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Feminism and Vertigo

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Anthony Walker

on 16 March 2015

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Transcript of Feminism and Vertigo

How are women represented in
What is Vertigo trying to say about the role of women in society?
“The “cool blonde” and her role in Hitchcock’s films point to a recurrent (and some would say misogynistic) pattern in the treatment of his heroines. Consistently, one of these women is reduced to a disheveled, panic stricken mess, or reveals some unexpected depth of sexual ardor. Hitchcock liked to quote nineteenth century French playwright Victorien Sardou’s advice, “Torture the women!” though he added “The trouble today is we don’t torture the women enough”
-The Women of Hitchcock – E.Wennerberg (2003)
Feminism and the representation
of women in Vertigo
A2 Film Studies
FM4: Section C
Do you agree with this quote? Do you think Hitchcock's portrayal of women is misogynistic?
Is Judy a sympathetic character?
Does Hitchcock’s obsessive camera make Novak impossible to see in a negative light simply?
She is an accomplice to murder and she has been lying to Scottie the whole time.

Why do we feel sympathetic to Judy?
What if the roles were gender swapped?

What if Judy was not a beautiful?
The women in Vertigo have roles that rely heavily on Patriarchy. Women are defined relative to men (or lack of them)
“In Vertigo, however, Hitchcock offers what is arguably his most penetrating and disturbing statement about the discontents of the contradictory male impulse toward power (with its possession of the woman) and freedom (with its rejection of the emotional ties that bind, weaken, and feminize).”
- David Boyd and R.Barton Palmer
Alfred Hitchcock: Imitation, Influence and Intertextuality
Wives, Friends, Mistresses, Nuns and tools for crimes
Women in Vertigo have no real powers and cannot exist without men
If, if I let you change it, will that do it? If I do what you tell me, will you love me?
Patriarchal Systems
When a woman's role is to make her man's life as happy as possible; while female feelings and desires are not as important in comparison...
"It can't matter to you!"
Could it be argued Judy's dialogue diminishes the role of women, and increases their reliance of men for self-esteem?
Freedom and Power
Hitchcock underlines Patriarchal ideology through the Carlotta backstory. There are three instances in which the concept of freedom and power are mentioned.

All the times are when they're done by male characters. Talking about the role of men in society.
Gavin Elster
"The things that spell San Francisco to me are disappearing fast ... I should have liked to have lived here then; color, excitement, power, freedom."
Pop Leibel
She came from somewhere small to the south of the city. Some say from a mission settlement. Young, yes, very young. And she was found dancing and singing in cabaret by that man. And he took her and built for her the great house in the Western Addition. And, uh, there was, there was a child, yes, that's it, a child, a child. I cannot tell you exactly how much time passed or how much happiness there was, but then he threw her away. He had no other children. His wife had no children. So, he kept the child and threw her away. You know, a man could do that in those days. They had the power and the freedom.
I made it. I made it. So this is where it happened. The two of you hid back there and waited for it to clear, and then you sneaked down and drove into town, is that it? And then, you were his girl, huh? Well, what happened to ya? What happened to ya? Did he ditch ya? Oh Judy, with all of his wife's money and all that freedom and that power and he ditched you. What a shame! But he knew he was safe. He knew you couldn't talk. Did he give you anything?
- Judy
"I was safe when you found me. There was nothing that you could prove. When I saw you again, I couldn't run away. I loved you so. I walked into danger, let you change me because I loved you and I wanted you. Oh, Scottie, oh Scottie please. You love me. Please keep me safe, please..."
Could it be argued that Hitchcock is using the repetition of freedom and power in such as way making a point to say that society that Scotty and Elster live in that there is a possibility that men have all the power and freedom, and women do not?
Midge makes herself into a painting. She painted her own portrait but also the way she sits, the camera work makes her appear identical to the painting.
Madeline is visually connected the the painting of Carlotta in the museum
Hitchcock uses his film techniques to objectify Judy/Madeline and other women
This encourages the idea of Voyeurism throughout the film
Here she is framed by the columns and framed by a man watching her
Here Hitchcock is using visual elements, props and settings to make female characters literally objects, thing to be looked at.
Painting itself
The Male Gaze
Laura Mulvey (1975)
Is a feminist theory as a feature of gender power asymmetry in film.

Mulvey stated that women were objectified in film because heterosexual men were in control of the camera. Hollywood films played to the models of voyeurism
It occurs when the camera puts the audience into the perspective of a heterosexual man. (For example, it may linger over the curves of a woman's body)

The woman is usually displayed on two different levels:
As an erotic object for both the characters within the film, as well as for the spectator who is watching the film. The man emerges as the dominant power within the created film fantasy. The woman is passive to the active gaze from the man. This adds an element of 'patriarchal' order.

Mulvey argues that, in mainstream cinema, the male gaze typically takes precedence over the female gaze, reflecting an underlying power asymmetry.
Therefore, as Scottie sees Judy/Madeline as an object, we too are meant to see Judy/Madeline as an object
Male Domination
In the sequence Scottie changes Judy into Madeline is an example of Male Domination.

Hitchcock shows us Judy in parts and sequences it off until she is no longer Judy anymore

If we look at the sequence in the salon where Judy is getting her Madeline make-over. Hitchcock uses a lot of close-up shots.
Do you think this has been done intentionally to make it appear that Judy (and by extension all women) is seen by the audience as the subject of men's desires - both sexual and controlled?
So, is Vertigo misogynistic?
Remember to structure your essay using the SUCL acronym:
State theoretical idea
Use theory language and film language to analyze key scene/character/sequence
Critique the theory - how else can it be read
Link to the films themes/values and context
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