Blog Directory CineVerse: Vertigo’s voyeurism and sexual politics

Vertigo’s voyeurism and sexual politics

Saturday, August 22, 2009

by Erik J. Martin

Note: This is part three of a seven-part article on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”; part four will post tomorrow.

It is evident that males are the dominant, controlling sex in the world of “Vertigo”, and in the case of Gavin, even some powerful males can manipulate other males.

Gavin's power lies in negation and destruction. Not only has he murdered his wife and abandoned a lesser woman who loved him (Judy), but he has completely used and deceived an old crony (Scottie). Thus, Scottie is the victim of Elster’s crime, as he is the victim of acrophobia--the very handicap that allows Gavin to frame him into becoming a witness for the wife's staged suicide.

Judy is taken advantage of by Gavin, who even following her splendid performance of Madeleine is jilted by him once the murder is successful. Likewise is she dominated by Scottie, who also demands that she resemble Madeleine in his rejuvenation of an image. The real Madeleine also is victimized by her husband's evil intent. Even the mythical Carlotta Valdes is reputed to have suffered a great ordeal at her husband's insensitive hand.

Through Scottie's hidden pursuit of Madeleine, we are given a classic example of acceptable voyeurism. What he is led to believe, like Judy, is that he has been hired to do a job. But in reality he is duped into spying on a very attractive female who will wholeheartedly win him over, through the brilliant disguise and performance, to this symbol of feminine perfection.

Kim Novak allures us, as she does Scottie, with her captivating sensuousness and immutable beauty. Because Madeleine is so odd (yet still so totally sensuous) and vulnerable to her own suicidal quirks and her fixation with Carlotta, Scottie is justified in spying since he is "responsible" for her--he will inevitably protect her. His voyeurism suddenly doesn't appear so perverted in this light.

Tomorrow: Part 4—Why Midge matters

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