Laura Mulvey (born August 15, 1941) is a British feminist film theorist. She was educated at St Hilda's College, Oxford. She is currently professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck, University of London. She worked at the British Film Institute for many years before taking up her current position.
Mulvey is best known for her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, written in 1973 and published in 1975 in the influential British film theory journal Screen. It later appeared in a collection of her essays entitled Visual and Other Pleasures, as well as in numerous other anthologies. Her article, which was influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, is one of the first major essays that helped shift the orientation of film theory towards a psychoanalytic framework.
"Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" was the subject of much interdisciplinary discussion among film theorists that continued into the mid 1980s. Critics of the article pointed out that Mulvey's argument implies the impossibility of the enjoyment of classical Hollywood cinema by women, and that her argument did not seem to take into account spectatorship not organised along normative gender lines. Mulvey addresses these issues in her later 1981 article, "Afterthoughts on 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' inspired by King Vidor's Duel in the Sun (1946)," in which she argues a metaphoric 'transvestism' in which a female viewer might oscillate between a male-coded and a female-coded analytic viewing position. These ideas led to theories of how gay, lesbian and bisexual spectatorship might also be negotiated. Her article was written before the findings of the later wave of media audience studies on the complex nature of fan cultures and their interaction with stars. Queer theory, such as that by Richard Dyer, has grounded its work in Mulvey to explore the complex projections that many gay men and women fix onto certain female stars (e.g. Doris Day, Liza Minnelli, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland).