Masculinity in Laura and Vertigo

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Both Vertigo and Laura raise the idea of masculinity, and it's place and role in society and character. The relationships in both films, particularly those between the male protagonists and women, highlight the differing ideas of masculinity. The character of Scottie in Vertigo highlights how relationship with women can greatly effect the idea of masculinity, whereas this is reversed in Laura, when the title character Laura shows how she greatly changes the concept of masculinity through three differing male characters.

The relationship between detective John, or Scottie, Ferguson and his friend Midge Wood is one of the more interesting looks at male and female identities in the film. Robin Wood points out that the scenes in which both Scottie and Midge are both present place a strong emphasis in their communication difficulties. (Wood, 1989) Midge seems to treat Scottie more as a mother than as a friend. Whether this is in an attempt to ease the pressure off Scottie with his vertigo, she constantly talks down to him. This is highlighted when Midge attempts to explain her bra to him, telling Scottie that "You know about these things. You're a big boy now." Scottie recognises this relationship, going as far as to tell Midge "Don't be so motherly." (Modleski, 1988) Another scene in which these two appear is when John attempts to overcome his vertigo by climbing a stepladder. This scene also highlights the mother-son relationship these two seem to have, as Midge warns Scottie while getting the ladder for him at the same time. While Scottie is climbing the ladder, he looks out the window and falls into vertigo again, dropping towards Midge. Here, Midge looks on with concern at John, and seems to hold him in a way very similar to the way a mother would hold her child. (Modleski, 1988) This motherly relationship is greatly emphasised when Scottie is taken to the hospital after his nervous breakdown, with Midge telling him "Mother is here." The issue of masculinity is very clearly addressed in this relationship, with Scottie seeming to lack any confidence in himself and his almost childish relationship with Midge.

The idea of freedom and power are related very often in Vertigo, and again highlights the issue of masculinity in the film. At the beginning of the film, Scottie tells us that he'll "throw this miserable thing out the window. I'll be a free man." in regards to his corset. The throwing out of the corset represents Scottie's freedom from his job as a policeman. It's interesting that Hitchcock used a corset in this way, creating a strong metaphor for the job itself. Scottie suggests the corset "binds" him, which may also be used by him to describe his police duty. The usage of freedom and power in the film are very often issued to highlight the 'freedom' men have to get rid of their wives. (Wood, 1989). This freedom and power men have is highlighted by the bookstore owner that Scottie talks to while researching Carlotta Valdes. The bookstore owner points out that Carlotta was picked up by an aristocrat, who would later dispose of her and steal her child, and the bookstore owner highlights that "Men had the power and the freedom in those days". (Huntjens, 2003) Throughout Vertigo, it is clear that Scottie attempts to achieve this idea of masculinity, but struggles due to his vertigo, as a strong male is seen to have strong courage and almost no fear, particularly of something like height. Scotties struggle to conform is emphasised when he insults Judy for her involvement with Elster's plot. Scottie again highlights the idea of mans dominance over woman, suggesting that Elster would have gotten rid of Judy "with all that money and that freedom and that power". (Huntjens, 2003) Scottie does not fit into this role of male dominance however, as his vertigo hinders his ability to be taken seriously, and be masculine.

Two issues we can relate from the above is Scotties struggle to be masculine, and his corset. It...
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