Analysis Project #2: The Gaze and Representation of Gender

The gaze is a representation of power; as they look upon their subject they maintain a sense of control.  The subject is usually seen as inferior as they are unaware they are being watched.  Typically, it is a male gazing upon a female; for this reason it is called the “male gaze” at times.  Females are represented in an inferior manner.  Not only are they unaware of being watched, but they are also killed when they do something wrong or inappropriate.  Femme fatales are killed in most films as they must pay for the wrong they have done.

In the movie Psycho, we see an example of the gaze and inferior representation of women.  Marion is on the run to see her lover after stealing money from a customer when she stops at the “Bates Motel”.  Bates gives her the first room, directly next to the office so he can be of service at any time and offers her dinner.  Hungry, she accepts the offer.  Soon after, she overhears an argument between Bates and his mother where she degrades Marion’s character or any female; claiming she will not feed her since they solely have a sick, sexual interest with each other.  The mother does not approve of Marion who she sees just as a sexual being.  Shortly after, Bates brings the food to Marion instead of bringing her over to the home.

Bates decides against eating in Marion’s hotel room due to his fear of his mother finding it inappropriate.  He invites her to eat in a parlor he has behind the office after finding the office would be uncomfortable.  In this parlor, there are many birds surrounding the room.  As Marion settles down in her seat and begins to eat, it appears the birds are hawking over.  The stuffed birds hanging over her are looking down to her, a symbolism that females are inferior.  After an extremely uncomfortable and eerie conversation with Bates, Marion leaves to her room to shower and rest.

Bates waits a few minutes before taking down a picture frame of a bird, revealing a peep hole directed toward the bathroom in the first room.  He creepily looks through and watches as Marion undresses.  Marion, of course, is unaware of him watching her, proving the theory where females exist simply to be looked at.  As a spectator, we feel it is wrong to be watching her as she is unaware of someone gazing upon her.  Through this scene, Hitchcock causes the viewers to become a gazer and feel a bit disturbed as they watch the film.

Shortly after, Bates’ mother kills Marion as she showers; a scene that is infamously known as the “shower scene”.  There are no shot-reverse-shots during this scene; we only see Marion being attacked, causing suspense as to who is the murderer.  Although we never see the knife inflict Marion, we are aware of her being killed with the blood flowing in the water and the very manipulative, loud and suspenseful music.  This scene also proves the theory where women are punished or killed for their “wrong-doings”.  Marion had made a mistake, like everyone else in the world, and decided to fix that mistake and return the money she had stolen.  However, she could not get away with what she had done.  She did not just steal; she was also seen as a sexual being who must be killed.

We see this representation of females throughout many films.  Another example may be Double Indemnity, where the woman is shot and killed after manipulating an insurance salesman to commit fraud and murder her husband.   Through the gaze, we see how inferior women are portrayed as.  They are completely unaware of their gazer and are punished for being sexual beings.  Bates commits all the murders with no remorse and is placed in a mental institution while Marion is killed for regretfully stealing and obliviously being a sexual being.  This film, amongst others, proves the “male gaze”, where women are to simply be looked at and punished for it.


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  1.   alivingston Said:

    on December 9, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Well argued point! Was easy to read, and interesting to hear your take on the Male gaze, and representation of gender.

  2.   cyna13 Said:

    on December 11, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Voyeurism is definitely a heavy subject in this Hitchcock classic. You made good observations in even subtle moments when the stuffed birds are over Marion eating like as if thery’re watching her. Norman Bates is a good example of the male gaze.

  3.   Amy Herzog Said:

    on December 17, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Nice work, Ashleyan. This is such a complicated film, as it DOES punish Marion in a terribly graphic way. But at the same time, we are encourage to identify with her up to that moment, which makes her downfall disturbing, unexpected, and unsatisfying. I would disagree with one claim in your essay– I think there are a couple of reverse shots in the shower scene, when we see the shadow approaching Marion, then a series of shots of her from the killer’s POV, then shots of the killer in silhouette. It seems an important point because our own identification flip flops….
    Thanks for all your excellent posts this term!

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