Feminist Criticism

The Darker Side of Hitchcock

Take a look at almost any Hitchcock film and you see a common trend among the women– blonde, cool, and beautiful. When Hitchcock was asked why he always used these platinum beauties in his films, he answered, “Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.” He stays true to this quote and you notice that in many of his films women are always the victim. Whether it’s being killed, objectified, or controlled by men. (In examples such as Marnie, Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, etc.) Some claim that these films are confessions by Hitchcock; subtly revealing the honest, darker side of his mind. For instance in Rear Window, Jeff (played by Jimmy Stewart), has a broken leg and has to stay in his wheel chair in a tiny apartment and spends much of his day staring out his window and looking at a ballerina who he has given a very offensive nickname of “Miss Torso”. Some say that this is Hitchcock confessing that in fact, we’re all Peeping Toms. This theme of Peeping Tom is pretty consistent in Rear Window from the very beginning when Stella the nurse says, “What people ought to do is get out of the house and look in your own for a change.”  (You go Stella!)

Although women are objectified in Rear Window, men certainly do not have all the power. The male lead is stuck in a wheel chair and has to spend his whole day doing nothing. The women on the other hand are the “light bringers” in the film (and quite literally as seen in the first appearance of Grace Kelly’s character, Lisa, as she introduces herself while turning on the lights in the room one by one). Women are also the ones actually involved in the suspenseful actions building up to and during the climax. It was very confusing for me to understand what Hitchcock was trying to tell the audience in his films. Was he telling us that objectification is bad or was he confessing to us his honest thoughts on the subject?

I was very curious about these theories claiming that Hitchcock was a misogynist and decided to dig a little deeper and see for myself. One of the first articles that came up was an interview with Tippi Hedren, the blonde female lead from The Birds, who says that right after she was given the role for the The Birds was stalked, harassed, and blackmailed for sex by Alfred Hitchcock. When the interviewer asked Tippi why she thought he acted this way she said, “He was a misogynist. That man was physically so unattractive. I think to have a mind that thought of himself as an attractive, romantic man and then to wake up in the morning and look at that face and that body was tough. I think he had a whole lot of problems.” Alfred Hitchcock was very insecure about how he looked from a very young age and did not have many friends and grew up thinking no one would ever want him. This however, does not ever justify the way he treated (according to Tippi Hedren) many of his female leads on set. You can read the full interview with Tippi Hedren here

There is no doubt that Alfred Hitchcock is an amazing director who has influenced cinema now in many different ways, but it’s hard to tell what kind of man he truly was. However I think it’s safe to say that he most certainly did not have a simple mind.

RENA HITCHCOCK POEM

 Photo Caption: This is a poem I wrote about Alfred Hitchcock’s childhood. He always had a pudgy, overweight appearance from a young age and was very insecure about it. He spent most of his time sitting in front of the window in his father’s store and watched people because he did not have many friends. The ending of the poem is also a reference to a real conversation he had with his mother when he was caught staring at his profile in the mirror. His mother asked him what he was doing and he asked her if she thought he was “funny looking.” She replied by saying that he would “grow out of it.”

By Rena

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