It Looks At You

The Returned Gaze of Cinema

By Wheeler Winston Dixon

Subjects: Cultural Critique
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791423400, 238 pages, December 1994
Hardcover : 9780791423394, 238 pages, January 1995

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter One
It Looks at You: The Returned Gaze of Cinema/Video Reception

Chapter Two
Surveillance in the Cinema: The Black Box

Chapter Three
The Trans/Gendered Gaze: The "I" of the Beholder

Chapter Four
The Politics of Desire: Spectacles of the Forbidden

Chapter Five
Dreams of the State: Control of the Spectatorial Body

Chapter Six
The Armed Response: The Screen's Gaze Returned, or the Gorgon's Mirror



This is a study of the "returned gaze" from the cinema screen, demonstrating that the films that we watch watch us, guide us, control our gaze, and enforce societal codes.


This book is a study of one of the most insidious and pervasive phenomena in the study and reception of cinema: the "returned gaze" from the screen, in which the audience is actually surveilled by the film being projected on the screen. Rather than the usual process of watching a film, in those films which return the gaze of the viewer, the film looks at us, confronting our voyeur's embrace of the spectacle it presents. The book cites examples as diverse as Andy Warhol's Vinyl, Laurel and Hardy two-reel comedies, the films of Jean-Marie Straub, Jean-Luc Godard, Roberto Rossellini, and Wesley E. Barry's Creation of the Humanoids. It also discusses the history of the returned gaze in video, pornography, surveillance systems, and the related plastic arts.

Wheeler Winston Dixon is Chairperson of the Film Studies Program at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He is the author of Re-Viewing British Cinema, 1900-1992: Essays and Interviews, also published by SUNY Press.


"I think this is a work of both brilliant synthesis and stunning originality. " — David Desser, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign