Like Mulvey, Modleski analysed Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954). However Modleski came to the conclusion that “Jeff himself – and, by extension, the male film viewer – is forced to identify with the woman” (2004: 858). Compare Modleski’s interpretation to Mulvey’s original essay.
Renowned director Alfred Hitchcock has often been accused of having a negative attitude in his portrayal of female characters in many of his films. His 1954 classic, “Rear Window (1954)” has drawn particular attention from film theorists throughout the years. One of the most notable pieces of analysis comes in Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In this essay Mulvey focuses her attention on two classic examples of Hitchcock’s work; the aforementioned Rear Window and Vertigo (1958). It is in this essay that Mulvey introduces the idea of the “male gaze”. Mulvey states that due to the fact that it is predominantly heterosexual males that have the power behind the camera the audience is then naturally forced to observe the on screen events from a male perspective; for example if the camera lingered slightly longer to observe the female form. Tania Modleski on the other hand comes to a different conclusion to that of Mulvey with regards to Hitchcock’s work and in particular Rear Window, in her essay The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory (Modleski; 1988). Modleski comes to the conclusion that critical responses in regards to Hitchcock’s work often fall into one of two camps; namely that Hitchcock’s films are filled with misogynistic representations of women, or that he sympathizes with women’s struggle under patriarchy. Modleski believes that the relationship between Jeff and Lisa in Rear Window doesn’t conform to Mulvey’s notions of the active male character and the passive female one. In this essay I am going to further examine Mulvey and Modleski’s essays in regards to Rear Window, comparing and contrasting their viewpoints.
Rear Window is centered around photojournalist L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) after he has been confined to a wheelchair in his small apartment due to an injury he sustained whilst he was out working. Due to his inquisitive nature and coupled with his extreme boredom from being unable to leave the building, he takes to watching the lives of his neighbours as they unfold from beyond his window. His nurse/ carer (Thelma Ritter) does not approve of his new hobby and claims that he is someone who “should have his eyes put out with red hot pokers”. Stella wants Jeff to marry Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly) and tries to persuade him to do as such, however Jeff believes that his often hectic and active lifestyle isn’t suited to marriage with Lisa, who enjoys a much more indulged lifestyle. When we are first introduced to Lisa, who works in a fashion boutique while also being a model, appears to live a very pampered lifestyle, while her main goal is to marry Jeff. As the plot progresses and the pair notice some unusual activity in the house across the square, Lisa then takes a keener interest in Jeff’s “spying” and these earlier presumptions are turned on their heads as it becomes apparent that Jeff seems fairly passive and unable to act, while Lisa goes out of her way to investigate the suspicious apartment. As the film comes to a close we see that Jeff has become incapacitated even further due to events of the film’s climax. The camera pans over to Lisa who is lying on Jeff’s sofa reading an article on travel and exploration. She looks over to check that Jeff is still sleeping before picking up a fashion magazine. By the end of the film we have learned that the two characters have grown closer to each other and have a greater respect for each other. Mulvey also believes that in some cases the pleasure from viewing can “become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching,