Dec 09


The scene I chose to analyze for the formal analysis of the “Male-Gaze” is the well-known shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock was very well known for amplifying the “Male-Gaze” in many other movies in classics such as Rear Window, and Vertigo both starring the legendary James Stewart. However in both those films one could argue the “Male Gaze” was used for good, and in Psycho it was used for evil and violence. In the shower scene Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was not watching Marion Crane in the shower because he was infatuated with her and because he wanted to help her, he was watching her because he wanted to brutally murder her.

About forty eight minutes into the film Marion Crane was being stared at by Norman Bates through a peephole in his office wall. She is undressing getting ready to go into the shower as Norman continues to watch her for almost a full minute and a half, maybe even longer until he makes his move and “goes in for the kill.” He continues to watch as she makes her way into the shower and keeps his stalking going even when she is showering. Even though Hitchcock could not focus on the nudity of Marion Crane due to the time period he did make sure that the audience knew it was a man looking at her and not a woman. One may be able to argue that the sheer fact Miss Crane was in the shower could have meant that Norman Bates may have had some kind of sexual attraction to her even though his main intention was to kill her. Therefore, I feel the “Male-Gaze” was correctly and definitely depicted by Hitchcock.

I feel that sound and music were the most important techniques used throughout the scene. In the beginning of the scene there is a soft violin medley being played as Marion Crane sits in her bedroom chair. As she reaches the bathroom and flushes the toilet the music fades and the sound changes from non-diegetic to diegetic in a matter of seconds. All the audience can hear is the toilet flushing, the door and shower curtain closing, and then the running water of the shower. All of this is of course being seen from the point of view of the “Male-Gaze”, aka. Norman Bates.

In my opinion the most important part of the scene is when Norman Bates rips open the shower curtain and the sound immediately changes back to non-diegetic. The music being played is infamous and the tone of the room completely changes. The sound is dark and ominous which is perfect for the scene and Hitchcock did an exceptional job getting the audience to jump right when that curtain opened. Due to the change in modern horror films I thought someone of my generation would not appreciate this as much as people of that time period. That’s a completely false statement because even though it is one of the first “Male-Gaze” oriented stab films, the cinematography was exceptionally crafted and it definitely gave me the same effect as a more modern film such as Halloween or Scream. 

 In conclusion, I feel that the “Male-Gaze” was most definitely shown in this scene and I feel Alfred Hitchcock did an exceptional job emphasizing the presence of it. Also, it is clear that the shift between diegetic and non-diegetic sound clearly heightened the scenes credibility. In my opinion this scene can be viewed as one of the most famous male-gaze’s of all time.


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1 comment so far

  1. 1 Amy Herzog
    5:17 am - 12-16-2011

    Thanks for the attention to music! One issue worth considering– how does Hitchcock manipulate our perspective through editing and composition? If you watch closely, there is a strange shift between identifying with the voyeur/killer and the victim. A more detailed breakdown of shots can help to bring these things to light. Very happy to read all your work here.

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