For my presentation I wanted to talk about the way violence was described in the book. Numerous times in the book when the characters were talking about violent acts they seemed very emotionless and impassive. For example when the narrator is talking about Violet slashing Dorcas’ face during the funeral, the way she’s talking about it seems very casual and unemotional. It’s as if Violet’s insane act is normal and things like that happen all the time. Violet also doesn’t get in trouble for her act and simply gets thrown out of the church. I also find it interesting how Alice Manfred doesn’t do anything about the fact that Joe shot her niece. She doesn’t want to tell the police because she mistrusts them so she simply does nothing. Why do you think in the novel these violent acts are talked about in such casual and impassive tone? Does it say something about society during that time?
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According to Laura Mulvey, the movies of the classic Hollywood era are made for the male gaze. The female characters in these movies are reduced to objects which the male audience could enjoy looking at. This trend has not died off since the publication of her essay, many movies nowadays still uses female characters as “eye candies” for the male audience to look at. However, I think there is also a large degree of male objectification in the entertainment industry nowadays, which balances off the female objectification. Men show much more skin and are much more sexually appealing in contemporary movies than in the movies of the classic Hollywood era. Just think of all the actions movies or romantic movies where the man takes off his shirt to show off his six pack or whatever. This is clearly meant to impress the ladies among the audiences, and perhaps to also add motivation for the guys to go to the gym. The increase of male objectification is likely due to women having more buying power in the contemporary society. Back in the classic Hollywood era, men were the majority of the workforce while women generally stayed at home. This meant that the men had financial power and the ability to consume cultural products. Movies are meant to make money after all, so to suit the taste of the men who have the money, women became objectified in movies. In the contemporary society, women are just as prominent in the workforce as men are. The financial power of women is similar to men, if not superior. After all, women generally buy more than men. To suit the taste of the largely women based consumers nowadays, men became objectified too. I believe that such objectification is very natural. Men generally want women, and women generally want men, and both sexes enjoy looking at the beautiful members of the other sex. So it is natural to use men to attract female consumers and use women to attract male consumers. Objectification of a particular sex would only become a problem when it is used in a degrading sense.
An interesting element of Vertigo, for me, was the similarities between it and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Thematically, both films focused on our innate fears (castration in the case of the former and perception of reality in the latter, amongst other things) and used the landscape and architecture to display this. In Vertigo the Mission San Juan Bautista and its clock tower are used to devastating effect, the phallic nature of the structure and the heights of the tower serving to place the viewer – emotionally – on edge. In Dr. Caligari the landscape serves a similar role, its contorted angles and oppressive presence serving as a reminder of the sinister events that are taking place. They both go to show how important the surrounding world (natural or man-made) are when it comes to framing and interpreting events.
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Edition used: Penguin
In this lecture Jason Lieblang gives a brief introduction to some of the Marxist terms used in the text (such as ideology, mystification, naturalization), then discusses some of the arguments from Chapters 1, 5 and 7 of Berger’s Ways of Seeing–including reproduction and the “aura” of originals, the focus of European oil painting on possessions and property, and the relationship between European oil painting and advertisements. He did not discuss Chapter 3, on gender and images, as we were going to talk about that issue more the following week.
Please see this Mediasite link for the video with the sides attached.
- Berger states on page 63 that “(t)oday the attitudes and values which informed that tradition (of the European nude oil painting) are expressed through … advertising, journalism (and) television.” How do Berger’s arguments stand up in our now digitized visual world? Are his criticisms still relevant? Discuss Berger’s critique of visual publicity in light of developments in the means of the (re)production and dissemination of visual images that have occurred over the more than forty years since the publication of Ways of Seeing.
- Discuss one of the exceptional artists (Blake and Rembrandt are two examples) that Berger highlights. Explain what it is about their painting that challenges the artistic status quo, whether that be the objectification of women or the obsession with representing property. You may wish to consider one or more images in Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
- Using Berger’s ideas as a basis for your argument, discuss how the medium used in the representation of an object—oil painting, watercolour, photography—affect the way that we see and understand that object.
- In the “Note to the reader,” Berger calls the three sections with only images “essays.” Choose one of these pictorial essays (the ones without words) and give an interpretation of what argument it could be making, or what questions it could be raising.
- In the “Note to the reader,” Berger says that “The form of the book is as much to do with our purpose as the arguments contained within it.” Write an essay that explains how the form of the book could be said to relate to one or more of the arguments in it.
- In Ways of Seeing, Berger analyzes several images, but does not always say everything that could be said about them. Choose several images in the text (no more than three) and do a deeper analysis than is provided in the book, connecting it to Berger’s arguments (either showing that your analysis supports what he is saying, or goes against it).
- Find a current visual advertisement and do a “Bergerian” analysis of it, using arguments from Ways of Seeing.
- One of the main arguments of Ways of Seeing is that current conceptions of art engage in a “cultural mystification of the past” (11). What, if anything, prevents us from drawing the same conclusion about this text?
In ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Laura Mulvey makes a point of saying, on page 12, that men ‘cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification’. When she made this observation in the 1970s, the media climate was certainly much more one-sided in that it objectified women not exclusively but much, much moreso than it objectified men. Forty-odd years later, the cultural landscape has changed, and the balance is still skewed, there has been a leveling of sorts in that men have become more exposed to the same exploitative media trends that women have been exposed to for over a century. While this is a legitimate concern, it also has an overtone of ironic justice to it, which is even more disturbing.
In Laurie Penny’s excellent book, Unspeakable Things, she points out that both genders are held up to impossible standards, taken to illogical extremes by the media they consume. Advertisements, implicit or explicit, create self-hatred and envy, which drives one to uphold the convictions or buy the products therein. She also points out that, while eating disorders in women are well-cataloged (however ineffectually) and well-researched, the rising trend of dysmorphic disorders in men is largely unexamined despite coming from the same source – the self-hatred provoked by people whose jobs focus around how to make you give them your money for something that probably isn’t worth it.
What Mulvey predicted and what Penny flatly states boils down to ‘women like to look too’, and that’s perfectly fair. Culture is inescapably visual, and the increased presence of worldviews that are not those of white, straight men within a certain age bracket broadens the potential for turning the gaze on the gazers. There was always pressure on men the same way there was pressure on women, but it didn’t intersect this directly. The ideal woman, according to (broad) media trends is feminine, passive, sexy (but not sexual), thin, and white (or if not, titillatingly and stereotypically exotic); the ideal man is strong, wealthy, sexually insatiable, emotionally inscrutable and capable of (victoriously) inflicting violence. Those stereotypes still exist and in force, with the technological advancements required to present them all with even more unrealistic aesthetic appearances. When people are exposed to hundreds of ads in a day (and that’s before they get to what’s depicted in their recreational media), it’s pretty understandable that things are starting to go into the domain of equal-opportunity misery, although it’s still a decent way away.
It’s pretty well impossible to fit these criteria, which advertisers, producers and their associates know full well. This perceived deficiency has made a decent number of people quite wealthy, and to an extent they probably don’t or didn’t know how things would fall out on their consumers. Coincidentally, an overwhelming percentage of these people are (like this writer) white, male extroverts with a remarkable deficit of ethics and shame. When Mulvey was writing, visual culture was nowhere near its prevalence today and thoroughly dominated by this demographic. Now, those standards are multifarious, absurd in their presentation and near-completely inescapable, and the demographic that benefited from them the most is now visibly suffering from it. That, at least to some, is a prime instance of gruesome irony.
(Preface: This was originally a comment on Jake’s original blog post which can be found here, but it turned out to be reeeaaally long, so I thought it would be easier and more appropriate to publish a separate blog post. That’s why I talk in second person in this.)
You have a a compeling argument here and I can see where the desire to show John (I don’t consider myself his friend or all that sympathetic towards him so I’m reluctant to call him Scottie) in a more flattering light comes from. I still have some objections to what you say though.
In your first point, you say that John didn’t have a fetish with Madeleine’s image but instead wanted to change Judy because she WAS Madeleine. You seem to imply here, then, that John knew from the beginning that he knew that Judy = Madeleine. I really doubt that is the case, because a) why did it take him until Judy put on the red necklace to have the epiphany that Judy = Madeleine? and b) why didn’t he just straight up confront Judy? He could have so easily come out and made his case. He was a lawyer to begin with, after all. Why didn’t he do just that? And if your theory about him not fully believing that Madeleine was dead, is correct, then all the more reason to ask Judy straight up. Instead he goes to rather extreme lengths to buy the exact same dresses that Madeleine wore for Judy. He forces her to dye her hair blonde, and, when she comes back from the salon visibly upset and reluctant to pin her hair up the way that Madeleine did, guilts her into going to the bathroom to do so. And it is after this (and only after this) final touch that turned her into the exact image of Madeleine that he kisses her feverishly and passionately. I can see nothing detective-y about all of this and I certainly disagree that he is not overbearing or controlling.
I do, however, agree that Judy is not a passive woman and yes, she was perfectly capable of denying John’s coercion. And she did. She protests and asserts herself throughout the shopping scene and the hair scene. But like you said, she ultimately wanted the happily ever after with John and the cost was to transform herself into the image of another woman, and so she does. And she’s clearly happy once John finally seems to love her (“I finally have you, don’t I?” 1h59m-ish). Does this mean that Judy more or less consents to the treatment she got? Perhaps. Does that make John’s actions not overbearing or controlling? No. In fact, I would argue that John was aware of the power he had over Judy and abused it in order to get what he wanted. He knew that Judy just wanted him to love her, but he also wouldn’t kiss her on the lips until she had fully transformed into Madeleine’s image (up until then, he only briefly pecked her knuckles and cheek), therefore withholding his love until she did what he wanted her to do. Furthering my point that John is absuive, he even physically had her in a grip when they go back to the church, and when Judy tries to turn back to the car, he jerks her back and pretty much shoves her up the stairs. And then he attacks her, interrogating her about the truth and pushing her around violently. It was honestly such an uncomfortable experience watching that, as a female.
So yes, clearly I think John is a controlling man to say the least, but, as established, Judy is not passive. So he in fact not only controls, but abuses a woman who protests and resists his advances. I seriously cannot see him as simply a detective who wants to solve a case. He just goes way too far and clearly his motivations seem far beyond simply wanting to resolve a case. I mean he goes back to look at the scene of the crime, fine, that’s something a detective would do. But to literally drag a woman up the stairs and throw her against the wall once they reached the very top?
I can, however, see him as a mentally and emotionally unstable person who just wants to be free. I propose, instead, a third option: that John turned Judy into Madeleine in order to recreate the traumatic scene at the church so that he could resolve his vertigo. He actually even says before telling Judy to run up the stairs like Madeleine did: “I tried to get to the top, but I couldn’t. One doesn’t often get a second chance. I want to stop being haunted. You’re my second chance, Judy. You’re my second chance.” (2h02min) It would make sense in relation to the beginning as well, when Midge says that a way that the doctors say could resolve his vertigo is to have another traumatic experience. The first time, with Madeleine, he couldn’t push himself all the way, but when he saw Judy, he grew obsessed, perhaps not only because he thinks he found a dupe for Madeleine but also because he can try again to get better. And when he reaches the top, he proclaims the truth, retelling the real story. Perhaps that was part of the cleansing, an experience of catharsis that was part of the cure. He is, after all, a detective and detectives bring the truth to light. And don’t they say, “the truth will set you free”?
Still, at the end of the day, he clearly is exhibiting signs that he’s disturbed and needs help. Yes, he is abusive, controlling, and manipulative, but maybe it was beyond his control.
I found our discussion on mirrors in Hitchcock’s Vertigo last day in seminar very interesting, but I felt a bit of deja vu for some reason and I couldn’t figure out why. In particular, the scene in Judy’s hotel room:
In lecture, it was described as the true Judy being split into two parts by Scottie’s gaze – the “independent, common yet rational Judy” is the real Judy, standing in fron of the mirror. She isn’t what Scottie wants, but the “helpless, aristocratic unstable Madeleine [is], whose possibility reappears in the mirror”. It is at this moment in the film, after looking at herself in the mirror, that Judy begins to give in to Scottie – after perhaps seeing herself as he sees her. After thinking about the scene in that way I finally realised why i found it so familiar:
“I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I’d never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before, the sheer carnal avarice of it; and it was strangely magnified by the monocle lodged in his left eye. When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.”
– The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter
While the two scenarios aren’t necessarily the same, Vertigo’s plot being far more complex and the relationship in the bloody The Bloody Chamber far more problematic, there is a similar feeling to the situations. I feel like it was this type of situation that Angela Carter was trying to exaggerate in her stories in order for people to notice the potentially problematic things that often go over our heads.
*sidenote: Carter’s book was published in the late 70s and Mulvey’s article in the early 70s – I wonder if they ever discussed this, I feel like they would have gotten along.
Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber, and Other Stories. New York: Penguin, 1993. Print.
Liebalng, Jason. “Mulvey, Hitchcock, Vertigo.” Prezi.com. 01 Mar. 2016. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.
Vertigo. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart and Kim Novak. Paramount Pictures Corp., 1958. Shomi. Web.
This week in Arts One we got the opportunity to watch one of Hitchcock’s most famous films Vertigo. I personally thought the film was interesting and had a very unique plot line. While watching the film I noticed that the colour green appeared a lot throughout the movie. For example when Scottie first sees Madeline in the restaurant she is wearing a bright green gown. At first I thought that she was wearing such a vibrant colour in order for the audience to notice her, however what I found very interesting was when Scottie first meets Judy she is also wearing a green outfit. Maybe that was Hitchcock’s way of hinting to the audience that Judy and Madeline may be the same person. A few other examples of the colour green being used throughout the film was:
Madeline’s green car, Scottie wearing a green sweater after saving Madeline from drowning, and the hotel where Judy is staying is the called “the Empire Hotel” and the sign is bright green.
Finally perhaps the most weirdest part is when we first see Judy wearing Madeline’s suit she appears like a ghost and when she is entering the room she is seen in a green light. I don’t exactly know why the colour green would appear throughout the movie so many times, however I do think there is a specific reason for this.
So yeah, although I do enjoy the movie overall, I still can’t get over how Scottie behaved during the second half of the movie. Please note that this will be probably just end up being a nonsensical rant more than anything else, so if there are some parts that don’t make much sense, that I haven’t explain very well, or are just flat out random, please bear with me.
During the first half of the movie, I was fine with Scottie. With how his friend Gavin hired him to be his private investigator to watch over his wife Madeline, him spying and following her around can be excused since he’s technically doing his job. After Madeline’s “death” however, that’s when I got quite freaked out by him.
Let’s check off the reasons for that shall we? Seeing Madeline through practically every women he meets? Check. Goes to Judy uninvited because she looks similar to Madeline who he now obsesses over? Check. Forces her to wear the same style of clothing/hair that Madeline wore despite her protests? Check. Takes her back to the place where Madeline’s “death” took place in order TO USE HER AS A TOOL TO MAKE HIMSELF FEEL BETTER? FRICKING CHECK.
What really upsets me about this more than anything else is that this is supposed to be the good guy, the character we’re supposed to be rooting for to succeed in his mission. That scares me a lot as males at the time who grew up watching this film at the time will think that the creepy, obsessive behavior is acceptable, that this makes them strong, desirable men that women would want to do everything, even change themselves for! It wouldn’t matter much if it was just a normal film, but this isn’t the case. Vertigo is one of Hitchcock’s most famous films, so with the impact it had, of course more and more people check it out in the following years, so this movie had been watched by a large audience.
I know that several people apparently do defend what he does as being justifed, and I do in a sense get that Scottie was tricked by his friend Gavin just so that he can use Madeline’s death to cover up murdering his wife and that Madeline did decide to go along with his demands anyways because she loves him, but that’s about the most that I can deal with. The main problem I have here is that he shouldn’t have a reason to bother to continue with the mystery after Madeline’s supposed suicide.
But he’s a detective, it’s his job/instincts!
Well, it is in name, but he seems fairly reluctant for the role in the movie’s plot. For the first half, he retired from the police force after the incident that killed his fellow officer and caused his vertigo. With the earlier investigation, he didn’t want to do it in the first place when Gavin asked him to. Scottie even suggested for Gavin to bring Madeline to a psychiatrist or a doctor to deal with her issue.
During the second half of the movie. He’s been held in a sanatorium (I think?) for about a year during which it is assumed that he was unable to do work due to his depression, or at the very least not be going around investigating again like he did before.
In both of these cases, this proves that after traumatic events, he stops investigating entirely, albeit for different reasons. So this whole “detective thing” going on with Judy? That ain’t a detective doing his job, that’s an obsessive, manipulative creeper who seems to need the existence of Madeline (or a woman like Madeline) in order for him to function and be happy again. (I dunno why, but doesn’t that seem like a strange role reversal in a way that stereotypes want us to believe that women need a man to complete their lives? Hmm….)
Scottie subconsciously knew that Madeline wasn’t truly dead!
Although it’s possible, it’s never been confirmed and the chances are slim, so that’s not very solid as an excuse.
Well, Madeline went along with Scottie’s demands out of love!
Yes and no. Yes, it’s clear that she does love him and does want to play along to have a chance to be with him. However, I feel like there’s this one thing that we’ve all overlooked; she was most likely used by Gavin as a pawn, not the one most likely to come up with the cover up/plan (unless there was something that I missed). Remember that this is still the late 1950’s so it’s automatic to understand that Gavin was the one in control and was using Madeline as a means to his own end of killing his wife. Just like how Scottie used Madeline as a means to his own end of “moving on from the past” and getting over his vertigo. She fell into the hands of one controlling man to another, so she in part had less control of the situation than some would argue.
I knew there were some other points, but these were just the ones that I can formulate in my head at the moment.
I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that if this is the character that men back at the time are supposed to relate to and aspire to become, no wonder that in our more free society, there’s still some patriarchal aspects that remain due to the older generations continuing to enforce those views through various forms of power, whether it be through government, media, and simply people within our own lives.