Masculinity and Femininity in a State of Flux Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) • Born to a Catholic family in London in 1899 • Parents: William (a poultry dealer and fruit importer) and Emma Whelan Hitchcock. The family lived in a home in Leytonstone, London, above William's greengrocers shop. Alfred had two older siblings: William Jr. born in 1890, and Nellie, born in 1892. • Raised a devout Catholic, but later rebelled against his upbringing. • His father died when Hitchcock was only fourteen years old. • Quit school, but continued to study and read on his own.
He had his first major success in 1926 with The Lodger, a thriller loosely based on Jack the Ripper. • While he worked in a multitude of genres over the next six years, he found his greatest acceptance working with thrillers. Early Work: Blackmail (1929) and Murder (1930), • Hitchcock came to international attention in the mid- to late '30s with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), and, most notably, The Lady Vanishes (1938). By the end of the 1930s, having gone as far as the British film industry could take him, he signed a contract with David O. Selznick and came to America.
From the outset, with the multi-Oscar-winning psychological thrillerRebecca(1940) and the topical anti-Nazi thrillersForeign Correspondent (1940) and Saboteur (1942), Hitchcock was one of Hollywood's "money" directors whose mere presence on a marquee attracted audiences. Other notables include: Spellbound (1945), probably the most romantic of Hitchcock's movies; Notorious (1946); and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), considered by many to be his most unsettling film. • In 1948, after leaving Selznick, Hitchcock went through a fallow period, in which he experimented with new techniques and made his first independent production, Rope; but he found little success. • In the early and mid-'50s, he returned to form with the thrillersStrangers on a Train (1951), remade in 1987 (Throw Momma from the Train); Dial M for Murder (1954), which was among the few successful 3-D movies; and Rear Window (1954).
By the mid-'50s, Hitchcock's persona became the basis for the television anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which ran for eight seasons (although he only directed, or even participated as producer, in a mere handful of the shows). • His films of the late '50s became more personal and daring, particularly The Trouble With Harry (1955) and Vertigo (1958), in which the dark side of romantic obsession was explored in startling detail. Psycho (1960) was Hitchcock's great shock masterpiece, mostly for its haunting performances by Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins and its shower scene, and The Birds (1963) became the unintended forerunner to an onslaught of films about nature-gone-mad, and all were phenomenally popular -- The Birds, in particular, managed to set a new record for its first network television showing in the mid-'60s.
Vertigo • "You shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn't have been... you shouldn't have been that sentimental.“ • The film is based upon a French novel called From Among the Dead, written by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac (French title: D'Entre Les Morts). • Look for his use of color to make key points.
‘Trilogy' of films with that preoccupation: • Rear Window (1954) • Vertigo (1958) • Psycho (1960) • Theme of remaking women through male domination.
Hegemonic Masculinity • The most powerful form of masculinity.
Emphasized Femininity • The most valued form of femininity.
Hollywood Ideals • Popular culture promotes idealized views of gender differences. • Describe the characteristics of ideal men and women. • Do race, class, gender and sexuality affect these ideals?
Gender is Defined Relationally • Polar Opposites? • Understanding the Continuum
Difference is Profitable • Who benefits from gender differences? • What relations of power and privilege are reinforced by current relations?
Because Gender is a Social Construct, It is Always Under Attack • Social Changes and gender relations • Lacquer- Similarities to Opposites • From the Victorian Era to today
Victorian Ideals • A Victorian Gentleman- moral • The Cult of True Womanhood- Piety, Purity, Submissiveness, Domesticity
Consumer Culture and the Death of Morality • Burgeoning consumer culture requires replacing earlier values of self abnegation with shopping imperatives. • How do ideals of masculinity and femininity evolve?
Gender Roles 1958 • The Mythic Ideal of the 1950s • The problem that has no name • Moving toward the women’s movement
Gender Roles • Post War traditionalism • Manly men and happy homemakers
The Myth of the Fabulous 50s • 25% of the population was officially in poverty. • 60% of Americans over the age of 65 had incomes under $1,000. • For African-American’s the poverty rate was 50%. • Teen birth rates soared as 97 out of every 1,000 births in 1957 were to girls 15-19- compared to 59.6 in 1993.
So what was good about it? • Increases in minimum wage kept pace with inflation whereas by 1995 a full time minimum wage earner only made 72% of the poverty line.
Real wages grew more in any single year than in the entire ten years of the 1980's combined. • Average man could buy a median priced home on only 15-18% of his families income. • People who entered the job market in the 1950's were the last people who could expect to have a good shot at reaching middle management without a postsecondary education. • Affirmative action in the form of the GI bill paid most tuition costs for vets who attended college- doubling the percentage of college students from pre-war levels.
Infrastructure expansion provided jobs and improvements in urban living- public works comprised 20% of the govt.’s budget compared to 7% in 1984. • Welfare in the form of aid to families buying homes and a welfare system that focused on increasing savings and opportunities.
During the 1970's the overall cost of buying a home increased 170% between 1972 and 1987- the average price of a new home rose by 294%. • By 1989 almost 80% of new home buyers came from dual income couples.
The Problem that Has No Name • Betty Freidan- • The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night--she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question--"Is this all?"
The Times are Changing • By the 1960's, 40% of adult women worked full time in the labor force. By 1991 58% of all married women and nearly 2/3 of all married women with children were in the labor force. • 1950's represented a time in which women began their most rapid entrance into the paid labor force, contrary to the Ozzie and Harriet Ideal. Indeed less than 60% of children in the 50's lived in two parent families in which only the father worked. • The Cold War- looming threats of nuclear war. (Impotence to defend…) • Precursers to The Women’s Movement, the Civil Rights Movement- Hegemonic Masculinity is under attack.
Vertigo • How does Vertigo appeal to the public’s current discomfort with shifting gender roles and values?
Privilege • Isn’t it nice to experience discomfort with values? • Women, people of color, sexual minority groups may also experience discomfort with changing values • Is discomfort a euphemism for giving up privilege?