Renegotiating the Spectacle: Authorship and the Gaze in Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty

This source preferred by Christa Van Raalte

Authors: Van Raalte, C.

Start date: 26 June 2013

Journal: The London Film and Media Reader 3

Issue: 3

Pages: 100-110

Place of Publication: London

Kathryn Bigelow is a consummate visual storyteller who approaches genre films with an art house sensibility, and whose quest to achieve a specific visual effect has led her to invent bespoke camera equipment for a number of her films. The pleasures of the spectacle and the nature of the gaze, moreover, have been explicit themes in her work: from the exploration of fetish in Blue Steel, to the futuristic vision of extreme scopophilia in Strange Days, to the emphasis on technically mediated surveillance in the Hurt Locker.

Bigelow’s engagement with visual pleasure and the spectacle is , however, paradoxical. Her work, exploits violence-as-spectacle for cinematic effect while at the same time foregrounding questions about the nature and impact of violence. Her representations of women are similarly complex, simultaneously embracing and critiquing the traditional ‘gaze’ of the camera and its alignment with a ‘masculine’ perspective.

Zero Dark Thirty has at its core both a female protagonist and scenes of extreme violence. This paper will argue that it approaches both in a manner that deliberately denies the audience the conventional pleasures of the gaze. It will explore this refusal of the spectacle in relation to Bigelow’s previous work.

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