Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

Myopia and the (Fe)male Gaze in Yolanda Pallin's la Mirada and ?Entiendes?

Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

Myopia and the (Fe)male Gaze in Yolanda Pallin's la Mirada and ?Entiendes?

Article excerpt

In Madrid's circle of alternative theater, Yolanda Pallin is the best-known woman dramatist of the last decade. (1) Since 1992 when her first play, Hiel, premiered in Madrid, Pallin has authored more than one play per year, and most of her works have been staged and published. (2) Three of her plays have received major critical attention in the form of theater prizes. In 1995 La mirada was a finalist for the Marques de Bradomin Prize for young dramatists and Los restos de la noche won the Maria Teresa Leon Prize for Women Playwrights. The following year Los motivos de Anselmo Fuentes was awarded the prestigious Calder6n de la Barca Prize. Virtudes Serrano has observed that Pallin's theater, like that of most of her contemporaries, reveals a desire to project onto the stage an image of the world in which we live. (3) Consequently, her plays portray the challenges that confront the human condition in contemporary society: violence, isolation, materialism, the search for identity, and the struggle to establish o r to maintain relationships. In form, Pallin's works display the dramatist's recognized practice of and avowed interest in breaking with dramatic conventions in order to create a theater whose nature is experimental and innovative. (4)

Feminist discourse and gender issues inform a number of Pallin's plays. Los restos de la noche and D.N I., for example, dramatize mental illness (specifically, affective mood disorders) and portray the extreme psychological discomfort that can result when people feel forced to comply with traditional gender roles. Although gender issues also characterize La mirada and ?Entiendes?, (5) the focus of the present study will demonstrate that these works depict relationships in which people look but fail to see, discern, or understand the other. La mirada underscores that chance encounters, fleeting and superficial by nature, cannot eradicate the pervasive solitude and separation that in Pallin's theater characterize the human condition in contemporary society. ?Entiendes? signals that communication is a subjective process involving more than external looks or the speaking of words.

La mirada is a short play divided into two parts. In each part there is an encounter in a park between two unnamed characters called Mujer and Hombre. Both encounters progress through three stages: an initial stage of verbal aggression and hostility, a middle stage of comradery, and a final stage of separation brought on by deceit and illusion. Part 1 opens as the young Woman turns to the elderly Man beside her on a park bench and orders him to move away from her. When he responds by asking whether he is bothering her, she insults him and requests that he "Haga el favor de apartar su asquerosa mirada de mi persona" (67). The Man, a childless widower, insists that his gaze is "tierna," such as a father's for his daughter, but the Woman accuses him of being a "viejo verde" (ibid.). This accusation raises issues such as male mastery and woman as spectacle. As Laura Mulvey asserts, "[w]oman displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle." (6) Nevertheless, since both characters are profoundly ne edy of human contact and companionship, they continue to argue. Each accuses the other of initiating the conversation, presumably because the instigator must represent the more lonely of these two, somewhat pathetic characters. The Man deliberately avoids looking at the Woman because her accusation that he is a dirty old man has wounded his pride. In spite of her initial reaction to his "asquerosa mirada," the Woman so desperately seeks to escape her solitude by establishing some kind of contact with the Man, that she is willing to be objectified by his gaze. In fact, in three successive speeches she moves from inviting him, to ordering him to look at her: "Puede mirarme ya"; "Puede mirarme. Si quiere"; "Mireme" (68). The Man stubbornly refuses to look at her. (7)

As her rancor subsides, their encounter enters the middle stage of comradery. …

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