Gender and/in film: A comparative analysis of male and female readings of Ties that Bind


Are there any meaningful differences in the way different genders read and interpret films, particularly films that focus on gender issues in Ghana? This paper seeks to answer that question by presenting a comparative analysis of the ways in which male and female audience groups interpret representations of women and women’s issues in the Ghanaian movie Ties that Bind, produced by the female Ghanaian-American independent filmmaker Leila Djansi. Critical discourses on African women’s representations in commercial video films by African women suggest that despite profit-driven conditions, female filmmakers often advance a plethora of women’s images that seek to buck gender stereotypes and present women’s issues expressed through authentic female voices and perspectives. While these observations have been made within feminist studies, how the different genders – male and female audiences – respond to representations of women by women in the commercial African video films have rarely been addressed. Ties that Bind offers an avenue through which to investigate men and women’s views on female filmmakers’ portrayals of women’s peculiar experiences and to address this lacunae in the literature. Drawing on Hall’s (2006) typologies of audience readings as conceptual framework, we analyse data collected from male and female focus group interviews to determine how these images are read, and whether there are any noticeable differences. We conclude that male participants appreciated the female characters and the challenges they face, and also found some aspects of women’s lives as portrayed in the film very instructive. Female participants on the other hand, identified with the experiences of the women and felt inspired by their courage and strength. Ultimately, our analysis, while supporting the notion that audiences produce nuanced readings and actively make meanings that reinforce their values and beliefs, also reveals the audience’s awareness of the changing socio-cultural mores that improve women’s lives.