Women In Psycho By Alfred Hitchcock

analytical Essay
1096 words
1096 words

The perception of women in the United States is complex and ever-shifting, as is our attitude towards sex. American perceptions of both suffer from tunnel vision. Expectations for women and how they portray their sexuality are narrow. Society has these expectations reflected back at us through art – most popularly in American cinema. Limitations placed on sexuality and expectations for women are reflected on film in every genre. Two genres are more frequently female led – romantic comedies and horror films. The latter has undergone a significant amount of change in depiction of women. Horror speaks to one of our base, primal emotions: fear. But the fears horror plays off of are deeper and more complex than gore and guts. On a subconscious level, …show more content…

The once popular Universal monster movies had fallen out of fashion. Instead, proto-types for modern horror genres emerged. American fears of communism and the sexual repression and frustration of women was widely reflected in the horror genre. At this time, the Hays Code was still widely reinforced and this impacted the portrayal of sex and violence on-screen. Overtly sexual characters, especially women, had to be “punished” by the end of film as a way of reinforcing American values. This laid out the groundwork for future slasher films, most clearly seen in the 1959 movie Psycho by director Alfred Hitchcock. The protagonist at the start of the film is Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a secretary who plans to steal money from work so she can run away with her boyfriend. She feels trapped and lonely as an “older” unmarried women who is routinely demeaned at her place of work. Her isolation connects her to another, more sinister character, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) – the soft-spoken owner of Bates Motel. Norman appears to be controlled by a domineering, if not outright abusive, mother. As explained in A History of Horror, “Norman Bates is the psychopath in our midst, the person we would never suspect, the evil that hides in plain sight . . . Psycho changed the conventions of the horror film forever. “(Dixon, 76)The infamous twist of the film reveals Norman’s to be long dead, and is in fact “played” by Norman himself when he goes into murderous rage. Both Marion and Norman are protected by their assumed passivity, yet both become so frustrated with their place in society that they act out in frightening or unexpected ways. Their antisocial is a reflection of the fears American society had about womanhood, especially womanhood that wasn’t as docile as previously thought. This dual, unusual depiction of undesirable womanhood reoccurs throughout horror films. Later in Whatever

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the perception of women in the united states is complex and ever-shifting, as is our attitude towards sex.
  • Explains that society shifts in values and attitudes as a direct side-effect of the war.
  • Explains that the horror landscape of the post-world war 2 era was also vastly changed after the 40's. the hays code reinforced the portrayal of sex and violence on-screen.
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