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Cody Hoyt
Dr. Naeemah Clark
The Aaron Sorkin Experience: Fact, Fiction, Politics, and Love
12 January 2015
Alfred Hitchcock and Gender
Alfred Hitchcock will forever be known as the Master of Suspense. Whole this is a title
well deserved; the Hollywood legend also explored the complex issues of sex and gender power
dynamics. As seen classic films Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho, Alfred Hitchcocks films
provide excellent case studies for castrated male protagonists castrated attempting to control their
female love object.
The 1954 Hitchcock classic Rear Window provides a provocative commentary on the life
of a castrated male. L. B. Jeff Jefferies is a photojournalist who is confined to a fully leg and
torso cast after suffering a recent broken leg. The lack of mobility means that James Stewarts
character is limited to people watching out the rear window of his apartment on the other
members of his neighborhood complex. Among the tenants visible from the window is a young
dancer dubbed Ms. Torso, a couple with a small dog, a piano player with a knack for
entertaining, a middle-aged single woman referred to as Ms. Lonely-heart along with Lars
Thorwald and his wife. (Rear Window) When he does not stare voyeuristically at them, Jeff is
often accompanied by the beautiful Lisa Carol Freemont, a brilliant and talented young woman
who Jeff refuses to marry because she is, as he says, too perfect. (Rear Window) His cast
limits him severely, to the point where Lisa or the visiting nurse Stella must preform almost allimportant tasks. This is a major point of frustration for Jefferies such as when he tries and fails to
remove a corkscrew from a bottle of wine because he cannot apply the proper leverage. Handing

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the bottle back to Lisa, he asks for help, saying, I wanna get this thing off. (Rear Window) It is
unclear whether Jeff is referring to the cork or his cast. Regardless, it is the cast that restricts his
ability to work, to be a man. The cast castrates. Following the pattern of the corkscrew, Lisa, the
woman, dominates nearly all interactions she has with Jeff during the film.
During his gazes out the window, Jefferies becomes perplexed by a pattern of behaviors
exhibited by Mr. Thorwald. Over the course of two days, Jeff observes him arguing with his
wife, making several solitary trips in the dead of night, cleaning a set of saws, packing a large
trunk bound with ropes and selling pieces of his wifes jewelry. Beginning to suspect something
amiss, he contacts his old friend from the war Lieutenant Thomas Doyle to investigate. Doyle is
skeptical; unable to see how the dots align, dismissing Jeffs case as a delusional interpretation.
Not willing to give up, Scotty begins to look harder utilizing the telephoto lens on his camera.
(Rear Window) He discusses his findings with Lisa who gradually begins to believe him and
becomes equally obsessive. For the first time in the film, she is reliant on Jeff for something she
wants: information to solves the case. Jeff, through the power of a camera lens that thanks to its
absurd length and sophomoric framing appears to look like a phallus, has become un-castrated
and is once again the man of the relationship.
Eventually the evidence is overwhelming to everyone but Doyle. Lisa, the domineering
woman that she is, decides to take matters into her own hands and enter Thorwalds apartment
herself. (Rear Window) This is met by stiff objection from Jefferies because he says its too
dangerous. Based on his reactions when she finally does investigate, it seems far more likely that
he objects because he cannot do it himself. He is powerless in his wheelchair cast, unable to
move. Castrated. This continues throughout the films final scenes where an expecting Thorwald
attacks Jeff, pushing him out of a window breaking both his legs in the process. Jeff has literally

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fallen for Lisa, unable to truly maintain the level of power associated with a man. The films
final shot shows Jefferies constrained two full leg casts asleep, while Lisa is joyously sprawled
on the bed reading a ladies magazine and wearing, for the first time, pants. The roles in the
relationship are set. Lisa wears the pants and Jeff is at her mercy, castrated in perhaps more than
one way. While the detective story informs and sustains the plot, Rear Window is an exceptional
case study in a castrated male protagonist.
Alfred Hitchcock expands on the themes of male castration he explored in Rear Window
in his1956 masterpiece Vertigo. Scotty, another James Stewart portrayed detective, opens the
film by running across rooftops in San Francisco chasing a wanted criminal. When the chase
becomes futile, Scotty slips and falls nearly off the building saved only by a gutter he manages to
grab hold of. When his companion officer tries to offer his hand for help, Scotty looks down and
experiences an acute case of vertigo, hence the films title, and is unable to move. Unfortunately,
this leads the accompanying officer to lean just a little too far over the edge and fall to his death.
Weeks later, Scotty has quit the police force and finds himself in the home and studio of lady
friend Midge, a brassier designer who Scotty accuses of acting motherly towards him.
(Vertigo) Much like Jefferies in Rear Window, Scotty finds himself castrated by a physical
ailment and the presences of a dominant woman. Scotty is out of work, unable to get over the
past and practically immobile. He is literally forced into wearing a corset for his broken back.
Midge, the foil, proves the dominant figure in the relationship: a bra designer who keeps a
successful man around her house whom she once broke off an engagement. Embarrassed by the
scene in front of him, Scotty attempts to concur his acrophobia, along with his castrated state, by
climbing up a stepladder. When he gets to the top however, he looks out the window of the high
story apartment and experiences the same feeling as the chase scene. (Vertigo)Its too much for

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him and he falls from the latter to the floor and Midges waiting arms, like a damsel in distress.
For now, Scotty has failed: both at overcoming his past, and reasserting his masculinity.
Another chance for redemption soon appears for Scotty. Galvin Elster, an old friend of
Scottys, asks him to investigate a series of rash actions by his wife suggesting a century old
woman named Carlotta Valdes has possess her. When it is revealed that the original Carlotta
committed suicide, Scotty agrees to at least humor him. Upon first glance at Kim Novaks
Madeline Elster, Scotty is infatuated. (Vertigo) She is stunning in every conceivable way, fetish
light and all. His trail leads him to believe Galvins theory and continues to follow Madeline at a
distance. Eventually, however, the apparently possessed woman jumps into San Francisco Bay
attempting to drown herself. Already caring for the woman and perfectly capable of swimming,
Scotty rushes into the Bay to take her back ashore and onto his apartment so she can recuperate.
When she wakes up, Madeline appears to have no memory of the incident but thanks Scotty for
saving her. The two share a pair of quick bonding moments before the phone rings for Scotty.
When the call is over, Madeline is gone. (Vertigo)
The two meet again the next day, however, and they travel thought the California
countryside enjoying each others company. Later, Madeline experiences a nervous breakdown
confessing her love for Scotty but suffering from reoccurring visions of a nearby Spanish
mission in her dreams. Scotty responds nearly excitedly as compassionately, saying Don't you
see? You've given me something to work on now! I'm gonna take you down there to that
mission and it'll finish your dream. It will destroy it. I promise you. (Vertigo) Scottys
reaction the Madelines swoons reveals far more about his own internal struggle than hers. He
reacts excitedly in a way to prove that he can save someone, someone he loves. He can be free of
the past, atoned by virtue of preventing Madelines death: a chance to be back in control. This is

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not even the first time Scotty admits to atelier pleasures from Madelines struggles. While
talking that morning Madeline apologizes saying that he must have been embarrassed by the
situation. Not at all, Scotty interjects. I enjoyed talking to you. (Vertigo) While Scottys
slip of the tongue is certainly motived in part by his affection for Madeline, its likely that what
he really enjoyed was the control. He saved her. He jumped in the bay to save the drowning
woman who needed help. That a pretty masculine thing to do compared to sitting around a bra
designers studio unable to climb a stepladder without a reminder of castration.
The pleasure of power does not last long, though. As promised, Scotty drives Madeline
out to the Spanish mission the next day and they exchange a passionate kiss together in a nearby
barn. Above Scottys strong objections, the possessed Madeline says goodbye and runs to the
bell tower. Understanding why, Scotty quickly follows, arriving at the stairs just slightly behind
her. Unfortunately, he is met with another case of vertigo and is once again frozen in place.
Seconds later, a female scream is heard from above and Madeline falls to her death from the top
of the tower. Scotty once again finds himself castrated by his condition and once again is unable
to save the day like a traditional man. Put into shock, he finds himself condemned to a hospital
bed, listening to Mozart and cared for by the far too present Midge. (Vertigo)
A year later Scotty is wandering the streets of San Francisco when he discovers a woman
who looks just like Madeline. He follows her back to her apartment and, explaining the
connection to a past lover, convinces her to have dinner. Judy agrees to meet him later that
evening. It is revealed to the audience through a letter she attempts to write that was Madeline
and that she was a hired actress for Scotty to follow so he could serve as a witness to the death of
Galvin Elsters wife whom he actually through off the roof. Unable to give up on another chance
with love, she discards the letter and the two begin a relationship. Slowly, Scotty begins to shape

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Judy back into the figure of Madeline he remembers. He starts with the gray suite she wore.
Then the color and styling of her hair: Judy, please, it can't matter to you! (Vertigo)
Reluctantly, each time she agrees. By the end of the transformation, he is the most contented he
has been in the entire film. He has exerted his control over a womans will: bended, shaped her
into the perfect mold he desired. He is the man.
The films final twist, however, leaves Scotty no more a man than he began the film. As
they begin to head out for dinner, Judy dawns a necklace that Scotty recognizes as the one
Madeline wore to imitate Carlotta. Connecting the dots, Scotty insists that they head somewhere
else before dinner. He drives down to the Spanish mission and forces Judy to follow him up the
stairs of the bell tower, retracing his steps, overcoming his fear so that he might be free of the
past: free of castration. Along the way he violently drags Judy screaming away his suppressed
This is my second chance. But you knew that day that I wouldn't be able to follow you,
didn't you?... Why did you scream, since you tricked me so well up to then? You played
the wife very well, Judy. He [Galvin] made you over, didn't he? He made you over just
like I made you over. Only better. Not only the clothes and the hair, but the looks and the
manner and the words. And those beautiful phony trances. And you jumped into the Bay,
didn't you? I'll bet you're a wonderful swimmer, aren't you? Aren't you? Aren't you? And
then what did he do? Did he train you? Did he rehearse you? Did he tell you exactly what
to do and what to say? You were a very apt pupil, too, weren't you? You were a very apt
pupil. Why did you pick on me? Why me? (Vertigo)
In his primitive rage, Scotty successfully makes it to the top of the tower conquering his
fear and his past. Unfortunately, a nun from the mission suddenly appears in the top of the bell
tower frightening Judy so much that she falls out the window to her death, just as Madeline did.
Scotty, like he did with the officer and with Madeline, ends the scene and the film looking down
at the death he was powerless to avoid. (Vertigo) In the end, even after conquering his fear of
heights and the past, he remains unable to exert his will upon the world: castrated. Just as in Rear

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Window this final message leaves the audience with an understanding of an emasculated
protagonist, regardless of whatever power he may display during the film.
While the plot may not as closely align with either of the previous flics, Psycho presents
an equally emasculated male perhaps even greater a case for the Hitchcock genius. The film
begins by telling the story of Marion Crane, a young secretary portrayed by Janet Leigh who
hops town after stealing forty thousand dollars from her Phoenix, Arizona employer. Needing a
place to spend the night, she takes refuge at the rarely trafficked Bates Motel. Norman Bates, the
hotel manager portrayed by Anthony Perkins, checks Marion into a room but not before he takes
a liking to the woman, inviting her to dinner and voyeuristically staring at her through a hole in
the wall over the objections of his mentally ill mother who lives in a house next door. After
discussing Normans hobby as a taxidermist, Marion excuses herself from dinner to shower and
retire for the night as she has a long drive ahead of her in the morning. While in the shower,
however, she is attacked and killed by a shadowy, knife-yielding woman the audience assumes is
Mrs. Bates. Stunned, Norman cleans up the mess from Marions murder before disposing of her
body, her car and, unknowingly, the forty thousand dollars in a nearby marsh. (Psycho)
The disappearance of Marion, and the forty thousand dollars, leaves her former associates
searching for answers. Her sister, Lila, hires detective Milton Arbogast in the attempt to track her
and the money down to avoid future legal battles. After clearing Marions boyfriend Sam of any
wrongdoing, Milton follows the trail to the Bates Motel where he discusses the case with
Norman. Sending there is more at play then Norman is letting on, Arbogast sneaks into the
Bates home to try to speak with Mrs. Bates. Unfortunately, his attempt leads to the same death
that Marion suffered at her hands. (Psycho)
Worried by Miltons silence following his trip to the motel, Lila convinces Sam to go

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examine the scene. Posing as husband and wife, the two check into Normans motel before
splitting up in an attempt to locate Marion. Sam distracts Norman in conversation while Lila,
over Sams fears and objections, goes to confront Mrs. Bates in the home. Norman quickly
realizes that the couple is close to discovering the truth and attacks Norman eventually managing
to knock him out with a nearby pot before running up to the house. Lila, seeing Norman
approach, hides in the fruit cellar and discovers an extra room inside. Entering, she sees a female
figure facing the opposite direction in a swivel chair. Attempting to get Mrs. Norris attention,
she taps the figure on the shoulder only to turn the chair around revealing that Mrs. Norris is
nothing more than a preserved corpse. Screaming, she turns around to discover the knifewielding figure about to strike. Quickly, Sam appears and manages to wrestle the figure to the
ground and in the process knocks a wig from its head revealing the killer to be not Mrs. Bates,
but Norman. (Psycho)
In the films penultimate scene, psychiatrist Fred Richman reveals the motivation behind
the crazed attacks and, ultimately, the Male castration endured by Norman Bates. Richman
explains that Norman murdered his mother ten years earlier when he became jealous of the love
she had for a newfound partner.
Matricide is probably the most unbearable crime of all... most unbearable to the son who
commits it. So he had to erase the crime, at least in his own mind. He stole her corpse. A
weighted coffin was buried. He hid the body in the fruit cellar. Even treated it to keep it
as well as it would keep. And that still wasn't enough. She was there! But she was a
corpse. So he began to think and speak for her, give her half his time, so to speak. At
times he could be both personalities, carry on conversations. At other times, the mother
half took over completely. (Psycho)
Normans struggle is no different than either Jefferies of Scottys. Feeling guilty for a
death he feels responsible for, he attempts to reconstruct a woman whom he loved, both in the
flesh and in the mind. Richman goes onto explain that in the schizophrenic state he found

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himself, Norman assumed that his mother was incredibly jealous of anyone who became an
object of his love. When Norman found himself attracted to Marion, Richman explains, that set
off the jealous mother and mother killed the girl. (Psycho) Perhaps, but consider the parallels
between Norman, Jefferies and Scotty. All three find themselves unable to act on an unattainable
love and therefore feel powerless. Just as Jefferies uses a camera to compensate for his lust,
Norman uses a knife. Just as Scotty finds a deranged pleasure in exerting any control over the
objects of his lust, so to does Norman. The desire to exert masculine remains omnipresent
throughout the Hitchcock universe.
Normans castration, though, is far more complete than either Jeffs of Scottys. Having
completed his examination, Dr. Richman explains that Normans duel-personality complex may
be but a memory. Norman Bates no longer exists, he says. He only half-existed to begin with.
And now, the other half has taken over. Probably for all time. (Psycho) The final chilling
monologue of the film delivered by Perkins in the chilling voice of the mythical Mrs. Bates
proves the ultimate castration of a Hitchcock protagonist has occurred: Norman Bates has
become a woman. Greater still, he became the very woman he tried to kill because he could not
control her original love. While it can appear hidden behind the suspense of the murder mystery,
Psycho actually offers a provocative commentary on the fate of men who attempt to exert control
over the women they love.
Alfred Hitchcocks films suggest that men who try to control the women that they love
will eventually end up castrated. L.B. Jefferies and Scotty Ferguson both find themselves illcontented by the dominant women in there lives only to find themselves further castrated by their
attempts to exert control. Norman Bates killed his mother out of jealousy and eventually became
a woman. These examples are just three in the incredible work of Alfred Hitchcock. While he

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has rightfully earned his title of The Master of Suspense, Hitchcock should be recognized far
more for his exploration of sex and power within gender roles, particularly with regard to male
castration, than he currently enjoys.
Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Janet Leigh.
1960. Warner Home Video, 2004. DVD.
Rear Window. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey. 1954.
Warner Home Video, 2004. DVD.
Vertigo. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes and Tom
Helmore. 1958. Warner Home Video, 2004. DVD.

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