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7 - Jekyll and Hyde and Scopophilia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2020

Richard J. Hand
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
McRoy Jay
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
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Summary

Laura Mulvey's article ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975) was widely influential and made the term ‘scopophilia’ central to feminist analyses of cinema. Mulvey argued that scopophilia ‘arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight’ (2004: 835) and that the cinema especially satisfied a primordial desire to look without being seen, or in other words that it satisfied a voyeuristic urge going back to early childhood. Furthermore, Hollywood films encoded a gendered way of looking at the screen in that ‘the determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled accordingly’ (837), so that the images of women satisfied male sexual desire exclusively. Mulvey presented a theoretical model in which the female is the passive object and the male the active bearer of the gaze, drawing on Freudian theory and a feminist critique of phallocentrism. Since the publication of the essay there have been modi-fications and expansions of Mulvey's original insights, such as those by Kaja Silverman and Jane Ussher, who have argued that women play a more active role in looking at images on the screen rather than being merely passive spectators. Ussher, in particular, has argued that the ‘masculine gaze’ is not monolithic and can be resisted and reformulated by female film-makers and viewers (1997: 85–6). In this article I will build on Ussher's argument for reformulation of the ‘masculine gaze’ to examine the way in which film versions of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde complicate Mulvey's model of scopophilia through scenes that encode a ‘feminine gaze’ that gains pleasure from looking at a desirable image of masculinity in Dr Jekyll at one moment but that is threated by sexual violence from Mr Hyde at the next.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a particularly apt vehicle for a discussion of scopophilia because the signature moment in any film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's original story is the transformation scene. Jekyll and Hyde also exemplifies the definition of the Gothic genre in Lisa Hopkins's Screening the Gothic in that it depicts a ‘doubling’ that reveals the hidden connections between apparent opposites (2005: xi).

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Gothic Film
An Edinburgh Companion
, pp. 101 - 111
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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