Masters Graduate Explores Representation of Women in Hollywood Film Musicals
Displaying a passion for film and the film industry, Ms Vyonne Hohls focused her research on how women have been represented in Hollywood film musicals, earning her a Masters in Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
With particular reference to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and Nine (2009), Hohls looked at how film techniques such as editing, lighting, camera angles and close-ups position female characters in a particular way, in order to present them as objects of sexual consumption. A part of her research questioned if there had been any significant change in the representation from the time of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to Nine, 56 years later.
Hohls’ study found that, while newer musicals such as Nine (2009) and La La Land (2016) have changed the traditional plot-line of musicals, and presented the female leads as more independent, and in more empowering positions, the norm of using editing and close-ups to present her as an object of consumption is still very much common practice.
‘I’m hoping that my research will give people a new way of looking at films and expose them to how we have in fact been conditioned by society and the media. We are constantly shown images of women that have been constructed with particular attributes and physical characteristics for audiences,’ she said.
Hohls is currently a research supervisor for the honours programmes at the IIE’s Varsity College Durban North which she finds both interesting and rewarding. ‘In the future, I would love to further my research on the representation of women in the media, and I would love to be involved in bringing about change in society’s thinking, and patriarchal practices that hinder women’s opportunities and advancement,’ she said.
Hohls thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support. ‘They constantly helped me to stay focused, and reminded me why I wanted to do this, and that I am capable.’
Her advice to other students is: ‘Definitely choose a topic that you’re passionate about, because you’re going to be living and breathing it! Don’t ever give up. Remember that time will pass, whether you’re studying or not, so why not make the most of that time. Every opinion is worth being heard – put yours out there.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo