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The theory of psychoanalysis and the gaze in cinema: Marilyn Monroe's example - Essay Example

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This research aims to evaluate and present the theory of psychoanalysis and “the gaze” in cinema with reference to an image depicting Marilyn Monroe standing on the subway grate in a New York street, holding her dress down while it is being raised up by drafts of air coming from below…
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The theory of psychoanalysis and the gaze in cinema: Marilyn Monroes example
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The theory of psychoanalysis and the gaze in cinema: Marilyn Monroe's example

Download file to see previous pages... The object of the study exemplifies one of the standard themes of Hollywood cinema in the immediate post-war period: the romantic attraction between men and women, and its tension with the respectable role of husband and father which American males are supposed to play. It also illustrates why Marilyn Monroe is such an iconic figure in film history and provides a starting point for deeper analysis of how she achieved this status. The film was made in a very moralistic period, and so most of the tempting that occurs is a matter of imagination, conveyed in a series of somewhat chaotic dream sequences in the mind of Richard Sherman. Hemmed in by the moral tastes of the time, the director treats the whole topic as a kind of psychological exploration of sexual attraction, rather than a narrative tale of actual adultery. Very little in the way of real connection exists between the girl (Marilyn Monroe) and Sherman, but there is an expansive depiction of how he imagines her. This photographic image epitomizes the relationship between the two characters, and in so doing it also draws the audience in to a voyeuristic appreciation of the actress, taking pleasure in the chance revelation of her physical form that occurs over the subway grate. These voyeuristic elements can all be detected in this single still image of the two main characters. In looking at this theme of the woman, seen through the eyes of a man who is theoretically unavailable, the theory of “the gaze” as proposed by Laura Mulvey is very useful....
It rests on psychoanalysis as a basic underpinning idea, and proposes that phallocentrism is at the heart of much visual pleasure in cinema. This theory holds that there is an unequal relationship between men and women in Western societies, and that there is a central paradox in the lower status of the female and the heightened fascination of the male: “The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to the world” (Mulvey, 1975, no page number). According to Freudian psychological theory, the woman in human society suffers from the lack of a male sexual organ, while the man enjoys a position of power and superiority because he possesses just such an organ. It is this dynamic, analysed from a feminist perspective, which explains the significance of this particular image of the two actors. From the later perspective of the twenty first century, after several waves of feminism and the rise of a more egalitarian society which places a higher value on equal opportunity, Freudian ideas are no longer so widely or unreservedly held. In 1950s America, however, Freudian theories were still relatively new, and being applied in creative writing and film making as a way of exploring the theme of relationships between men and women. In The Seven Year Itch, for example, the main character Richard Sherman is employed in the publishing business and is required to read books on such theories. He even goes to visit the psychologist whose works he is reading, and so the film makes the ideas of Freudian psychology explicit in the storyline as well as using them in aspects of the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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