimination, male privilege, women belittlement, patriarchy, women’s sexual objectification and violence that we see in the world of entertainment. Misogyny has predominantly been found in various religious texts, mythologies and writings of various influential western thinkers and philosophers.

Misogyny is the most dominant trait in Stanley Kubrick’s films where, not only are women the victims in a world that is dominated but men, but they are often reduced/viewed through their sexuality, where seduction is represented as fair game. Additionally, they are continuously linked to violence whether on the streets, in marriage or at war. Most of them succumb to it which, in most cases. is male-authored. The essay will highlight examples of Kubrick’s misogyny in four of his most popular films, namely A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut and Full Metal Jacket.

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In A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick’s concept of the film is based on a symbiosis between technology and nature, where the symbiosis crosses some set boundaries to produce a cyborg. Kubrick, through the film, tries to excite a viewer’s thoughts on the permissible and possible extent to which an individual’s nature can be manipulated without damaging his personality or individuality. Misogyny is represented in most parts of the film where in the first part, Alex, who is the film’s protagonist is a perpetrator who leads and incites his clique of droogs to commit multiple heinous crimes. Their victims include various women and a homeless man; who are objectified through their physicality and serve the gang’s sexual desires.

More specifically, in the opening scenes of the film where the viewer is introduced to Alex and his group, the Korova milk parlor’s milk dispensers and tables that are carved out as women’s bodies out of white plastic and are adorned with colorful wigs. The statues represent the subsequent women’s immobility whereby, they are entirely incapable of defending themselves against Alex and his gang’s will. The women in the film are reduced to “things” that can only be prey in the world. Also, the fight between Alex’s droogs and Billy boys over a girl which culminates into a ferocious brawl is another example of misogyny, where women seem to be portrayed not as individuals but as objects to gratify male obscene lust and sexual desire.

The Shining is another of Kubrick’s films that has been known for probing boundaries. The film’s author intends the viewer to formulate his/her opinion on some of the film’s scenes where people are entirely left to themselves and have no direct contacts with the outside world. The film implores the viewer to examine these characters and how they relate to one another, how an individual becomes insane and how he/she deals with it. Violence towards women is predominantly how the film’s author portrays misogyny where, for example, Wendy and her son Danny are almost killed by Jack as they are all under the hotel’s spell that has taken over Jack’s life and gravely affected his physical health despite them Wendy and Danny dutifully performing the family duties as Jack handles the caretaker job at the hotel albeit struggling. However, Wendy eventually takes over from Jack even though the spell almost overtakes her and tries to kill her.

Women are also portrayed as objects of sexual gratification where the author represents them as all too willing to give themselves even in death and especially to the protagonists in the film. This is against the strong views that a body in death ought to be portrayed in the light of purity and wholeness which seems not to be the case in this film owing to the levels of Kubrick’s misogyny.

In the first half of Full Metal Jacket, a viewer may be mistaken to conclude that there are no women. It is only men who are seen being stripped off of their individuality and being trained to become fighting machines. Nonetheless, characteristic of all other Kubrick films, misogyny is not absent. Once again women are portrayed as objects that are to be wielded at the pleasure of men. They are neither human nor have some sense of individuality. This is first seen when the drill’s instructor Hartman refers to soldiers as “ladies” in one roll and where, in another scene, addresses the soldier’s weapons as “women” to whom they are supposed to marry and have intercourse with presumably at war. This indicates that naturally, women are meant to listen and follow men’s commands and instructions as the soldiers did without question. As for the rifles, women are connoted to be sexually charged, thus making them men’s willing and constant companions. Kubrick equates a sexually-charged killing act to that of natural relations between a man and woman. However, there is a bit of difference between this film and the rest of Kubrick’s works since in this one, he portrays women as individuals who are equal to the tasks that men undertake, an example being the Vietnamese woman sniper who mercilessly aims and shoots at the seasoned male soldiers where she either kills or critically wounds them.

Lastly, in Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick does his best to highlight how women are portrayed and treated in most societies. As seen in the above films, Kubrick’s misogyny is never absent as when he represents women as seductresses whose primary purpose is to satisfy men’s sexual desires, lusts and appetites. This is in addition to putting forth an argument to the viewer that even the women themselves are at times responsible for putting their fellow women in the roles that men envision for them. In one of the scenes, women are seen naked and lining up to satisfy Bill’s nocturnal odyssey at his wife Alice’s behest.

Women’s unimportance of their individuality is portrayed as they perform their duties of satisfying men’s drives and fulfilling their wishes with masked faces. They are the center of attraction/attention as the film’s solely focuses on their statuses as objects to be gazed at by others and more especially by men.

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