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Tania Modleski’s “A Master’s dollhouse: Rear Window”

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Hitchcock’s _Rear Window_ has been both hailed and criticized for its portrayal of the male/female social dynamic. Many critics have elaborated on the protagonist’s fixation on male sexual dominance and his voyeurism. Many see the film as simply a way for the male cinema spectator to join the simulated spectacle of the film as the protagonist views the many ongoing stories through his neighbor’s windows.

Modleski argues that the more important character in Rear Window is the female lead, Lisa. She suggests that the photographic portrayal of the female in the film is stronger than that of the invalid protagonist, Jeff. Lisa is pictured as active and competent, while Jeff is portrayed as incapable and imprisoned within his apartment. She is aggressively sexual while he displays fear of interaction. Juxtaposed with these two characters are their alter egos in a neighboring window: the invalid female and the oppressive male. The split screen filming portraying these four characters demonstrates the complexity and duality of gender roles in society.

When Lisa becomes a part of Jeff’s passive voyeuristic behaviors, the action begins. During a discussion about one of the neighbors, Lisa and Jeff propose alternate views on the purpose of a woman’s behavior. This discussion of male/female perspectives demonstrates the power of the woman’s position, as in the end, Lisa’s perspective is validated.

Modleski proposes that the oft-spouted view, that Jeff’s sincere interest in Lisa began when she joined the action of his voyeuristic adventure by visiting a neighboring apartment, is incorrect. Modleski believes that the origin of the interest is actually Freudian. Jeff’s interest in Lisa becomes real when she comes to agree with and support his views and interpretations of the events happening in the neighboring apartments. As the film ends, Lisa is dressed in Jeff’s manly clothing reading his manly magazine. She is still the stronger character in the film. As the still incapacitated Jeff sleeps, Lisa is portrayed as the whole of sexuality, no longer confined to the feminine trappings of her earlier appearances. The story demonstrates clearly that women are a more powerful force in society than the male-dominated view might suggest. As Modleski states, women are not “locked into male views of them, imprisoned in their master’s dollhouse.”

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