Psychoanalytical Theory and the “Male Gaze”

Post 2            

             Both The Lodger and Psycho, contain scenes that depict the vulnerable state of women (Brill 264).  Daisy is seen leisurely bathing in a room cut off from the rest of the household; naked, exposed and defenseless.  She is oblivious to the disembodied hand that sinisterly turns the doorknob and to the equally sinister specter that seeks entrance to her room in order to wreak havoc.  In comparison, Marion confidently and with no trepidation enters the shower in Room One of the Bates Motel, equally isolated from the rest of the world.  She too is naked, exposed and defenseless as a ghost-like figure, seen through the shower curtain, enters the privacy of her quarters with malicious intent.  Hitchcock uses “radical camera angles” and film editing in an attempt to evoke and intensify “an aura of menace” that lends to the overall suspense of his films (Brill 264).  Marion succumbs to the murderer’s deadly advances but Daisy is spared the same fate and lives happily-ever-after. Hitchcock displays his power and control over each story’s unraveling by deciding the fate of each woman.  He sneaks up on these women, using the camera to spy on them in their most vulnerable state when they are helpless and least expecting intrusion or harm.

              W. Hesling states that “the camera behaves like a Peeping Tom” (Hesling 186).  He focuses on the spectator’s perspective and its importance to Hitchcock’s ability to maintain an atmosphere of suspense throughout his films.  By looking directly into the camera, Marion’s terrified gaze captures the voyeur in the act thereby drawing the audience into the scene and intensifying the shock and dismay experienced by the spectator during Marion’s brutal murder.  Although Hitchcock’s voyeuristic style encourages drama and suspense, it is also viewed as “promoting patriarchal power” through Hollywood and film because of the “active male gaze” and its focus on “the pleasure in looking” or, as termed by Freud, “scopophilia” (Manlove 83-4).  This theory is based on the psychoanalytical analysis of Laura Mulvey in her essay “Visual Pleasure” but it incorporates Freud’s work involving scopophilia.  Freud studies the voyeuristic and erotic tendency to transform “people [into] objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze” that arouses feelings of sexual desire (Manlove 88).

            Mulvey’s work is limited and focuses only on the male gaze and its implications on creating and supporting a patriarchal society.  The binary opposition to this would involve the female gaze and the interpretation of the world from the woman’s perspective.  In both movies, Marion and Daisy are exposed to copious amounts of money by men of power.  Marion is tempted by Tom Cassidy’s cash, forty thousand dollars, as he waves it under her nose, looking at her suggestively, attempting to seduce her as he claims, “I never carry more than I can afford to lose!” (Psycho).  While Daisy finds herself the object of the Lodger’s attention as he purchases a dress he sees her model in the store where she is employed.  A dress Daisy could never possibly afford.  This signifies that men control the finances giving them power to acquire objects; the implication is that Marion and Daisy are objects rather than people.  In The Lodger‘s credits, Daisy is described as “a mannequin” reinforcing the attitude that women are considered objects rather than viable members of society.  Although thirty three years separate The Lodger and Psycho, both women are similarly trapped by the same societal expectations that continue to award men position while forcing women to succumb to their advances so that they can increase their cultural capital in order to secure respect and become valued members of their community.

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2 Responses to “Psychoanalytical Theory and the “Male Gaze””

  1. Interesting point about the female gaze – can you expand upon this idea a bit more? Does the camera shut down or foreclose the female gaze?

    Great post..

    • staginghitchcock Says:

      I will be expanding on the female gaze in Post 3. I will also be using more of Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure” and moving into the theories of Lacan. Thanks for the encouragement.

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