Friday, July 20, 2007

The function of masquerade in The Last Seduction (1993) by Alastair James John Atkinson

Feminist involvement in film/ has for many years provided a great wealth both for the opportunities for women to investigate women and for researchers to investigate the role of women within cinema. This paper is interested in analyzing The Last Seduction (1993) because, while it may be classified as a ‘traditional’ Hollywood film/ it appears to allow a feminist reading. An analysis of The Last Seduction (1993) by adopting the feminist theory of masquerade/ thus seems an appropriate strategy to utilize.

To achieve this, the paper will firstly outline the concept of spectatorship as a foundation of a feminist approach to the cinema. Secondly, it will illustrate the text / spectator dichotomy as viewed by Mulvey (1975), and introduce the theory of masquerade, as articulated by Doane (1982). Upon this foundation, it will expand Doane’s original theory of masquerade by transposing the theories, provided by both Mulvey and Freud, of transexism and ‘activity and passivity’/ in order to create model of masquerade which may be seen to provide a feminist reading of a text. An applied textual analysis of ‘The Last Seduction (1993) will qualify the contention that the function of masquerade - located within feminist criticism - is able to provide a valid female voice within traditional Hollywood cinema. [1]

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that the medium of cinema offers an indication of societal attitudes/ therefore proposing a clear and unappropriated place for examination of women within society. Smith (1972) notes that ‘women in any fully human form have almost been left out of film,’ and that ‘despite the enormous emphasis placed upon women as spectacle in the cinema, women as women is largely absent.’[2] That is to say, women appear in cinema as objects of the masculine gaze or as patriarchally defined stereotypes.

This statement poses numerous questions; can feminist productions break through into a Hollywood system thus exposing existing stereotypical barriers and contributing to a redefinition of feminism? If such a position is possible, are existing definitions, as outlined by ‘academics such as Mulvey et al, still valid in an analysis of modern cinema, or are these definitions in need of a revision. It may be argued that on one hand that the film The Last Seduction (1993) maintains a progressive element of feminism allowing a positive voice for women, however, an alternative reading may be that it perpetuates a patriarchal status quo through the recuperation, and possible reconstitution of the films within the women’s movement.

It may be judicious to create a foundation upon which the rest of the paper can be placed; notably that of feminism and its approach to cinema. Taking into account the enormity of the subject of feminism, a global analysis does not seem to suffice, therefore this paper will be analyzing The Last Seduction (1993) by using a psychoanalytic framework, as outlined by Mulvey; that is, the cinematic apparatus being responsible for, or contributory to, the subordination of women. Erens (1990) expands this by noting it is men who both ‘consciously and unconsciously control the production and the reception of film’;[3] that is, men create images that will satisfy their own needs.

Having noted that a global definition of feminism does not provide a satisfactory definition, it may be prudent to define what this paper considers as an overriding position for feminism. That is by creating what can be considered to be its antithesis. To comprehend a reading of feminism and feminist texts, one must firstly understand a way in which the term woman[4] can be defined. If feminism is a fight to ‘challenge representations of women’[5], it is essential one understands the concept of woman. According to Bailey (1994) women are ‘at best creatures fundamentally different from, and naturally inferior to, men, whose identity is determined by a relationship of subordinated complementarity with men. At worst... ...inferior or abnormal men, and in order to maintain ‘quality control’[6] [Patriarchy] seeks to ‘fix as many of the defects as possible and annihilate the rest’.[7]

This daunting patriarchal definition, deems women to represent a mere object, the subordinate male other, or as a defective male, who, like a machine, is able to be reconditioned or repaired to function effectively in the subservient routine of patriarchy. Little wonder then Elshtain (1981) sees the role of feminism as to ‘liberate women from patriarchy by challenging man’s power over women.’[8]

This concept of woman only provides an analysis from a biological perspective, that is, in terms only of the sexual difference between man and woman. The alternative to this simple biological difference is eminently more positive. The incorporation of the social, combined with a biological factor, now provides an opportunity for an investigation which not only concerns biological elements such as women’s health, sex, rape and maternity, et cetera, but also the inclusion of the socialised elements of the identity of women.

De-emphasising ‘sexual identity’ as a simple biological construct allows a continued investigation which, unlike the construct of a biological identity, can be taken as neither natural nor unchangeable. The justification patriarchy holds to restrict women from areas of possible opportunity previously reserved for men, now begins to fall apart and the equalisation of women within society is able to develop.

The impetus behind feminist reasoning remains constant; to perpetuate an investigation into opportunities for women, and to fight against patriarchal subordination. The feminist text must, therefore, be one which de-emphasises the dominance of patriarchy and allow the voice of women to be as loud as, if not louder than, the rest. Within The Last Seduction (1993) there are a number elements which concur with this notion, for example, the film is seen to consciously rejecting a patriarchal discourse by dismissing the institution of marriage. Indeed, the opening sequence shows Brigit Gregory [9] deserting her husband, removing her wedding ring and throwing it into the ashtray of her car; symbolically, her removal from a patriarchal discourse.

The Framework of masquerade is posited within the theoretical construct of spectatorship. A foundation of spectatorship should therefore, now be formed, upon which the theory of masquerade can be constructed.

The impulse behind feminist involvement in spectatorship may arguable concern the creation of an understanding of the processes by which women are subordinated as spectator/s; attempting an understanding of this conception, and perhaps creating a theoretical evolution, of a process in which women may be authentically portrayed. The portrayal of women may be seen to play an important element in the feminist involvement in theories of spectatorship. Illustrated earlier, Smith’s noted that women as women were largely absent from the cinema; if taken literally, it may be argued that not only is a female voice absent from filmic discourse, but also absent is a female spectoral reading of a filmic discourse. Spectators within classical narrative cinema may thus be male, or at least able to become male for the duration of the film. Problematically, in order to become male is to subscribe to and perpetuate a subordination of the female as spectator. Cinema, by its male domination of the cinematic apparatus can only alienate women.

Classical narrative cinema is seen to represent a patriarchal ideology. Mayne (1990) argues that the ‘visions of women, that appear on the screen, may be largely the projection of patriarchal fantasies.’[10] Cinema may be seen to become both the site for the objectification of the female body and also for creating theories of female friendship. These elements may simultaneously be exploited by patriarchy and female self-representation. Within a filmic narrative neither patriarchy nor women’s discourses allow the female spectator a vantage point from which to ‘speak, represent or imagine themselves.’[11]

A psychoanalytic perspective may thus provide a relevant reading of the theories of spectatorship. One is able to generate the notion of male spectoral pleasure engendering the overwhelming presence of the fetishised women on the screen, to be representative of ‘the Oedipus phase of male plenitude’[12] as articulated by Modleski (1990). The pleasure of the male spectator can conceivably be argued as the result of their positioning by the cinematic mode of address. Stacey (1987) expands this argument by noting the ‘text / spectator relation forms a closed system determined completely by the articulation of visual and narrative means within gendered subjectives which only permits a dichotomous pleasure of voyeurism and identification, and disregards the ambiguities and tensions present in every text.’ [13]

It is within this closed system that gender is considered to be paramount in understanding the idiosyncrasy of spectatorship and pleasure. Taken to another conclusion, the spectoral pleasure may be derived at the expense of alternative considerations such as race and sexuality, class, culture and history.

Mulvey (1975) benchmark paper contends that the cinematic apparatus functions upon the relationship between women and men and the cinematic apparatus. As argued earlier, this relationship objectifies women by blanketing or disguising the female voice and perpetuating a patriarchal voice.[14]

According to Mulvey (1975), the subordination of women presents itself through the portrayal of the image of women, that the voice of femininity is thus clouded or discarded totally by two dominant elements. Firstly, the voice of the masculine discourse within the narrative structure of the text, and secondly, the scopophilic gaze of the dominant culture.[15]

Mulvey argues that the text / spectator relationship is governed by two elements, narcissism and scopophilia; ‘narcissistic in that it is the spectator that identifies with their own likeness’ and ‘scopophilic to the extent that the spectator’s look stands for the look of the camera.’[16] With in the scopophilic construct, identification of a screen image derives through the pleasure of using another person as an object of sexual stimulation. Mulvey notes that this active scopophilia, when transposed onto cinema, acts as the ‘function of the sexual instinct’, and concerns the ‘separation of erotic identity of the subject, from the object on screen.’[17] The construct of narcissism, while dealing with the sexual cravings of the ego, relies upon the fulfilment of the ego through the identification with an image portrayed upon the screen.

Both elements concern the pleasure of the individual. The nexus to the theory of a feminist approach to classical Hollywood cinema, is the construction of women as the object of the male gaze, not only within the text, by characters, but also by the spectator, as the producer of the gaze, and that this spectator gains gratification through the identification of his like on the screen.

Underpinning this theory is the Freudian oedipus complex.[18] The premise links castration anxiety within the awareness of an infant, gained through a process of looking at the mother figure, that anxiety develops through the realisation that the mother figure lacks a penis. It is through the realisation that the father figure possesses a penis that the threat of castration by the mother figure emerges. This threat of castration leads to the ultimate rejection of the mother figure. A general transposition of this anxiety focuses around the development of power relations within society; a patriarchal society.

Mulvey argues that the woman serve as the object of the look; the look being the look of the male spectator. Doane (1982) qualifies this by adding that ‘historically, there has always been a certain imbrication of the cinematic image and the representation of the woman.’[19] Doane contends that the relationship between women and the scopic dominion, is vastly different than its relationship to men. Women are seen to be ‘exempt from the dichotomy between scopophilia and narcissism’.[20] More precisely, women possess a different relationship to the image on the screen than that of men. The excessive presence of the female body may be the reason why women are unable to either combat the scopophilic or narcissistic gaze of the male spectator; more defensively, find a neutral space in which to distance the image of women, which is seen to represent both the ‘condition for voyeuristic pleasure.’[21] The control of the narrative allowing a proposal for an image ‘of women for women.’[22]

Lapsley, et al (1992) regard the female spectator to have two options available to them. They may firstly adopt an active masculine position or secondly, adopt a passive feminine position [23] through the identification with either the male or female characters. This becomes extremely limiting for the women as it provides no alternative, however, it does provide the genesis for a theory which allows women a variant. Doane (1982) proposes the theory of masquerade is able to combat the domination of the male gaze within the narrative of a text. The theory revolves around an exaggeration of femininity, in which the female is able to provide a forum for herself; a forum lacking the presence of the male gaze. It may arguably be ‘femininity itself which is constructed as the mask.’[24] The result of the mask is the creation of a space behind which women are able to ‘control, read and reproduce the female image.’[25]

While possessing many limitations, masquerade may represent a defence mechanism behind which the female spectator can take refuge as opposed to a method of confrontation with which the dominant male gaze can be dismissed. Mulvey contends that transvestism provides the possibility of a further generation to the original theory of masquerade. Mulvey (1981) illustrates the ability of a female audience to oscillate their perceptual identities from that of the feminine, to the masculine. This is arguably detrimental to femininity as ‘the female is unable to achieve a stable sexual identity’.[26]

The basis for the notion of oscillation derives from the construct of the female character within both text and audience to be able to accept and enjoy images produced through the dominant discourses of patriarchy. However, the approach of this paper is to generate a further evolution of masquerade and transpose the theory presented by Mulvey (1981) onto the original theory of masquerade provided by Doane (1982). The result of this transposition may be that the oscillation of sexual identities can no longer be seen from a negative perspective, as an inability to achieve a stable basis on which to establish a sexual identity, but more positively, to be seen as an ability to deconstruct the dominant ideology.

The female is now in a position to don not only the feminine mask, but in addition a masculine mask. The female may now be able to exaggerate not only its own feminine voice, but also able to replicate and exaggerate a masculine voice. The outcome within the narrative of a text is now the ability of the female character to exist within both a forum behind which she can hide, while also possessing an ability to adopt an authentic masculine voice; a voice able to confront and potentially subordinate male discourses present within the text.

The adoption of this mask is adequately illustrated during a sequence of The Last Seduction (1993) in which Brigit stalks an all male line of telephone sales representatives. She is the supervisor and thus in a ordinate position to the other characters within the sequence; in a position to dominate all other discourses within the scene. The subordination of all other voices is created by the replacement of the normal female identity into a masculine identity. Brigit’s character is now aggressive, if not hostile, toward the men in the office. Brigit is able to provide a monetary incentive for sales, the money symbolises possession of the phallus, controller of the power discourse; of her authority and ability to dominate others, she is not seen as a sexual object, but a person to be feared, who, if the need arises is able to provide rewards for good behaviour; able to verbally castrate all those who are not able to generate results. Brigit’s reprimand of a subordinate follows thus:

Brigit: "...two minutes fifty seconds, you expect these leads to grow on

fucking trees, [pause] you want me over your shoulder all day, eh! [pause] Ask for the sale four times every time, got it, Jesus..."

The language used within the sequence not only serves to reprimand the sales representative, but also warns others of the consequences of poor performance. The role reversal is typical of the character’s ability to subordinate the masculine discourse through an abuse of her dominant station and the ability to alternate between a masculine and feminine position. The reinforcement of anxiety within the workforce, stems from her abusive and dominant language. Her purposeful use of the term eunuch once more reaffirms her as possessor of the phallus and thus provides a sub-text of the threat of castration. For example :

Brigit: "...come on you eunuchs, he’s closed six sales more than the

rest of you bastards, with the same fucking leads. Who wants to spend their whole weekend here..."

Brigit’s dominance is reinforced by undermining the masculine identity within the workforce; using phrases that imply castration imply she is the castrator. The workforce is fearful of her potential threat not only to castrate but also remove their leisure time. All voices are thus subordinate to hers. As Freudian theory demonstrates, the position of castrator of man, provides a forum for the creation of anxiety within the masculine complex, the castrated male is the male removed from the power discourse, and thus poses no threat to the female discourse.[27]

The domination of patriarchy at the beginning of the film therefore does not so much provide a firm foundation on which it can develop, it fundamentally promotes a theoretical location for the female spectator.

A deconstruction of the masculine ideology evolves through an infiltration of the masculine ideology by the female narrative agent. The exaggeration of the masculine identity dominates the mainstream narrative from a position within that narrative. The exaggeration of masculinity ultimately overpowers all other voices from within. From this position within a patriarchal construct, the female voice obtains dominance by creating an alternative masculine voice which leads to ultimate sublimation of the masculine identity; adopting the masculine, exaggerating the traits of the masculine construct, overpowering existing voices within it.

For example, Brigit adopts a masculine identity and dismisses all attempts to court her:

Brigit: "Could you leave. Please !"

Mike: "Well, I haven’t finished charming you yet.."

Brigit: " haven’t even started !"

Mike: "Give me a chance ?"

Brigit: "Look, go find yourself a nice little cow-girl,

make nice little cow-babies, and leave me alone,

now fuck off."

By adopting the masculine identity Brigit provide herself with a voice unchallenged by the existing male voice; the female character develops a voice able to subordinate all others.

Viewing the theory of masquerade as a conscious process of the female narrative agent, the ability to vary between socio-sexual identities, and thus deconstruct the dominant voice within the narrative flow of the text is arguably now achievable.

The theory arguably lacks in a number of areas, most notably the fluctuation of behaviour during the periods of manufactured exaggeration of socio-sexual identity, and secondly, by the omission of the element of neutrality within the construct of the character’s behaviour.

Taking these points into consideration this paper can now transpose a further Freudian theory onto the foundation previously outlined; that is the theory of ‘Activity and Passivity’.[28] Figure 1. presents a graphic presentation of masquerade when applied to the model of activity and passivity:










Figure 1.

The inclusion of an active and passive mode allows the scope for both an active-exaggeration and passive-exaggeration of a gendered identity. This not only allows the potential to subordinate a dominant ideology, but also the possibility to accentuate the domination. Figure 1. demonstrates the oscillation between masculine and feminine identities/ while also providing the allowance of a neutral or normal female identity. It is within this normal location that the true female voice is allowed the freedom to exist without the threat of any other dominant voice attempting domination.

Noted earlier was the contention that the female identity consciously opts ofr either masculine or feminine identities. However, if the model remains at this point, it appears flawed. The exaggerated feminine voice, through its rigidity, remains under threat from a stronger discourse. The inclusion of the active / passive dichotomy allows a stepping point by which an identity can be considered to be actively-exaggerated or passively-exaggerated.

Laplanche et al (1988) note that ‘every position is inseparable from its opposite.’[29] Masquerade can now be seen to function in two ways, firstly, to dominate a patriarchal voice by the use of an exaggerated identity stemming from the female identity. This domination is achieved through the movement between exaggerated forms of masculine and feminine identities as well as between the active and passive variants within each identity. Secondly, this complex of masquerade provides a shelter zone in which the female voice is able to exist without fear of subordination. The neutral space provides an essential variant for the feminist text. Recalling the original construct of a feminist text, that is to fight against oppression and allow for an investigation into the opportunities for women, it is seen that the feminist text must provide a place where the female voice has the opportunity to air its own identity.

Masquerade is no Longer to be seen as to process of simple exaggeration of the feminine identity to provide a space behind which the real female identity, can hide, but, a tool for the generation of power, deconstruction, and ultimate domination of a cultural ideology. For example, within one sequence of The Last Seduction (1993) events build into a rape / sex sequence; during which Brigit’s identity can be seen to constantly oscillate between not only masculine and feminine identities, but also its passive and active variants. This oscillation functions in two ways. Firstly, to maintain control of the situation being incited: the rape. Secondly, to provide a physical account of a rape for the police recording on the telephone, required by Brigit as evidence to implicate Mike for Clay’s murder.

Representing the voice of patriarchy, Mike is automatically compromised by Brigit’s transference from the passive masculine to the active masculine modes of gendered identity. Further subordination of the masculine voice comes when Brigit undermines Mike’s sexuality. The subordination takes on two forms. Firstly, within the mise en scene, that is, the Brigit choice of wearing men’s underwear, thus reinforcing Mike’s subconscious homosexual belief of himself. Secondly, Brigit’s dialogue reinforces Mike lack of manhood and masculinity. Brigit states:

Brigit: "Rape me !"

"Trish wasn’t really coming to Beston, Mike !"[30]

[Brigit purposefully unzips her trousers. A short flashback providing Mike’s image of Trish during the moment they met. The scene cuts back to Brigit and Mike.]

Brigit: "You shouldn’t have told me you had never slept with a

man before, must have been some wild night..."

[Brigit slowly pulls her trousers down to reveal old fashioned men’s underwear. A flashback of Mike holding his head in his hands. The scene cuts back to Brigit and Mike.]

Brigit: "He had to keep the goods hidden for two whole days. What did you think the thing

bobbling at the back of your throat was, a clitoris! You married a man you farm Faggot!

I’m Trish. Rape me..."

This sequence serves to incite Mike’s subconscious desire to demonstrate his masculine dominance over Brigit and thus over women, in which attempts to regain his manhood by complying with Brigit’s request and carries out what he considers to be her rape. The adoption of active masculine identity becomes too strong for Mike’s weak patriarchal voice. Brigit is in total command of the situation, even though the images are of her rape. The aura of homosexuality that shrouds Mike reinforces Brigit’s dominance. This ultimately leads to Mike’s confusion, excessive anxiety, hysteria[31] and the ultimate destruction of a patriarchal discourse.

The element of active masculine masquerade in overpowering the masculine voice arguably leaves no space for the patriarchal discourse to exist. The sexualisation of the female narrative agent, when viewed under the banner of masquerade, allows dominance over the existing patriarchal discourses within the narrative.

Having reached an ending point, this paper may answer it’s initial thesis, that is, does mainstream narrative cinema perpetuate a patriarchal discourse? One conclusion may be that the theoretical construct of masquerade allows the possibility of the subordination the subordinator; that is, the provision of a louder feminine voice than that of the dominant masculine voice. However, it is also recognised that masquerade is simply a tool applied like a blanket to a narrative, which, in turn, stems from the creation of the script and the producers of the film; all of which may be posited firmly within a patriarchal discourse. Masquerade therefore appears limited in its usefulness. More positively however, there is evidence suggesting the theory’s capability of subordinating a dominant masculine discourse within a given narrative such as The Last Seducation (1993). A feminine voice is not only created but also able to dominate the text. Remaining now is the proposal that the eroticisation of women within a cinematic text may lead not to the subordination of femininity, but to the subordination of the masculine voice within that text. The validity of this argument may be put into question when analysed under differing theoretical approaches, however, when viewed through the construct of this paper, the findings are positive for women.

In feminist film theory, a basic working assumptions is that within classical narrative cinema there is parity between the hierarchies of masculinity and femininity on the one hand and activity and passivity on the other. The Last Seduction (1993) arguably disrupts, disturbs, and deconstructs this parity; it may indeed represent an important functional text for feminism. If there is a possibility for the existence of a valid female voice within mainstream narrative cinema, the theoretical underpinning of masquerade may indeed provide the possibility for a cinematic language that is non-patriarchal; while the language may also be classified as non-feminist, the significance for feminism would indeed be considerable. It may be argued that subordination, while deemed to exist, is not automatic within every text. The Last Seduction (1993) which may be viewed by traditional theorists as Mulvey (1975), to perpetuate the subordination of women, through the allowance of a male gaze by providing graphic scenes of sexual activity may be seen to allow not the subordination of women but, the subordination of a patriarchal discourse. In subordinating patriarchy masquerade may arguably perpetuate feminism. [32]

The Last Seduction (1993) adheres to what Heath terms as a cinema which breaks with ‘received notions of femininity and depict women truthfully… …such a cinema would create a discourse, a voice, a place for [women] as subject.’[33] If the sexualisation of women is seen to satisfy only a masculine voice, femininity can be seen as nothing more than a tool of patriarchy. If patriarchy is dominated by sex being used as a tool - one among many tools of masquerade - then the use of sexual behaviour may no longer perpetuate the subordination of women, more contribute to the construct of feminism and provide a voice for women; a place for discourse. Progressive sexuality can indeed be seen to create a new definition of femininity; definitions which may counter the dominance of the silver screens of Hollywood and beyond.



[1] To provide an account of the film within the text serves nothing more than a waste of valuable space. It is therefore appropriate that a brief resume of the film should be provided within the endnote. The summary is thus:

Clay gains seven hundred thousand dollars from an illegal drug deal. Brigit has masterminded this deal while Clay has executed it. Brigit steals the money and leaves Clay with no money, and a ‘shark’ finance company demanding money. Brigit arrives at a small town called Beston. She meets Mike and, after gaining some advice from her corrupt lawyer, obtains employment and decides to ensnare Mike into a plot to Murder Clay, a plot which, unbeknown to Mike, he is to be arrested and tried for.

Mike is a small town boy wanting to make it to the big city. His only venture to the ‘big city’ resulted in his unwitting marriage to transsexual. Brigit’s plan centres upon murdering the husbands who are unfaithful to their wives. Mike’s role as a claims adjuster allows him access to financial records which provide a possible list of candidates of unfaithful husbands; a list is made of possible clients. Mike objects to the killings on moral grounds.

Clay hires a private detective to find Brigit. The detective succeeds in finding her and attempts to obtain the stolen money. During one scene, Brigit bates the detective about the size of his penis and notes that “if you’ll show me yours, I’ll show you mine.” In an attempt to appease Brigit, the detective removes his penis from his trousers. Brigit takes the opportunity she has manufactured and crashes the car, killing the detective.

Brigit now begins to pull her plan together by saying that she has murdered someone, from the list, for cash which will enable Mike and her to live together. In return he must now kill a “son of a bitch who just cheats and beats on his wife.” The person Brigit has in mind is Clay. Mike is persuaded to commit the murder. During the final scene Mike is unable to carry out the task; Where Mike fails Brigit succeeds and murders Clay. Mike cannot comprehend what is going on and becomes enraged when Brigit revels to him the fact that she is wearing men’s underwear. She tells him that he is homosexual for marrying a man, by mistake. Mike becomes enraged as he listens to Brigit bate him: “Rape me, come on you farm faggot, rape me, you fucker, like you did it with Trish.” During the sequence Brigit calmly dials 911 and the police record an enraged Mike apparently ‘raping’ Brigit while also confessing to the murder of Clay.

Mike is tried and convicted of the rape of Brigit and murder of Clay. Brigit however is seen in every sense as the victim - rape victim and widow. In reality however she escapes from the events unscathed and more importantly to her, wealthy. The final scene has Brigit disposing of the last piece of evidence and being chauffeur driven into the distance.

[2] Smith, S. - ‘The image of women in film; Some suggestions for future research’;

Women and Film; No. 1; 1972; p.13

[3] Erens, P. - Issues in Feminist Film Criticism; Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990;


[4] When using the term women, this essay refers to women as defined from the point of view of a western culture.

[5] Barrs, P. - Beginning Theory; an introduction to littery and cultural theory; Manchester

University Press; Manchester; 1995; p.134

[6] Bailey, M.E. - cited in Ramazanoglu (ed); Up Against Foucault: Explorations of some tensions

between Foucault and Feminism; Routledge; London; 1994; p.99

[7] Elshtain, J. - Public Man, Private Woman; Women in social and political thought: Princeton

University Press; Princeton, USA; 1981 ;p.15

[8] Bailey, M.E. - op. cit.

[9] See filmography for character list and credits.

[10] Mayne, J. - The woman at the keyhole: Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990; p. 117

[11] Mayne, J. - Ibid

[12] Modleski, T. - ‘Hitchcock, Feminism, and the patriarchal unconscious’ cited in Erens, P. (ed);

Issues in Feminist Film Criticism; Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990;


[13] Stacey, J. - ‘Desperately seeking difference’; Cited in Erens, P.; Issues in Feminist Film

Criticism: Indiana University Press; Bloomington; 1990

[14] The following section of this paper refers to the terms male / female and feminine / masculine. It should be emphasised that female and feminine and male and masculine are differing concepts. The notion is proposed that the term feminine and masculine are societally defined traits of the female and male sex, respectively. It is recognised that the term feminine or masculine are not the pejorative of gendered expressions. The terms are therefore ‘carefully’ used within these contexts.

[15] Mulvey, L. - ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’; Screen: Vol.16 / No.3; Autumn; 1975

[16] Kuhn, A. - Women’s Pictures Feminism and Cinema: Verso; London; 1994; p.59

[17] Mulvey, L. - op. cit.

[18] This lack is described by Freud as the Oedipus complex. Its central theme concerns the lack of a penis, symbolising the mother figure as inferior to that of the father figure; the domination representing power at this stage within the development of sexuality. It is through this identification with and the ultimate rejection of the mother figure, through her lack of a penis that the child sees the mother figure to represent the threat of castration and thus a threat to the availability of a power discourse within the dominant social forum.

When viewed simultaneously with a construct of the cinema, it can be seen that the allowance of the female voice, is the allowance of a Loss of power, by the observer. The pleasure derived by the masculine spectator thus stems from both the knowledge that this threat is admonished and secondly, as Mulvey herself notes, it is the alienated subject, torn in his imaginary memory by a sense of loss, by the terror of potential lack in phantasy that comes near to finding a glimpse of satisfaction.

While inscribing boundaries by which the concept of narcissism and scopophilia within the masculine construct, the theory is not able to illustrate how the female construct oscillates between male and female identities. The two aspects do however, seem remarkably similar. Both male and female infant progress through the Oedipus complex, however, the complex is different within each sex. Within the male, the separation from the mother figure comes through the realisation of a mothers lack of penis, due to the possession of a penis by the male child, the mother figure is automatically seen to possess both, a threat of castration, while also being inferior to the male. The female child also holds the mother figure as a primary love object, the distinction here being that the infant and the mother figure are the same sex. In order to establish a normal heterosexual attachment, the female child must both continue to identify with the mother and shift her love to her father. Opposite to the male child, the change in the love object comes, not through the possession of a penis, but through the realisation of a lack of penis. The child then turns her attention to the father in an attempt to substitute the lack of penis, with the provision of a child.

However, it is this obsessive love for both the mother and father figures that instil an ability for the duality of identity to exist. This forced duality may represent the impetus behind Mulvey’s theoretical rubric which allows a feminine identity to oscillate between masculine and feminine personas. The implication is that in order to exist and function effectively, the feminine construct needs to be able to adopt the masculine construct.

[19] Doane, M.A. - ‘Film & The Masquerade: Theorising The Female Spectator’; Screen; Vol 23.

No.3 / 4; Sept / Oct; 1982

[20] Doane, M.A. - Ibid; p.76

[21] Lapsley, R. - Film Theory: An introduction; Manchester University Press; Manchester; 1992;

& Westlake, M. p.98

[22] Of women for women refers to the imaging of women for a spectator other than that of the scopophillic / narcissistic male gaze.

[23] LapsLey, R. - Ibid; p.98

& Westlake, M.

[24] Doane, M.A. - op. cit.; p.81

[25] Doane, M.A. - op. c it.; p.81

[26] Mulvey, L. - Afterthoughts on "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" inspired by Duel in

the Sun (King Vidor,1946); Framework; No.15-16-17; 1981; p.70

[27] Refer to Endnote 18 for an outline of Oedipus complex.

[28] Defined by Freud as ‘one of the pairs of opposites which are fundamental to mental life’. Activity and Passivity are defining characteristics of specific types of instinctual aims. From the genetic point of view the active - passive dichotomy is prior to the subsequent opposition between phallic / castrated and masculine and feminine.

[29] Laplanche, J. - The Language of Psychoanalysis; Karnac Books; London; 1988; p.8

[30] Brigit sent Mike a letter, supposedly from Trish, stating that she was coming to Beston and wished to resume their relationship.

[31] Freud describes hysteria as to be found in the prevalence of a certain kind of identification… …which is often in emergence of the Oedipal conflict occurring mainly in the phallic and oral libidinal spheres. Freud terms conversion hysteria as the psychical conflict expressed symbolically in somatic symptoms of the most varied kinds, i.e., emotional crisis accompanied by theatricality.

Laplanche, J. - op. cit.; pp.194 -195

[32] This subordination is created by overpowering the male voice by the female voice. In subordinating the male voice, the feminist ideal may be seen to contribute to the creation of a forum in which women dominate men

[33] Heath, S. - ‘Anto Mo’; Screen; Vol.16 No.4; Winter; 1975 / 1976; p.53


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The Last Seduction

USA, 1993, Colour (CFI)

Directed by: John Dahl

Produced by: ITC Entertainment Certification: UK:18/USA:R

Language: English Genre: Film Noir

Run Time: USA: 110 Sound Mix: Ultra Stereo


Linda Fiorentino …Brigit Gregory

Bill Pullman …Clay Gregory

Michael Raysses …Phone Sales Rep

Zack Phifer …Gas Station Attendant

Peter Berg (I) …Mike Swale

Brien Varaday …Chris

Dean Norris …Shep

Donna Wilson …Stacy

Mike Scriba …Ray

J.T.Walsh …Frank Griffith

Erik - Anders Nilsson …Beston Passerby * 1

Patricia, R. Caprio …Beston Passerby * 2

Herb Mitchell …Bob Trotter

Bill Nunn …Marian

Renee Rogers …Receptionist

Bill Stevenson …Mail Boy

Walter Addison …Detective

Anna Flanagan …Nurse

Mike Lisenco …Bert

Serena …Trish Swale

Michelle Davison …911 Operator

Jack Shearer …Public Defender


Script - Steve Barancik

Cinematography - Jeff Jur

Music - Joseph Vitarelli

Production Design - Linda Pearl

Costume Design - Terry Dresbach

Film Editing - Eric, L. Beasan

Producer - Jonathon Shestack, Nancy Rae Stone (Co-Producer)