Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Men are filthy pigs/Women are weak and feeble" (Thoughts on MARNIE, Part 1)

An essay that was recently posted in one of my online Alfred Hitchcock discussion groups gave me some food for thought. The author referred to Marnie's belief – which reflects the belief of many women in western society – that "men are filthy pigs," whereas "women are weak and feeble." The essay concludes that "seeing men as nasty brutes and women as weakly emotional may not be polar opposites but are frequently two sides of the same negative and bigoted coin."
I agree -- with the essentials, at least. But I think that's only half the story.

MARNIE is a study of the war of the sexes, and it continues Hitch's recurring theme of power as it is coveted, misunderstood and abused in such films as VERTIGO and ROPE.

In the war of the sexes, desire and idealization are at the core of the issue. They are the real MacGuffin. For instance, the female assumption that "men are filthy pigs" arises from the fact that men have certain power (physical, financial) that is at times abused and that puts women at a disadvantage. Women want that power for themselves and are instead, at times, victimized by it. Such a situation produces resentment. That was true in Marnie's case. She witnessed the abuse of male power during her formative years. That, coupled with her mother's reinforcing hostility produced resentment in Marnie that was expressed in her belief that men are filthy pigs. Her flip-side belief that women are weak and feeble makes sense in this context: women are weak only in relation to swinish male power.

Male power is the one thing that women don't have. Because they don't have it, they crave it. They idealize it. And, like have-nots of any gender or social position, they hate those that do have such power. From this it follows that idealization is a form of hatred. (This is how I understand Freud's Penis Envy to operate.) It isn't just a male/female thing either. Men idealize power too, and they hate other men who have more of it. That's why men and women alike hate politicians and business leaders. They resent having to "suck up" to their own boss, regardless of the gender relationship.

Although men have power in many areas, women have power in one profoundly important area: sex. This cannot be overstated; men have put their families, their businesses and even their nations at risk just in their conquest of female sexual power. Similarly, men hate women for their power. At the heart of rape, rape fantasies and porn, as well as a lot of infidelity and serial sexual encounters lies male hatred for female sexual power. (There are, of course, other factors.)

That power differential drives the fascination (attraction/repulsion, idealization/hatred) that the sexes have for each other. It's what makes us human. For better AND for worse, friction and conflict between the sexes is elemental to our growth -- personally and as a civilization. So, it's not only negative and bigoted. There's much there that is positive and that leads to understanding. I believe that Hitch was deeply aware of all of this.

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1 comment:

Martina said...

Don't for get the nuts. Pecans that is, for the pecan pie Marnie's mother was baking before it's revealed she was a prostitute. They must symbolize you know what. When Marnie tries to crack the nuts she does it wrong and her mother say something like, "that pie isn't for you anyway." For some reason this stood out in my mind.