Scopophilia, voyeurism, the gaze
Hitchcock & psychoanalysis
|Scopophilia literally means "love of watching." In Freudian analysis, scopophilia is associated with the anal stage of development. Voyeurism is a synonym for scopophilia.
Voyeurism: deriving sexual gratification from observing others in secret. Often the object of voyeurism is undressed or engaged in some kind of sexual activity. The key factor in voyeurism is that the voyeur does not interact personally with the person being observed. Voyeurs are called Peeping Toms after the legendary man who illicitly looked at Lady Godiva during her ride.
Pornography appeals to voyeuristic desires, as does much advertising. Recently, the proliferation of internet webcams has created a new cultural arena of scopophilia.
Above: Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell, 1960. Powell, a longtime friend of Hitchcock's, released his notorious film the same year as Psycho. Anna Massey, who played a victim in Peeping Tom, later starred in Hitchcock's Frenzy.
|Movie-making and movie-viewing have long been analyzed as voyeuristic practices. Traditionally, the movie viewer sits in the dark and observes the activities of people on a screen (figured as a window) who appear to be unaware of being watched. Horror films in particular are strongly voyeuristic, in that they characteristically identify the viewer with the point of view of the monster.
Feminist film theory has emphasized the notion of "the gaze." According to this theory, the movie-going experience, and even the cinematic apparatus, is coded male. In both subject matter and techniques of filming, movies encapsulate the desire of men to look at women.
|Psycho's viewer gets an objective view of Norman the voyeur, then shares his point of view.|
Voyeurism and the gaze are major themes in Hitchcock's movies as well as elements of his technique. The most direct treatment of voyeurism is in Rear Window, where the main characters are a photographer and a fashion model. The nurse tells Jeffries "We've become a race of peeping toms," and an explicit connection is made between scopophilia and photography.
Objectification and fetishism are related to scopophilia and the gaze. The person gazed at is objectified--treated as an object whose sole value is to be enjoyed or possessed by the voyeur. Objectification is the basis of ethical objections to voyeuristic practices, because it devalues the humanity of the person.
|Viewers share Jeffries' view of Miss Torso.|
|Lisa Fremont presents herself for viewing.|
|Fetishism refers to the focusing of erotic desire on some inanimate object with sexual connotations, such as undergarments or shoes, or on a particular body part such as hair or the foot. More generally, fetishism involves the over-valuing of an object that has little inherent value. Anthropologists have analyzed the symbolic use of objects in religious activities as fetishistic.
Below: Vertigo expands the frame of reference to include fetishism. Scotty Ferguson's make-over of Judy has much in common with Hitchcock's treatment of his leading actresses.
|Rebecca: Mrs. Danvers fetishizes the deceased Rebecca's nightgown, underwear, and pillowcase.|
"The color of your hair. . . ."
|"The gentleman seems to know what he wants."|
main page: Hitchcock & psychoanalysis
- repressed memory
- Oedipal complex & Momism
- stages of psychosexual development
- dream analysis
- split personality
- Doppelgangers, doubles, exchange of guilt
- scopophilia, the gaze, fetishism
- mothers in Hitchcock's movies
- homosexuality in Hitchcock movies