What is spectatorship?
The concept springs from the idea of the ‘active audience’.
The ‘active audience’ suggests that the audience are not passive recipients of a film, but rather they actively spectate and seek meaning, which is built up from their previous experience of films, other stories and ‘cultural competences’. This is what is meant when we say we are ‘reading a film’ text as this suggests an active engagement with the text.
Another useful concept for you to consider is ‘the willing suspension of disbelief.’ This idea proposes that we engage with film as if it were real and become emotionally engaged with the characters and narrative. This pretending to ourselves that the film is ‘real’ is despite the fact we know they are actors, it’s all pretend and real life is never wrapped up so perfectly; happy endings are for fairy tales (or do we???).
What features of the film, promote spectatorship?
Watch this short film from Pixar and consider reflect upon how you are encouraged to respond to it.
The Alienation Effect
Look at this example of the ‘alienation effect’, a concept in which the director does not allow us to emotionally engage with the subject matter and prompts us to engage our intellect, such as in this advert:
Look at this diagram which attempts to explain how the relationship between a film and the spectator is constructed.
A question and a task
- Consider what factors might change or influence our understanding and emotional responses to a film.
- Find a trailer for a film that had a big impact on you and describe how you engaged emotionally and/or intellectually with the film.