Male Gaze in Vertigo

1063 words 5 pages
Section I
Images of Women in Film
Dr. Judith Lancioni
07, February 2012

Male Gaze in Vertigo

Several film theorists have used a variety of tactics and view points to analyze feature films since their inception. One of the most prominent theorists of those that analyze films from a feminist perspective is Laura Mulvey. Mulvey is famous for her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” which presents an array of theories involving the treatment of women in films. Arguably the most notable idea presented in Mulvey’s work is the existence of the “male gaze” in films. This essay will examine Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze in relation to Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Vertigo. Vertigo does not fit the criteria of a film that
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This occurrence is unique because it creates a dichotomy with the male gaze, since Judy is much more than an object of sexual desire. Judy becomes an active part of the “lens” through which the viewer sees the film, making it almost transcend into a female gaze for this brief period. This one scene is a clear example which shows the male gaze does not remain constantly present throughout this film. The character of Judy herself can easily represent the stereotype that the male gaze portrays for women in film. She is changed by Scottie throughout the second half of the film to resemble Madeleine, which feeds Scottie’s obsession and objectifies her. This change, however, can also be used to show a gap in the male gaze within the film due to one line uttered by Judy at the end of the film. When Judy and Scottie arrive at the top of the church and he confronts her, Judy says “I wanted you to change me because…” The key part of this statement is Judy’s assertion that she allowed Scottie to change her. If this situation was to remain typical of the male gaze, she would simply have changed because Scottie was in control. It would have been what he wished and it would have happened without a defense or explanation because she would simply be an object for his pleasure. Judy stating that she allowed the change to happen for a reason shatters that idea. Her suggestion that she allowed the changes to occur for her benefit actually puts her in a position of

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