Magibon, “Me Doing Nothing” (2006)
Margaret Lillian Adams, better known as the YouTube personality “Magibon,” is a young American woman living and working as a pharmacy clerk at a Pennsylvania CVS. Her YouTube videos have received over 65 million combined hits. In the majority of her videos (nearly all of which are under one minute), Magibon stares directly into the camera, wide-eyed and smiling. Her first ever YouTube post depicts Magibon, as she puts it, “doing… not really anything.” She wears a tight-fitting t-shirt bearing the Coca-Cola slogan, “The Real Thing.”
According to The Japan Times, Magibon’s huge popularity is in part attributed to the fact that Japanese men adore her big, dark eyes and schoolgirl “cuteness.” They can project their fantasies onto that blank, direct gaze.
Rouben Mamoulian, “Queen Christina” (1933)
Garbo, in the famous final scene of “Queen Christina,” stands at the bow of her ship looking just past the camera, off into the distance. Christina’s lover, Don Antonio, has just died in her arms. She refuses to look back as she sails toward Spain, resolved to make Don Antonio’s home her own.
Legend has it that director Rouben Mamoulian instructed Garbo to think and feel nothing during the shot. He wanted her face to be as open and empty as possible. Garbo’s relaxed brow and tiny smirk remind me of the Mona Lisa. She looks expectant and mournful, triumphant and defeated.
Taking his cue from Mamoulian, Jonathan Glazer pushes in on Nicole Kidman in “Birth.” He holds on the close up of her face for far longer than is comfortable.
Jonathan Glazer, “Birth” (2004)
Kidman’s character has just been told by a young boy that he is the reincarnation of her dead ex-husband. Kidman’s slow blinks, the start of her smirk, the tension in her neck, the turning in when Danny Houston whispers in her ear lead me to wonder: Does she long for her dead husband? Is she repulsed by her fiancé? Is she imagining having sex with the young boy?
Watching these women, I’m reminded of the second part of John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing.”
John Berger, “Ways of Seeing” (1972)
Woe to be a woman.
– Markus Kirschner