I’ve begun working my way through Linda Williams’s Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible,'” and I was particularly struck by her description of the difference between the gendered subjects of Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies; one of her arguments is that hard-core porn is present in the construction of cinema itself, at its origin, in the 19th century scientia sexualis (per Foucault) that evinces a compulsive “desire to see” that undergirds all of cinema (p 36-39). I’m doing a disservice to the argument, of course, but I’d do an even worse job at summarizing her debunking of Laura Mulvey and siding with Luce Irigary over questions of essentializing women (the kind of Freudian analysis that made me bail on academia decades ago). The point that intrigued me, though, was Williams’s description of the difference between Muybridge’s men and women: men are depicted in his famous, landmark motion studies as being “natural” in movement, with few, utilitarian props (baseballs, garden hoes, etc), while women are accompanied by borderline-narrative details and costuming (flouncy garments, chatty scenes of conversations, smoking cigarettes, etc).
Of course I had to hunt for some documentation, to see for myself — and this stuff is fascinating, hypnotic, and naughty — it’s perversely pleasurable, so to speak. Surely I’m not the only late-night surfer whose frenzy of the visible makes him — and, duh, her — desire to see more?
Muybridge Collection: Female Subjects, 1884-87
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably gonna want to check out nekkid-fella hopscotch, right?
More, including two nearly-nekkid dudes engaging in some good, clean blacksmithing (around 1:50; does that seem “near-narrative” to you? Does to me. Hmm …):
Note: it’s not for nothing that Muybridge’s buddies called him “Eadweird” behind his back.
- Gender-egalitarian Muybridge-style leapfrogging: animation for a better world, for sure [YouTube]
- Faculty homepage for the scary-smart — and occasionally hilarious — Linda Williams [UC Berkeley]