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A2 film studies 2012_13 - VERTIGO - Lesson 5 - Critical Perspectives - Feminist Critique - Representation of Gender

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louisa cunningham

on 23 April 2015

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Transcript of A2 film studies 2012_13 - VERTIGO - Lesson 5 - Critical Perspectives - Feminist Critique - Representation of Gender

Critical Perspectives
A Feminist Critique
the representation of women
masculinity in crisis
feminist film theory
what's the focus of feminist film theory?
what is the focus of a feminist critique of film?
Key Feminist Theorists in Film
Developed in
USA early 1970s
from Sociological theory
Function of women in film
as result of wider stereotypes about gender roles in society
cultural products as reflections of
assigned to men and women
within social, political and cultural life
The film industry is
positions of power
and influence are held by men.
It is from
male perspective that

scripts are chosen
genres become
than others
actors / actresses
Key Feminists in Film
Laura Mulvey
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, 1975
Key influences of Feminist criticism

Focuses on
fantasy & dreams
, which are a
reflection of defences, wishes & guilt
expressed by conflicts in the subconscious
Believed r
esistance & transference
is a way we cope with fantasy & dreams
Mother role fundamental
to development of sub-conscious
Gender roles are learnt & based on psycho-sexual development
of the individual & the society they live in
Key terms of feminist film criticism
Women are represented from pov of male cameraman / director/ producer for male audience
Representation projects a male fantasy on female characters.
What is Post-feminist Critique?
Post-feminism is
a development
(and reaction)
to radical feminist thinking
of the 70s and 80s.
Psychoanalytical Theory as an influence
developments in feminist thinking
Objectifying women as objects
gaining pleasure from 'watching' and 'being looked at'
Women in the audience watch representations from the Male Gaze
They gain pleasure in looking at women on screen being adored by men
Watching without being looked at
Enjoyment through watching
Focus is on the
representation of women
– through characterisation & micro-elements
– their role in the plot and position in narrative
psychological, social, cultural and political critique
about the way in which women are represented in
Film and wider society
Draws on
Psychoanalytical theory
Freud / Lacan
is seen to be
represented by
of male and female characters
of actors / stars
Treatment of
male and female
actors/ stars
and development of men and women
in the industry
itself is
a social institution
and has a specific ideological function, that
reflects wider ideology about gender roles

mirror the creator's own place in society
, so representations in film will always
reflect the experience of the writer and director.
Mainstream audiences
Robin Wood
Fear of Spying, 1983
Marianne Keane
A closer look at Scopophilia; Mulvey, Hitchcock and Vertigo, 1986
Tania Modleski
The women who knew too much, 1988

obsession with death
subject of the gaze (male) & the object of the gaze (female) creates obsession

& desire for the ‘thing’
or the object
The ‘thing’
becomes a replacement for our obsession with death
Woman does not exist
, they are a symptom of man as a subject
women are
ideal objects of male desire
It argues that
women’s roles within wider society have changed
/ are changing
Women can be empowered by roles
& representations that
Feminism traditionally considered to be restricting
It also
considers the representation of men
argues there is a female gaze
applying a feminist framework
The Representation of Men
Feminist argument that Hitchcock is misogynist
His films reveal
fascination with femininity
’s consciousness
is central to the film

Hitchcock uses Scottie to explore ideas about masculinity
within wider society
Plays with Lacan’s theories
Idea of romantic love
considered feminine but experience through Scottie
Analysis & application of feminist framework to the representation of Scottie
considered irrational and therefore feminine
Dreaming / following
compared to the dialogue about Carlotta roaming San Francisco looking for her lost child
Unemployed & disabled
Therefore unable to work or rescue the woman of his dreams
Impaired vision
faulty POV shots of Scottie looking for Madeline after her death – ties Scottie to motif of Hitchcock women throughout his films (Marnie, Notorious, Psycho)
Reference to towers / sticks
Symbols of impotency
a (post)Feminist Critique reveals Hitchcock playing with masculinity through...
How can the representation of Scottie be linked to Lacan's theories ?
If woman does not exist, neither do men
Woman is a social construct, man must know and possess her for if she doesn’t exist, then neither does he
Scottie is driven by
fear of death and his own existence
Vertigo represents his fear of nothingness
If he cannot save Madeline
, his idealised fantasy of a woman, then
his masculinity is called into question
Without his masculinity, Scottie is nothing
Feminist Theorists who focus on the representation of Scottie as Hitchcock representing the 'crisis of Masculinity'
After Madeline’s death
he becomes ‘mad’ like Carlotta

Scottie is
manipulated by Elster –
a victim of a man

Use of mirrors and repetition of shots
– placement of Scottie in shot with Madeline / Judy :
Scottie wants to control Madeline / Judy but is mirroring a relationship
- who controls him?
who is the ‘looker’ and who is to be ‘looked at’
Representation of men as:
symbols of “power”
Idealised images of femininity from
male gaze
Elster is seen to
characterise this idea
plays with representation of Masculinity
in Vertigo;
female characters disrupt ‘his’ agenda
narrative structure enables us to experience the film from Judy’s pov
in the second part
Exposes male romantic love as fantasy
and fraud
male spectator is also deconstructed
Scottie is the subject
we identify
with and
film through
Our relationship with him changes as the narrative structure changes
and we know more than him
reconstruction of Judy in the image of Madeline
is considered a
ruthless analysis of male desire
the role of the
male gaze
Calls reconstruction of women into question:
reconstructs Judy into Madeline in the same way as
did before him and
did before both of them
Unit Recap so far...
A2 Film Studies
FM4 - Section C - Close Critical Study
lesson 5
Task 1 - The Female Characters in Vertigo
In pairs, for EACH female character:
Summarise their persona - how would you describe them?
What is Scottie's relationship with them?

Now, feed back your ideas to the class...
What is Feminism, Feminist Theory and Feminist Critique and ...what's it got to do with Film?!
feminism is...
feminist theory is...
a Feminist critique in film is...
The advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical discourse. It aims to understand the nature of gender inequality
According to wikipedia...
theoretical film criticism derived from feminist politics and feminist theory. Feminists have many approaches to cinema analysis, regarding the film elements analyzed and their theoretical underpinnings.
well, that's a start...but don't I need to know a bit more detail before I can develop my understanding of Vertigo as a result of applying a Feminist Critical Perspective...?
Task 2 - Reading Task Group Activity
Task 3 - Analysis of the Representation of Women in Vertigo - A Woman's Place
Madeline, Midge & Judy all represent a different type of women within 1950s society and are represented accordingly. They also assume a different 'place' within the film itself with different character roles and narrative importance.
An Introduction to Feminist Film Theories and how they apply to Vertigo
Task 4 - VLOG listening task
so...who are the Key Feminists in Film Theory relating to Vertigo?
Task 5 - Group Activity
In what ways do you think a post-feminist critique is relevant to Vertigo?
Task 6 - Discussion Activity
The Male Gaze
Task 7 - Discussion - Expectations of Masculinity & it's representation in Vertigo
In pairs, discuss some answers for the following points and be prepared to feedback to class:
1. Think of a list of adjectives that describe masculinity or masculine gender roles within our society (i.e. how do we expect men to behave?)
2. Who are the 2 main male characters in Vertigo?
3. For each, summarise their personas and how many of the adjectives you came up with earlier relate to them.
Vertigo associated with
Task 8 - Analysis of the Representation of Masculinity in Vertigo
A Summary of their ideas...
Task 9 - Making some conclusions about Scottie as representing 'Masculinity in Crisis'
Fantasy Theories
some theorists have focused further on Lacan's theories and, looking at Scottie's obsession with Madeline as his ideal woman, have attempted to link the representation of Scottie, and masculinity, to fantasy theories.
Zizek - Fantasy Realised
The Collapse of the Rescue Fantasy
task 10 - Making some Conclusions about the representation of Gender in Vertigo
Answer the questions below:
1. Do you think Vertigo is a film that focuses on femininity or masculinity?
2. How would you describe the representation of women in the film?
3. How would you describe the representation of men in the film?
4. How does the representation of men compare to that of women?
5. How has feminist film theory developed your understanding of the representation of gender in the film?
link to reading here...http://www.psychoanalysis.org.uk/epff3/berman.htm
Hitchcock talking to Truffaut regarding the meaning of the Transformation Sequence
warning...it's a bit vulgar & feminists would argue sexist!
Feminist Film Theorists - their key ideas
group presentation activity
in groups, feedback your findings from your homework. Explain to your group which theorist you looked at and what their key theories were.
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