Vertigo Alfred Hitchcock's Relationship to Femininity

Many film critics have noted over the years that Hitchcock's legacy as a master of the horror genre is also bound up with a latent misogyny within his work. Throughout his work, Hitchcock depicts women as untrustworthy, and deserving of violent ends. Vertigo is often read as a kind of misogynistic fantasy, in which the man is driven mad by a woman who is alternately a mysterious and self-destructive femme fatale and a flaky puppet of deception.

Many have suggested that one need look no further than some of Hitchcock's most famous films—Marnie, North by Northwest, Rear Window, The Birds, and Psycho—to see some of his most egregious women-hating on full display. Writer Bidisha writes in an article for The Guardian, "Hitch knows how to frame a shot. But when it comes to the ladies, it's slim pickings. Indeed that is literally what his women do: pick their way slimly through a range of awful experiences and deceitful pathologies so extreme you'd be howling with laughter, were the art of cinema not so very serious. There's the vamp, the tramp, the snitch, the witch, the slink, the double-crosser and, best of all, the demon mommy. Don't worry, they all get punished in the end." Throughout his films, Bidisha suggests, women get punished for their misbehavior, and part of the thrill of his horrific scenarios has to do with witnessing this woman-hating punishment.

Indeed, much has also been written about Hitchcock's personal relationship to members of the fairer sex. Tippi Hedren, the star of The Birds, says that Hitchcock sexually assaulted her while telling her he would ruin her career if she resisted. Others have commented on the fact that he had an obsessive relationship with his female actresses, wanting to manipulate them both personally and creatively for his films. In a book about Hitchcock, writer Peter Ackroyd writes, "The sexual fantasies of his adult life were lavish and peculiar, and, from the evidence of his films, he enjoyed devising the rape and murder of women.”