Dec 09


The male gaze was a very popular theme that occurred in films throughout the fifties and sixties.  This consisted of the camera constantly being shown on women, making them appear sexual and more than just an ordinary person.  The women shown are beautiful and flawless, and propped up on pedestals.  Laura Mulvey argues that there’s a specific way the camera shows the scene and how the camera acts as the spectators eyes looking at the female.

A scene that greatly stood out to me during our class viewing was the Alfred Hitchcock shower scene from “Psycho”.  Well let me tell you why this scene basically stood out to me.  Ever since I was a child I was terrified of the shower and possibly having a killer murder me in the shower with a knife.  Don’t ask me why, its just something I guess I constantly dreamed about. Watching this scene was almost like watching my own nightmare come true on screen.  I really couldn’t believe that I was watching it with my own eyes right in front of me.  I’ve heard the music before and people make references to this scene but I’ve never actually seen it put together.  Let me tell you, I was scared shitless watching this scene, hearing that music and actually seeing this murder scene infused with chocolate syrup on the walls really did not make my situation any better.  Oh, and by the way I refused to take a shower back at my dorm after this movie, because I was all alone, the roommates had left for the weekend, I truly had a fear of Mrs. Bates coming after me.  So thank you Hitchcock for making me become a psycho and turning me into a crazy lady more terrified of dying in the shower than I ever was before.  Okay I just wanted to state that before I got into this scene analysis, enough about me let me dig into this. definitly

Besides the fact that I was terrified of seeing my nightmare come true on screen, I thought this scene was great.  It really practiced the idea of the male gaze. In Laura Mulvey’s essay she states that  “In film women are typically the objects, rather than the possessors, of gaze because the control of the camera (and thus the gaze) comes from factors such as the as the assumption of heterosexual men as the default target audience for most film genres”. This theory is exactly exemplified in “Psycho”.   For about one minute the camera was deeply focused on the actress taking a shower.  There was no dialogue but clear actions of turning on the water, washing her body, the whole nine yards.  The showing of her bare body allows the audience to understand the male gaze.  Its almost as if the camera was the male and the lens acts as his eyes, which stare at her bare body.  Finally in the background you can see a dark shadow of some sort.  You then realize that the bathroom door is opening and someone has just walked in.  Ten seconds later the shower curtain whips open and Mrs. Bates is standing there stabbing the poor woman to death. During the scene we don’t see the face of the killer but we can tell its Mrs. Bates due to the hair and clothing.
The camera techniques during this scene were incredible.  I couldn’t believe all the different shots in a matter of thirty seconds.  The shots varied from high, low, to medium, and close-ups.  Janet Leigh’s acting might have been terrible, but the camera techniques made up for it.  Right before the killer is about to open up the shower curtain, the camera zooms and pans over to the left and makes a rack focus to direct the audience’s attention.  The killer then starts to open up the shower curtain then the camera focuses on the silhouette of her.  She has a shadow covering her body which protects her identity as she stands in a position with her arm up in the air with a huge chef’s knife ready to kill.  Then the camera quickly switches over to Marion showing her face of shock and horror.  After this the camera is constantly moving back and forth from Ms. Bates to Marion showing the action from both perspectives.  Periodically the camera will move positions to up above the shower rod giving an aerial view.  During the aerial shots, the camera captures the full naked body of Marion and how she’s trying to fight back by pushing away the killers arm with the knife. Ms. Bates seems to be stronger in which she tries to completely force her body into the shower.  This exemplifies that the woman is weak and only useful for her good looks and physical appearance, but nothing else.  Other times the camera just focuses on her flat stomach.  Once Ms. Bates seems to be finished with Marion, she runs out of the bathroom and her body slowly drops to the floor showing the traces of blood all over the bathtub.   All of these shots truly support the theme of the male gaze due to the specific camera techniques.


I couldn’t write about “Psycho” without analyzing the music.  Even thought the music in particular doesn’t truly have any connection with the male gaze, it just helps the scene make it that much better and more intense.  The first few times of viewing the scene on YouTube I had to mute the sound because the music terrified me that much.  The high pitch ostinatos in the violins are truly very creepy.  As soon as Ms. Bates rips open the shower curtain and the camera focuses on her body just standing there with a knife, having that music enhances the scene immensely.  I found a clip that shows the scene with and without the music.  Everything stays the same, even the sounds of Marion yelling, the stabbing of the knife, and the water droplets of the shower.  0:18 seconds compared to 1:29 seem to be completely different just because of the music.  That music adds a great amount of effect to the horror and killing.  The same thing occurs at 0:42 and 1:54 when Marion’s hand is sliding down the bathroom tiled walls.  The music suddenly switches from the repetitive high pitched sound to a deep slow duration with the celli and bass going against a descending line down the scale from the violins.   This musical score composed by Christopher Palmer truly enhances the scene and the idea of the male gaze.


The male gaze is almost like the saying “a peeping Tom”.  A pepping Tom is basically a male who follows and watches naked woman.  Norman bates and the idea of the male gaze in “Psycho” is exactly the same thing.  Norman Bates watches Marion through a hole in the wall as she gets ready to take a shower.  As Marion is in the shower the camera continues to stay on her even while she’s trying to fight off Ms. Bates.  Simple actions done by the cameras techniques give off an eerie feeling, allowing the audience to grasp a better understanding of the situation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 comments so far

  1. 1 jemal
    4:13 am - 12-9-2011

    right off the bat wow, after looking at your post
    i had to go and change mine because mine sucked

    I liked how you defined what a male gaze was and popular it was during the sixties and so forth. I actually borrowed that from you for my post so thanks.

    I also like how you included personal information such as your fear of someone killing you in the shower, i feel like it adds a friendly tone and voice to your analysis.

    I agree about how amazing it was the way Hitchcock killed Jane’s character with the camera, i think to even portray that as a male gaze as a great way of looking at it. I also agree that her acting was terrible but then again its kind of hard to be scared when your trying to show fear and your naked and there is a camera in your face lol

    Your analysis of the music was amazing, it was just spot on and everything.

    I liked the way you ended your analysis with another definition, i feel like your post was well organized, well written and hit the key points that you were trying to convey. great job

  2. 2 carolynlumley
    3:38 pm - 12-9-2011

    I posted my analysis pretty last-minute, so I didn’t realize we did the same scene, hah. I like how you went with a friendlier, more personal touch with your assignment, it made it a lot more interesting to read while still keeping it formal.

    The sound on my laptop actually wasn’t working, but I already knew the music was more about the actual suspense of the movie than it was about sexualizing women. So, like you said, it doesn’t really have to do with “the male gaze” so I didn’t bother writing about it, but I agree, that music made me want to cut my ears off.

    Good detailed analysis!

  3. 3 konrad
    4:34 pm - 12-9-2011

    Hey Joanna, I like how you got personal with this and which shows you have balls. But do not worry, you were not the only one scared shitless, let me tell you that. The points you made were not bad, bu they will do. I like how you went into detail with the music since people do not realize the impact music has on our reactions to something. Also, I like how you put thought into the idea that the women is weak when she is trying to fight back. So yeah good job. And for technical reasons, I approve this message.

  4. 4 YINI
    9:09 pm - 12-14-2011

    This is a typical JR style blog. You put your own feeling into this paper,which is really unique, like Roger Eber writing his film reviews. Especially, you mostly focus on music. From my point of view, without background music, films will not be as attractive as it is now. I somehow write about music either but no that professional.
    Frankly,before reading your paper, I had no ideas on if there is a relationship between “Psycho” and the male gaze. Because I got affected by “Rear Window”. Hitchcock shows the male gaze by displaying Jeffery using his camera to watch his neighbors. It is cool that the scene you pick completely demonstrate the ” Women act and men see” theory. Secondly, like Konrad said that the woman fighting back shows how weak she is。 It is
    another special sight.
    Job well done!!!

  5. 5 marvinb1228
    2:12 am - 12-16-2011

    I like how you compared the male gaze to a sort of peeping Tom is really accurate since what the men who have these gazes are trying to see is the physical beauty of these women.
    I also agree with the effect of the music on the scene, it wouldn’t have been nearly as scary if the killer just opened the curtain and started stabbing away at Marion. Also I think ur right and that it the camera wouldn’t have been able to cut up Marion and still incorporate the male gaze.
    Awesome analysis

  6. 6 Amy Herzog
    4:57 am - 12-20-2011

    Your work has been so much fun to read all semester, Joanna. I was getting ready to write my comments, but in reading all the other posts, I’m rethinking my approach. I was going to say that I was worried that your style is SO informal that it might detract from the points you wanted to make about the male gaze. Clearly your audience disagrees– that was the element that most drew them in! What I would suggest, then, is working on finding a balance. Definitely the typos and misspellings need to go (give yourself enough time to revise). You might also beef up the theoretical sections in your paper (be a little more specific about what the male gaze is– I’d argue it wasn’t limited to 50s and 60s). You do this beautifully when you talk about music (you mix precise terminology with your personal reactions). The best news is that you’ve got passion and enthusiasm that you can convey to your readers– that’s possibly the most important thing a writer can do. Looking forward to seeing how your style evolves.

  7. 7 ルイヴィトン池袋
    8:30 pm - 11-22-2013
  8. 8 トリーバーチってなに
    8:49 pm - 11-22-2013

    カメラ ビデオ製品 トリーバーチってなに

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Your Details

Your Comment

Film History