Gaze theory, which attempts to explain the power of spectatorship and of the eye, is usually supported by the role and power of pleasure. Clifford T. Manlove argues that attributing the power of the gaze to pleasure, as Laura Mulvey does, minimizes its meaning. He argues that the gaze, in three specific Hitchcock films, is actually about women as the true heroes trying to resist the male gaze and make sense of the world around them. Mulvey characterized the feminine gaze with “nostalgia and repression.”
He argues that there is a split between the gaze and the eye. The gaze becomes the invisible and the eye is the real. In Vertigo, Scottie's vertigo is the gaze and other objects or characters, such as the nun at the end, is the real. In Blackmail, it is Alice's gaze because the knife used to kill Crewe and the real is the portrait of the jester that reminds her of her shame. Manlove asserts that if the gaze could be verbalized than it wouldn't be a gaze resulting in death. If Alice had been able to express herself, would she have had to reach for the knife?
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” 17 Jan. 2007. Brown Wiki.
Laura Mulvey uses psychoanalysis to highlight the ways in which film reveals society’s view on sexual differences and desires. The paper explores the structured implementation of phallocentric themes which acknowledge the dominance of the male gender. Such an argument is centered around the image of a castrated woman. Mulvey states that “woman's desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it.” Without the male reproductive organ, the woman is at a loss. The sole meaning for a woman is to signify the existence of the better male version. Deriving their meaning solely from males, women passively submit themselves to the wants and obsessions of the imposing male. By analyzing this concept, Mulvey believes that feminists can find the true roots of female oppression. The paper explains that the magic of Hollywood is derived from its manipulation of visual pleasure. The article discusses the integration of erotic themes in film and the meaning of such undertones.
Mulvey discusses the way that the male looks at the female in Vertigo. Scottie looks at Madeleine in a way that fluctuates between “voyeurism and fetishistic fascination.” Scottie’s desire to remake his lost love and Judy’s willingness to do so, is an example of his dominance over her. Through the use of camera techniques, Hitchcock allows the viewer to take Scottie’s perspective and thus take on his position. The paper relates Scottie’s drive to reconstruct Madeleine to a fetish. As a woman, Judy knows that her role is to submit, and realizes that such a role is necessary to retain his erotic interest in her.
This paper affirms the feminist belief that Hollywood seeks to affirm male dominance by integrating it into its films. The oppressive manner in which men look at women, the “male gaze,” can be demonstrated through point of view shots. By making Madeleine the object of the camera’s desire (Scottie’s), the audience also experiences the possession. The paper is important as it serves as an example of feminist reaction to Hitchcock’s film.
Manlove, Clifford T. “Visual ‘Drive’ and the Cinematic Narrative.” Cinema Journal 2007, 83-108.
Project MUSE. University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia. 4 Apr. 2008.
In this essay, Clifford T. Manlove comments on Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and its application to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Manlove explores the concept of “gaze theory” to explain opposing perceptions of the events that happen in the film. This idea of gaze refers to how the surrounding world views the presented characters. According to Manlove, Vertigo provides us with an “example of the formative split between the eye and its gaze.” The split is caused by Scottie’s near-death experience at the beginning of the film. Through the use of subjective camera positioning, we too as an audience experience a change in perception as we follow him around. Scottie’s vertigo forms a barrier between him and the people and objects that surround him. Things that may appear ordinary to others take on a special visual meaning to him. Manlove uses the example of the policeman who saves Scottie. Scottie sees a horrifying fall below him, while the policeman is unaffected and reaches out to help him. As an audience we can gaze upon Scottie, but only through camera techniques can we truly see how he sees. Hitchcock invented the “Vertigo shot” as a means of conveying his unique perception. The camera tracks backwards while zooming in, thus highlighting the occurrence of the split. “What to a rational observer looks like an alleyway, Scottie sees as a threatening object, simultaneously approaching yet infinitely receding.” Manlove goes on to relate the gaze to Scottie’s failure to save Madeleine, and its eventual result in Judy’s death. The essay further applies the concept of gaze to Rear Window and Marnie.
Manlove’s analysis helps us distinguish the fact that what the surrounding characters in the film see may be different from what Scottie sees. As an audience we are provided with insight into Scottie’s troubled mind by understanding the effects of his vertigo and how this might affect his insistence in reconstructing his lost love. Manlove helps us see that the story is driven by and conveyed through Scottie’s unstable state of mind. It is clear that Manlove has an appreciation for the techniques that Hitchcock used to convey his vision.