As already noted in relation to Laura Mulvey’s theories, the issue of the gaze is closely related to that of identification. The viewer may subjectively identify with the camera’s point of view, with that of a person which it depicts or with both (Burgin 1982c, 189). Whilst it is often observed that men tend to identify with men and women with women in film and television narratives, John Ellis (1982) argues that this is a gross oversimplification. We may, for instance, experience shifting 'identifications' with different characters, and these may not necessarily be characters of the same sex (or sexual orientation) as ourselves. Indeed, we may 'identify' with feelings or experiences rather than characters as such. And such identifications may sometimes even be contradictory.
Erving Goffman’s slim volume Gender Advertisements (1979) concerned the depictions of male and female figures in magazine advertisements. Although it was unsystematic and only some of of his observations have been supported in subsequent empirical studies, it is widely celebrated as a classic of visual sociology and deserves at least a brief mention in the current context. Probably the most relevant of his observations in the context of these notes was that ‘men tend to be located higher than women’ in these ads, symbolically reflecting the routine subordination of women to men in society (Goffman 1979, 43). The extensive selection from advertisements of the period also makes the book a useful resource for those interested in the phenomenon of the gaze, as also in the case of Judith Williamson’s equally celebrated work, Decoding Advertisements (Williamson 1978).
Another concept which may be useful in investigating 'the gaze' is 'face-ism'. The term ‘face-ism’ was coined to describe a tendency for photographs and drawings to emphasize the faces of men and the bodies of women. An analysis of magazine and newspaper photos found that 65% of a man's picture was devoted to his face, compared to 45% of a woman's (Archer, Iritani, Kimes & Barrios 1983).