From the beginning that Mary is the one “to be looked at,” not the bearer of the look. When Matthew first meets Mary, he stares at her, struck by her beauty. As seen in the shot below, the viewer forms an implied association with Matthew and is led to view Mary in a similar manner. From their first meeting, Mary is already classified as an object.
Mary is looked at:
Matthew keeps looking at her during the dinner with Pamuk, watching her flirt and parade around with another man while ignoring him. Thus, she is viewed as a seductress, easily tempted and therefore weak in her resolve. The viewer’s sympathy is directed towards Matthew, the hero, and we are meant to think badly of Mary here. Additionally, there’s a power struggle at work: Matthew appears to want Mary for himself, itching to keep an eye (and thereby control) her movements and behavior. Her availability to other men—and thus, her freedom—seems to unsettle him.
Matthew’s rather stern look of reprimand:
Mary is also viewed voyeuristically, further objectifying her as well as increasing her sexual value. Matthew literally hides behind the door and stares at Mary’s figure, a look of yearning and hunger in his eyes:
As an object, Mary’s full figure, including her bare back, is revealed as she walks the length of her room:
Matthew’s gaze is stronger in the climatic scene in Episode 6, where he looks at Mary while her eyes are turned downwards, suggesting her submission and powerlessness.
However, we only see Mary’s face during the kiss. By keeping Matthew’s face hidden, Mary is displayed once again. The viewer can relish in seeing her muscles flex, her mouth open, her chest heave, her fingers touch. By virtue of being unreadable, Matthew is more powerful while Mary is shown as the desired, the seductress, the weaker of the two.
As in Mulvey’s conclusion, Mary’s character is written to be saved and punished. Matthew is perceived by those around her as a figure who will save her. Her mother tells her not to quarrel with him because one day she may need him, under the assumption that Mary will find a powerful protector in him. Her grandmother notes that Matthew’s proposal is the “only decent offer she will ever get.” Mary is also punished in several ways: in the highly charged episode 3, Pamuk literally throws himself at her and steals her virtue, thus symbolically punishing her for her forwardness and rejection of the hero (Matthew) earlier; Matthew himself rejects her just as she attempts to voice her desire for him.
Matthew’s furtive look:
Mary displayed and Matthew’s face hidden again:
1. Downton Abbey, 2010. TV Series. Directed by Brian PERCIVAL. UK: CARNIVAL FILMS.
1. Season One screencaps: visionsbeyond.livejournal.com
2. Season Two screencaps: stuckinpast.livejournal.com
The Object of His Gaze by mysticgypsy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.