Analysis #2 Psycho

Psycho (1960) which was widely known as the “First Slasher Film” and a thriller, is also a strong signifier of Gender and Power. Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who understood better then anyone the nature of cinema as an art form. In the beginning of the film the theme of gender, power, and the way women are portrayed is quite evident. Marion Crane who is the Protagonist, is seen in the opening scene wearing white, which signifies her presumed purity (even though it is unmistakable she just had sex) in bed with her boyfriend Sam. This is were we as viewers are alerted to the customary Gender-power structure between Man and Women for the first time in the film. I will discuss and analyze the scene where Marion has decided to steal her boss’s money, in the process of getting dressed, and ready to depart in accordance with Lauren Mulvey’s “Theory of the Male Gaze“.

According to Lauren Mulvey “The Male Gaze is demonstrated in the media when women are positioned as objects for male enjoyment through three things; The look of the camera, the look of the spectator, and the appearance of the women themselves“. Hitchcock chose Janet Leigh to play Marion who was blonde, which according to the stereotype are attractive, and desirable, as well as often perceived as relying on looks instead of intelligence. In two of the first three scenes of Psycho Marion was in her bra. This pertains to the appearance aspect of the Male Gaze, where she was dressed in a simple level to attract stares from the viewers. You can observe Marion slowly getting tired of being objectified, and being submissive to a “powerful” male, as a client (Mr. Cassidy) in her office attempts to flirt with her, and entice her with his financial power, this is the tipping point for Marion.

On to the scene I wish to analyze, where Marion decides to steal Mr. Cassidy’s money. Contrary to the first scene in a bedroom with Sam, this time Marion is alone and wearing black. She wants to get rid of the conventional role of a female, and begin to take up more of an aggressive, male type of role. Here she packs her bags, which now includes a black purse as well as dark clothing which signifies authority, seriousness, and even evilness. This is all a major contrast from the white Marion wore in the opening scene. In this scene as well is where the viewer realizes that Hitchcock has set up a point blank correlation between masculinity and money.

The Camera begins the scene by showing Marion in her closet first looking at the money on the bed then into the closet. The camera then pans down to show the viewer the money laying on her neatly made bed. The camera then tits to the left to show her suitcase she is packing to leave with. Throughout the scene she constantly keeps looking at the money, scared as if someone is watching her. This highlights Hitchcocks point of the viewer being a Voyeur. A Voyeur is “the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other activity usually considered to be of a private nature”.   The part of the scene I enjoyed the most is when she is getting dressed while looking in the mirror (she see‘s the person she has become), then she abruptly turns to see if the money is still there on the bed in the white envelope. She constantly is looking around, and while there are no characters in the film watching her here (unlike many other scenes), we the viewer are. The last thing Marion packs in the scene, is the $40,000, into her pocketbook, this may have been the first time Marion felt she had power and was in control, but in the end this was the last thing Marion was able to perform.

Marion never had a problem starting something, whether it was her relationship with Sam or be it stealing Mr. Cassidy’s money, the problem always was finishing the act. She never was able to marry Sam, where she was eventually killed, and was not successful at stealing the $40,000 as well. Hitchcock wanted us to view Marion as an evil person on the surface, and once she tried to break the barriers of her Gender role, she was killed by Norman.

In Psycho, (as well as many other of his films) Hitchcock does a phenomenal job of  bringing us the viewer to light as a Voyeur, whenever we watch a film, or more explicitly in the scene i detailed. Marion was scared she was being watched, but did not know from whom, and ultimately it was us the viewer who got Marion killed, because she “had” to die as a consequence of her actions.

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4 Comments so far

  1.   Mitchell Mays-George on December 15th, 2011

    Ii definitely see this as a great film and your post on the scene brings an ironically good twist to the male/female relationship dynamic.

  2.   Dongsheng Ma on December 15th, 2011

    nice detail analysis in paragraph 3 and 4,

  3.   Amy Herzog on December 17th, 2011

    I’m so glad you analyzed this scene, it is one of my favorites! I agree with Dongsheng, the detail in the body of the paper is wonderful. I did have a very different reading of Marion, though– I agree that she has great difficulty finishing what she starts. But I felt as though we developed a great deal of sympathy towards her (otherwise we wouldn’t care when she is killed). But I think you are onto something with the strange exchange of glances between Marion, the mirror, and the money in this scene. Perhaps a monetary gaze, looking back at her, accentuating her guilt? Thanks for a fantastic semester!

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