Nienke Sinnema – Where the Garment Gapes: On Objectification, Narrative Structure, and Sympathy in The Fermata versus Cashback

Abstract

This essay compares and contrasts Nicholson Baker’s book The Fermata and Sean Ellis’ feature film Cashback. While the film in not an official adaptation of the book, there is a striking resemblance on the level of the fabula. Both narrative texts focus on a young man who freezes time to undress women. As such, they offer classic examples of Laura Mulvey’s male gaze, although there is an evident difference in both men’s approach to women. Based on their actions, one would assume to feel more sympathy for Cashback’s Ben than for The Fermata’s Arno. However, a case is made for the opposite. A sympathetic reading position towards Arno and a lack in willingness to engage with Ben are argued based on four principles: the distinct structures of narration and focalization, the account of readership versus filmic excess, the effects of explicit versus implicit description, and a focus on the pleasure of the text. Throughout the argumentation, an appeal is made for more openness towards what Susan Sontag calls "the genuine spectrum of sexuality" ("Classical").

Keywords

Male gaze, narrative structure, adaptation, sexuality, subject position.

Section

Articles

Pages

Digressions 1.1 (2015), pp. 44-54

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Nienke Sinnema - Where the Garment Gapes: On Objectification, Narrative Structure, and Sympathy in The Fermata versus Cashback