Mirrors are an intricate part of cinema's history. Filmmakers have made great use of their reflective capabilities: George Méliès used them like a magician would, hiding elements in his trick films. And Steven Spielberg milks their emotional possibilities, often showing characters looking at something through a window, making their reaction visible alongside the event itself. And they're a great way to circumvent the traditional shot-reverse shot setup for a conversation scene, showing both characters in the same frame.
Over the 100+ years of film history, some tropes have emerged in the preponderance of cinematic mirrors. Many a horror film or thriller has relied on the shock value of a presence suddenly turning up behind the main character. Most chase scenes feature a shot of the driver nervously checking his rear view mirror. And how many times have we seen a man catch a glimpse of the woman he has prudently turned his back on while she's changing?
This video essay explores another such trope: scenes in which characters stop at a mirror and finally look themselves in the eye. This confrontation with the self often provokes an emotional response, which the essay proposes to be gendered. While female characters more often point their emotion inwards, ending up either crying or berating themselves for almost crying, men lash out, turning emotion into violence. There are counter-examples to both, of course, but taken together this type of scene definitely trends towards gender stereotypes.
Originally created for Fandor in April 2016. Re-uploaded here after Fandor took it down.