Death of the Female Gaze


Marion's lifeless body; captured in a stare that depicts the stayed and powerless female gaze.  Marion's lips are open but she is voiceless.

Marion's lifeless body; captured in a stare that depicts the stayed and powerless female gaze. Marion's lips are open but she is voiceless.

 Post 3         

            Marion steals Tom Cassidy’s money and this is her biggest mistake.  Money is power and power is awarded only to the patriarchs of society.  Marion does the unthinkable; she not only relieves Cassidy of his money but takes power awarded him by the symbolic order of American culture.  Marion attempts to increase her cultural capital by decreasing Cassidy’s and for this she is persecuted, firstly, by her own conscience, then by the Highway Patrolman who appears to be tracking her cross country and later by Milton Arbogast, the flatfoot who is more interested in recovering the forty thousand than Marion.

            In her haste, Marion finds herself isolated at the Bates Motel facing further persecution by Norman Bates and the ghost of his mother.  Norman’s interest is not money but desire.  Marion becomes the object of Norman’s desire and this places her at the mercy of his underdeveloped ego that fluctuates between obsession, jealousy, guilt and remorse (Lacan 89).  Marion must be eliminated; her voice silenced and her gaze shut out.  The price for Marion’s act of self-interest is her life.

            Marion’s death restores symbolic order. As the murderer completes his grisly mission and Marion falls on her knees in the bathtub, the camera looks down directly at her naked form and “the image of the castrated woman [gives] order and meaning to its world” (Mulvey 6).  Hitchcock’s lens then circles down to capture Marion’s frozen face.  Marion’s eyes are wide open, her mouth slightly gaping but she is unable to see or speak as she lays draped almost seductively over the edge of the tub, the life draining quickly from her exposed and vulnerable body.  The camera pans slowly to the money rolled earlier into the newspaper and placed by the bedside, it lingers there a moment signifying that vindication for Marion’s unconscionable act, interfering with the symbolic order and Tom Cassidy, is complete.  Mulvey writes that “[p]ower is backed by a certainty of legal right and the established guilt of the woman….the man is on the right side of the law, the woman on the wrong” and Marion was definitely presented as being on the wrong side of the law and contrary to the expectations defined by the symbolic order (Mulvey 12-13).  

            In comparison, Daisy finds herself in a much better position.  Unlike Marion who is independent and on her own, Daisy resides with her parents.  Daisy has the patriarch of the family looking out for her best interests and protecting her and her honour.  When Daisy is tempted by the money and gift of the Lodger, it is her father who becomes angry and insists on returning the expensive present to the Lodger.  Daisy is too innocent to understand the implications of accepting such a personal token – implications that may involve sexual favours.  Although Daisy demonstrates chagrin at her father’s urgent and set decision, she does not interfere and he with determination returns the gift letting the Lodger know that his daughter and her affections cannot be purchased.  There is no disruption of symbolic order in this instance and Daisy is permitted to carry on happy, healthy and whole.

 "The image of the castrated woman restores order to its world."  Laura Mulvey "Visual Pleasure"


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