Homosexuality in Hitchcock’s Rope

Discuss the representation of homosexuality in Sigmund Fraud’s “The Sexual Aberrations” and Alfred Hitchcock Rope.. Based on the true murder case of Leopold and Loeb, Alfred Hitchcock Rope (1948) depicts the tale of two intelligent young men and there attempts to execute the perfect murder. With the entire film taking place in one apartment, we watch as Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan strangle there friend David, hide his body in a trunk, and proceed to have a party, all the while with the corpse hidden in plain sight.
In this essay, I will address the issue of homosexuality within the text, a hero which, due to the strict nature of the times, is only hinted at within the movie. To do this, I will use Fraud’s essay on The Sexual Aberrations (1905) and provide parallels between the two texts. In particular I will focus on Fraud’s discussion of degeneration, sadism, masochism and finally fetishism. What is interesting when discussing homosexuality within this text, especially when viewed in context of what was believed to be sexually normal at the time, is whether the two murderers sexuality actually has any bearing on the crime itself.
Or, more to he point, (and particularly when viewed with relevance to Fraud’s Aberrations) is it the sexuality, or society’s view on the sexuality that led Shaw and Morgan to the conclusion of murder? Freud, when discussing the term “degenerate”, disregards any preconceived beliefs of a link between it and homosexuality. He argues that a simple digression from normality does not qualify a person as degenerate (I. E morally corrupt).

Therefore, an invert, or person of a homosexual inclination is not, at least as a result of their natural sexuality, a person of degenerate nature. To Freud, generation is as much a possibility within heterosexuals as homosexuals. The deviation from normality, in itself, has no bearing on it. “That the inverted are not degenerates in this qualified sense can be seen from the following facts:01. The inversion is found among persons who otherwise show no marked deviation from the normal. 2.
It is found also among persons whose capabilities are not disturbed, who on the contrary are distinguished by especially high intellectual development… ” (Freud, The Sexual Aberrations, 1905) So, having established that the chances of degeneration are equal across the playing for field for all people of raying sexuality, are our two protagonists degenerate? The domineering force of Brandon Shaw would seem to fit nicely into Fraud’s second category of being “distinguished by especially high intellectual development… And, despite the guilt that slowly riddles itself into Phillips slightly cold demeanor, there is no hiding the obvious pleasure both gained from the planning and executing of their “perfect murder”. This pleasure would appear to be twofold; firstly in the physical act of the strangulation (note the phallic-like weapon of choice, changed from the original blunt hisses used by Leopold and Loeb), and secondly in the intellectual challenge and sense of superiority gained from committing and then hiding the act.
These divergences lend themselves towards the category of sadism. From the offset, the authoritarian manner is quickly proven to be the driving force in the relationship; a fact that he relishes, and Philip excepts. This is exemplary of a sadomasochistic partnership. The Online Oxford dictionary defines sadism as, “the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others” (http://expectoration’s. Mom/definition/sadism? =sadism), and is, according to Freud, almost inseparable from its counterpart, masochism, the desire to be controlled and dominated by another. His belief that the two behaviors are often found coexisting within the same person, is explored in our two main characters. Firstly, we have Brandon, our sadist. Intelligent, forceful and imperious, his real-life counterpart Richard Loeb was believed to be the driving force behind the Bobby Franks murder of 1924, as would seem to be the case in Hitchcock Rope.
All these actions, in sequence, would seem to mirror and metaphors the generic sexual act: a physical encounter (again, note the symbol of the flaccid, phallic-like rope), a climax, slighted by Davit’s final scream, and the moment of close, silent reflection between the two. What is key however, is the addition of one final action that Brandon and Phillip undergo before speaking and breaking their erotic spell: the hiding of the body, the evidence of their of their sexual deviations.
They have replaced the act of sex, forbidden by concepts of social normality, with the act of murder, and, Just as they would have had to hide their physical relationship from the world, they hide the body. “The body’s in the trunk and the sex is in the closet, yet both are hidden in plain sight” (Bourne, Review of Rope). This brings me back to the original question of whether it is the sexuality, or society’s view of the sexuality that resulted in the murder.
We have already established through Fraud’s discussion of degeneration that moral corruption is not an inherent characteristic of have also acknowledged the fact that Brandon is, without a doubt, a sadist. I believe to properly interpret the actions of Brandon and Phillip, we must further investigate the strange link between aggression and eroticism seen in the opening scene.
As mentioned before, homosexuality at the time, or any other form of deviation from the tankard male-female relationship, was socially feared and condemned as immoral and wrong. Freud, in his Civilization and its Discontents (1929) discusses the difficulties that arise with such discrimination, “As regards the sexually mature individual, the choice of an object is restricted to the opposite sex, and most extra- genital satisfactions are forbidden as perversions.
The requirement, demonstrated in these prohibitions, that there shall be a single kind of sexual life for everyone, disregards the dissimilarities, whether innate or acquired, in the sexual constitution f human beings; it cuts Off fair number of them from sexual enjoyment, and so becomes a source of serious injustice” (Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p. 549). It is this sense of injustice and frustration, both mental and physical that could potentially lead the invert into a state of degeneration.
For Brandon and Phillip, their pent up sexual frustrations, symbolized in the limp rope, must be directed down a different avenue, unbalancing the mental process and disturbing the function of the libido. For both, this resulted in a release of sadistic aggression. “The sexuality of cost men shows a taint of aggression, it is a propensity to subdue, the biological significance of which lies in the necessity of overcoming the resistance of the sexual object by actions other than mere courting.
Sadism would then correspond to an aggressive component of the sexual impulse which has become independent and exaggerated and has been brought to the foreground by displacement” (Freud, The Sexual Aberrations, 1905) But where Brandon would appear to be firmly planted in the category of ‘sadist’, Phillip, confirming Fraud’s previously mentioned belief of masochism nearly always accompanying sadism, is far more the sadomasochist. While obviously gaining Just as much pleasure from the violence as Brandon, Phillip doesn’t seem to gain any such satisfaction from the sense of intellectual superiority that his partner does.
While retaining his fascination with aggression and strangulation, (“You’re quite a good chicken strangler as I recall… (Rupert to Phillip, Rope, 1948), Phillip would appear content being dominated by Brandy’s charm and force. When asked by Brandon about who else they might have killed instead of David, Phillip replies, “You perhaps, you frighten me, you always have, from that very iris day in prep school… Part of your charm I suppose. ” (Phillip, Rope, 1948).
Even the smallest detail of having to ask for a drink gives evidence towards the obvious power- relationship between the two, and Leeds us to the conclusion that Phillip gains as much pleasure from his own dominance and suffering as he does from doing the same to others. Sadism is associated with activity, and masochism with passivity, of which both traits can be seen in Phillip, and only one in Brandon. “A sadist is simultaneously a masochist, though either the active or the passive side of the reversion may be more strongly developed and thus represent his preponderate sexual activity. (Freud, The Sexual Aberrations, 1905). And, in true masochistic fashion, Phillips twisted desire to be tortured (as far as the film is concerned only mentally) is matched only by Brandy’s desire to play the torturer. The constant their guests, not only exercises his sense of intellectual supremacy over his guests, but also his power over the nervy Phillip. Brandon Shaw: Mrs.. Wilson, champagne! Kenneth: Oh, it isn’t someone’s birthday is it? Brandon Shaw: Don’t look so worried, Kenneth. It’s, uh, really almost the opposite. (Rope, 1948) These endless quips leave Phillip a helpless victim, suffering mentally, a fact which Brandon is clearly aware of and excited by. So strong is Phillips psychological discomfort, that, when the oblivious Mrs.. Wilson mistakenly greets Kenneth as David, Phillip squeezes and breaks his glass. The lingering of the camera on Phillips now bloody hand, and his slow, almost fascinated expression as he observes the bleeding wound, hints at the fixation he has with pain; a further, subtle, reference to his masochistic nature.
Although on the surface, Brandon and Phillip seem entirely efferent in demeanor, there are definite traits that both characters share. I have already mentioned the fact that Freud argues the belief that sadism and masochism can often be found coexisting in the same person, and that this fact is confirmed with Phillips character, (his role in the murder, and his history of strangling the chickens), giving the two men a shared obsession with sadism. However, the more obvious similarity is in their fixation on the rope itself.
While the main Freudian concept seen in Morgan and Shah’s murder is that of sadomasochism, the concept of ethicist is also a possible tool of understanding within the text. What is interesting to note, and what draws attention to the object as much as its use as the title for the film, is Hitchcock decision to change the original murder weapon from a blunt chisel, to a rope. The symbol of their sexual frustrations, it also becomes a point of fixation for the two men.
Freud when discussing fetishism as, ” cases in which for the normal sexual object is substituted another which is related to it but which is totally unfit for the normal sexual aim… The substitution for the sexual object is in mineral a part of the body but little adapted for sexual purposes, such as the foot, or hair, or an inanimate object which is in demonstrable relation with the sexual person, and mostly with the sexuality of the same” (Freud, The Sexual Aberrations, 1905).
While the possibility of the rope being a a thing of fetishistic obsession for the two men could be argued, I believe the symbolism behind the object overrides this theory. I believe it is more the act of strangulation and murder that excites the two men, and that the rope itself merely acts as a symbolic image of their unfulfilled desires, and there need to hide those desires. Phillip Morgan: I was sure she’d notice it Brandon Shaw: Notice what? Phillip Morgan: The rope of course.
Brandon we’ve got to hide it. Brandon Shaw: It’s only a piece of rope Phillip, an ordinary household article, why hide it? It belongs in the kitchen drawer. (Rope, 1948) infamous for it’s long, unbroken shots, thoughtful and witty dialogue and brooding sense of tension. However it is only when viewed with relevance to Freudian ideas of sexual inversion and perversion that the text takes on an entirely new level of intellectual depth. Fraud’s essay on The Sexual Aberrations (1905) and Hatcheck’s
Rope (1948), would appear to be complimentary of each other in concepts of sexual aggression and sadomasochistic relationships, with each giving power and thought to concepts found in the other. It is my opinion, that this new level of understanding gained through Fraud’s writings, elevates this movie to higher class which maintains its impact almost 60 years after it was originally filmed. Mark Bourne, Rope, http://www. DVD]urinal. Com/reviews/r/rope. SHTML Civilization and its Discontents, Freud 1929 http://www. Bartlett. Mom/278/1 . HTML http://expectoration’s. Com/definition/sadism? Q=sadism t is the balance between the libidinal forces of the individual and the requirements of society, as represented through the superego, which constitutes a state of normalcy and is precisely what the boys were not able to produce The sexuality of most men shows a taint of aggression, it is a propensity to subdue, the biological significance of which lies in the necessity of overcoming the resistance of the sexual object by actions other than mere courting.
Sadism would then correspond to an aggressive component of the sexual impulse which has become independent and exaggerated and has been brought to the foreground by displacement Brandon Shaw

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