Blog Directory CineVerse: Why Midge matters in “Vertigo”

Why Midge matters in “Vertigo”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

by Erik J. Martin

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

The character of Midge functions as a motherly, practical alternative for Scottie. She once had artistic potential, but gives it up for a career in designing brassieres. This can be viewed as a clash between art and science, the latter calling which she embraces and which is exemplified through her wearing of glasses. In this, and in her motherly adoration, she is unattractive to Scottie.

In a Freudian analysis, Midge personifies the restrictive, imprisoning world of the mother, a world that supports the superego. Scottie's "fatal flaw" is that he cannot enter this level of "superego" (the world of the father, law and order) due to his recurring vertigo and dependency on a mother figure, his desire for which (Madeleine) is demonstrated by his basic ''id'' impulses (Oedipal complex, necrophilia, dressing her up, his voyeurism, etc.) and his desire to break away, to "wander."

Midge's bra and step stool and Scottie's corset symbolize castration devices. The bra represents the repression of Scottie's sexual drive (his id impulses), the corset is seen as a threat to his masculinity, and the small step stool belittles his acrophobia by reducing it to an absurd paranoia. Midge's character is complex both sexually and symbolically in Freudian and feminist interpretations.

While it is easy to envision her as a life-mother figure (which contrasts nicely to the death-mother persona of Madeleine ), she can also be understood as, what film historian Walter Poznar calls, a "typical young liberated rationalist"--an established woman with a basic insensitivity to Scottie and to the potential for feminine values.

Her self-inverted portrait represents the cruelty and pragmaticism of her imperceptive interests, and has served to disgrace and humiliate Scottie's idealized obsession. Midge's portrait scheme is a throwback to the callous, manipulative intentions of Gavin and his yearning for freedom and power: a longing for the past, when a man could seduce and violate a woman (Carlotta and, for that matter, Judy), force her to have a child, and then abandon her.

Midge immediately suspects promiscuity when she spots Madeleine exiting Scottie's apartment--she can't even conceive of his romanticized, ideal fascination, nor the mysterious and beautiful quintessence magnified in the enigmatic Madeleine.

Tomorrow: Part 5—In love with an illusion

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