This chapter offers an overview of feminist approaches to film spectatorship and reception. Covering key debates in classical feminist film theory regarding the male gaze and the female spectator, the chapter historicizes psychoanalytic feminist film theory and considers its contributions and limitations. The chapter also discusses empirical audience research and reception studies, and offers an overview of fandom studies as they relate to film and feminism. Accompanying case studies expand on the general discussion and offer specific examples for further consideration.

Chapter 2 objectives:

Introduce students to the classical feminist theories of film spectatorship

Historicize classical feminist film theory and indicate its contributions, as well as its limitations, for understanding viewers’ investments in film

Challenge the Western-centric premises on which screen theory is sometimes based

Introduce notions of oppositional spectatorship and subversive reception practices

Introduce students to reception studies, including discourse analysis and empirical approaches

Discuss feminism and fandom in the context of participatory culture and media convergence