Georges Bataille: The Globular & Cross Gender Identification Through Eyeball Mutilation In The Horror Film

Donald L. Anderson

"The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye." – Dr. Brian O'Blivion, from David Cronenberg's film Videodrome
"The brain is unity.  The brain is the screen.  I don't believe that linguistics and psychoanalysis offer a great deal to the cinema." – Gilles Deleuze (i)

[1] The French theorist, Georges Bataille has in the last decade had his work reappraised and seen applied to the discourses of literary theory and film studies.  During his lifetime, Bataille was largely appreciated by his fellow French intellectuals, who saw in his work the disruption of language and discourse caused by explicit pornographic transgression.  This aspect of Bataille's theory caused Michel Foucault to later write, in his "A Preface To Transgression," "Bataille's language...continually breaks down at the center of its space, exposing in his nakedness, in the inertia of ecstasy, a visible and insistent subject who had tried to keep language at arm's length, but who now finds himself thrown by it, exhausted, upon the sands of that which he can no longer say" (31).  Other theorists such as Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Maurice Blanchot, Susan Sontag, and Jacques Derrida, all became influenced by Bataille and offered their own essays concerning his writing.  Bataille was heralded as the most prolific writer on sexuality in France since Sade.  Nonetheless, his application to philosophy and theory never materialized until after his death.  Susan Rubin Suleiman writes:

But it was in the 1960s that the potential for a metaphoric equivalence between the violation of sexual taboos and the violation of discursive norms that we associate with the theory of textuality became fully elaborated.  And it is here that both Bataille's practice as a writer and his thought as a philosopher became a central reference. (119) 

Surely, one of the aspects that held Bataille back from achieving the appreciation he deserved was the sexual explicitness of his writing—often published under pseudonyms.  His work was integrated into the Surrealist movement spearheaded by Andre Breton in the 1930s.  The pornographic element was seen as an appropriate means of subverting rational thought for the Surrealists.  However, Bataille soon found himself banned from the group and personally attacked by Breton in his second volume of the Manifestoes of Surrealism.  As time moved on and the writers listed above began to write more about Bataille and his work, it became obvious what an important contribution Bataille's work was to semiotics, history, sexuality, fiction, and philosophy.

[2] In my work, I would like to extend Bataille into the cinematic realm he appears most appropriate for—the Horror genre.  What I propose in this project is the development of a form of cinematic analysis that will provide a system of codes upon which cross-gender identification may be allowed to operate.  In order for my theory to be fully functional, a sexual equality between male and female must be theorized.  In order for this to arrive at fruition I am constituting a new semiotics taken directly from the work of Georges Bataille, that will challenge the concept of sexual difference.  For far too long, film theorists have deconstructed the Horror film with psychoanalysis as part of their primary theoretical artillery.  But, as I will explain, this is problematic because psychoanalysis has inherent to it an inequality that is at the root of Freud's concepts of the woman as castrated.  Just as these film critics have read the Horror film, ready to pounce upon any object resembling a phallus, or any trace of Oedipal anxiety, I am prepared to show that on the contrary, it is quite possible to read the Horror film with a theoretical paradigm and a new symbolic order that will create an environment for a non-gendered sexuality to proliferate.

[3] It may come as no surprise that the text from which I intend to extract the bulk of my theorizing is Bataille's short novel, The Story of The Eye.  Bataille's debut was first published in 1928, under the pseudonym Lord Auch.  The book is emblematic of Bataille's multivalent compositional style.  The text may be read as Pornography, Horror, Surrealism, or quite easily a combination of all three.  The story is comprised of three characters and chronicles their debauched escapades involving everything from violent orgies to murder and rape.  One of the three, the female Simone, develops a fetish for eggs.  She likes to drop them in the toilet and urinate on them as well as sit on them.  This fetish eventually extends to the eyeball and reaches its apex during the murder of a priest at the end of the book.  Throughout the text, Bataille allows for many examples that draw a comparison between eyes and eggs.  "It was after such dreams that Simone would ask me to bed her down on blankets by the toilet and fix her wide eyes on the white eggs" (37, italics are the author's own).  What results from Simone's (Bataille's) fetishising of the eyeball is the construction of a system of coding that has its beginning in, not the eyeball exactly, but rather what Roland Barthes terms the globular—an undefined, circular shape.  My discussion of the globular, thus has its origins in Barthes' influential essay on Bataille, however, I am concerned with removing Barthes' theory from its psychoanalytical base.

[4] The Story of The Eye firstly revolves around an undefined globular object that manifests itself as many things throughout the text, most importantly an eye.  By undefined I mean the object acts as a general signifier of the many forms it takes in the book.  As I will show, it is the fact the object is globular which allows it to function in a multivalent manner and become the foundation of a heavily coded narrative.  In the grand scheme of Bataille's text, it is not the eye, testicle, sun, or egg that is important, but rather the globularity of the erotic object itself, which is intangible and undefined—and by this, non-gendered.  It can then be said the implementation of the globular object and its related mutations have running through them a psychosexuality that is polymorphic and as multivalent as the object itself—this is a system of codes (i.e. globe shapes and polymorphic sex).  In both the Horror films and literature I am discussing, this order of objects functions as a means to an end, that end being death.  Or, shall I say, the Bataillian realization of the discontinuous being.  The system swallows itself in its own oblivion.  In Bataillian fashion, death becomes the pure and final demonstration of eroticism.  All limits have been transgressed. 

[5] Despite this inevitable entropy of the system, it is the multivalent manner of the object that will allow cross-gender identification (which I will go into further later) for the viewer of the films I am discussing.  There is another system of coding at work that is concerned with urine, blood, milk, and ejaculate, but it is not pertinent to my discussion.  Barthes, whose influential essay on Bataille's story also comments on the question of metaphor and how it operates within a system of coding, suggests the "fundamental form subsists through the movement of a nomenclature, like that of a topological space; for here each inflection is a new name that utters a new usage" (240).  The code remains pure throughout its metamorphosis and Barthes is quite lucid about this idea in his analysis.  However, Barthes' work is not without its problems.  As I will note in discussing Fulci's film, Freud's theories of the phallus not only plague Horror film theory, but Barthes' essay as well.

Critical Responses & Polemics

The Eye As A Universal Sex Organ: Or, How To Round Out The Phallus

[6] Freudian/Lacanian theory has been more often integrated into the critical discourse of the Horror film than almost any other approach.  It seems only appropriate to attribute the knife of the "stalk-and-slash" genre to the male sexual organ, and to read the bloody death of the female victim as an exhibition of rape and male orgasm.  While analysis such as the one above may be common, this is not to say there has not been some innovation in the way critics have used Freud in discussing the Horror film.  Barbara Creed presents a re-telling of the Little Hans story that provided Freud with his concept of the castrated woman.  In Creed's reading, it is not the woman who is castrated, but rather who presents the threat of castration.  In the opening to the second part of her book, The Monstrous Feminine, Creed iterates, "Freud argued that woman terrifies because she is castrated.  I will argue that woman also terrifies because man endows her with imaginary powers of castration" (87). (ii)   While I applaud Creed's valuable work on the Horror film, I feel we can only reach deeper into the Horror film by collapsing all gender and sex binaries and through this create a purely fleshy and polymorphic tapestry to scan the surface of, in order to reach the pure essence of the Horror film.

[7] This is where Bataille will be most helpful.  The Story Of The Eye may serve as my own Little Hans story.  Bataille essentially accomplishes the same thing as Freud.  Bataille constructs a symbolic shape which operates under a complicated system of codes.  Freud developed the phallus which has been used in the same way.  Each shape (the globular, the phallus) serves as an object that is representative of both the male and the female in both author's texts.  However, under Freud's theory, this is problematic because the female will always be read as lacking and her sexual identity will only exist in direct relation to the male and never fully independently of him. (iii)   In Deleuze & Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, this concept is put forth perfectly.  "We know how Freudianism is permeated by this bizarre notion that there is finally only one sex, the masculine, in relation to which the woman, the feminine is defined as a lack, and absence" (294).  Deleuze & Guattari continue, making Freud seem almost comical.

For if the woman is defined as a lack in relation to the man, the man in his turn lacks what is lacking in the woman, simply in another fashion: the idea of a single sex necessarily leads to the erection of a phallus as an object on high, which distributes lack as two nonsuperimposable sides and makes the two sexes communicate in a common absence—castration. (295)

Deleuze & Guattari demonstrate just how flawed Freudian theory can be.  They are implying that Freud's theory empowers and thus arouses men.  The super-phallus "on high" is in fact tyrannical and borderline fascist.  In Bataille's text, the object posits itself within a rich context of symbolism that fairly and equally oscillates between the male and female characters' sex. 

[8] Barthes, while being quite lucid in his reading of Bataille, cannot fully disengage himself from the phallus.  "The image system developed here has no sexual obsession for its 'secret'; if this were the case, we should first have to explain why the erotic theme is never directly phallic (what we have is a 'round phallism')" (242).  While I agree with Barthes that "nothing authorizes us to say that the metaphor begins with the genital" I cannot accept his unwillingness to look away from Freudian terminology in reading a text so obviously progressive both sexually and textually.  Further, I cannot accept his suggestion that the system lacks the sexual as its origin.  The globular is constituted as sex by way of Simone's intense fetishizing of it and can only be understood as such if it is to operate as a nomenclature threading itself through various modes of symbolism—all directly related back to sex and the fetish object.

[9] I am far from the first to recognize the problems of applying a Freudian/Lacanian model to the Horror film.  Gaylyn Studlar's brilliant essay, "Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema," confronts the shortcomings of psychoanalysis by drawing on Gilles Deleuze's concept of masochism.  Studlar writes:

The "masochistic model" rejects a stance that has emphasized the phallic phase and the pleasure of control or mastery and therefore offers an alternative to strict Freudian models that have proven to be a dead end for feminist-psychoanalytical theory.  In trying to come to terms with patriarchal society and the cinema as a construct of that society, current theoretical discourse has often inadvertently reduced the psychoanalytic complexity of spectatorship through a regressive phallocentrism that ignores a wider range of psychological influences on visual pleasure. (775) 

Here, Studlar successfully argues for a new model that will account for a broader and more diverse range of psychological issues, these being for her pre-Oedipal desire, gender power relations, and most important to her essay, masochism.  What Studlar is directly confronting is the long-standing idea that the male gaze is inherently sadistic/active while the feminine is passive.  This style of theorizing derives from and is most often associated with Laura Mulvey, who in her article, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" outlines a model that fails to account for the female spectator's gaze while relying on the male's sadistic gaze for its criticism.  "The man controls the film phantasy and also emerges as the representative of power in a further sense: as the bearer of the look of the spectator, transferring it behind the screen to neutralize the extra-diegetic tendencies represented by woman as spectacle" (838).  However, Mulvey would later confront the shortcomings of her work in a special issue of Camera Obscura on female spectatorship.  "Inevitably, in the end, a project that had started out as a defense of Hollywood turned upside down, because it was impossible to ignore the sexual politics that 'figured' its psychic economy" (250).  A recent analysis of Story Of The Eye mirrors Mulvey's original claims concerning male spectatorship.  A.R. Roughley insists on reading the narrator of the story within a phallic framework.  He argues "the narrative "I" occupies a phallic position" (2).  This demonstrates that not even literary theory is safe from Mulveyism.  The sexual politics of narrative cinema as well as those within Bataille's story, are too complex for a phallocentric framework.  Studlar's work and my present work here almost converge when she begins to talk about trans-sexual identification:

A theory of masochism that emphasizes pre-Oedipal conflicts and pleasures invites consideration of responses to film by spectators of both sexes that may conflict with conscious cultural assumptions about sexual difference, gender identity, and the separation of identification from object cathexis. (778)

The main difference between Studlar's argument and mine comes from our theoretical approaches to challenging psychoanalysis.  Studlar is more concerned with the role of masochism, as articulated by Deleuze, in the male/female gaze and its relation to the pregenital period.  I am concerned with instituting a substitution for phallocentrism which is, dare I term it as such, globular-centrism, an approach extracted directly out of Bataille.  Studlar isolates four areas of masochism that she says, "overlap with the primary structures that enable classic narrative cinema to produce visual pleasure," these being, "fantasy, disavowal, fetishism and suspense" (775).  I agree with Studlar that these elements are at the fore of the cinematic experience.  The viewers must submit to the "dream screen," disavow their sense of control, fetishize the images on the screen and remain in suspense.  Each of these elements demand the viewers' taking on the role of masochist.  Thus, psychoanalytic theory, with its concern for castration anxiety and lack does not factor into the act viewing for the masochist whose own development Studlar considers pre-Oedipal.  Studlar continues,  "Masochism is not associated with castration fear, yet fetishism is an integral part of its dynamic.  Disavowal and fetishism, the two common matrices of masochism and cinematic spectatorial pleasure, do not always reflect the psychic trauma of the castration and sexual difference defined as feminine lack" (785).  However, I would like to take the idea presented above, that masochism is pre-Oedipal, and argue that it is anti-Oedipal.  Sexuality does not have to follow a Freudian timeline.  Masochism develops outside the psychoanalytical time system—it is not necessarily an early stage of it.  Masochism is a sexually immature development, and as such, resists establishing the woman as lacking/castrated.  Gender and sex become irrelevant for the masochist to function and it is this disavow of gender relations that disrupts psychoanalysis.

[10] As is shown by Studlar, psychoanalysis is far from being beyond criticism.  And as she hints when discussing feminism, the psychoanalytical model will be further deconstructed until a new approach is sought.  It is my goal with this project to help establish a new model that will be applicable not only to film theory discourse, but contemporary, third-wave feminist discourse as well. 

[11] Carol Clover's work is even more vital to my present work because she, unlike Studlar, deals with Horror specifically.  The essays that make up her book, Men Women & Chainsaws, serve as the opposition to the popular film theory school of Mulvey and Metz.  In the chapter, "Her Body, Himself," she was one of the first to identify cross-gender identification in the Slasher film genre of Horror:

Film may not appropriate the mind's eye, but it certainly encroaches on it; the gender characteristics of a screen figure are a visible and audible given for the duration of the film.  To the extent that the possibility of cross-gender identification has been entertained, it has been that of the female with the male.  Thus some critics have wondered whether the female viewer, faced with the screen image of a masochistic/narcissistic female, might not rather elect to 'betray her sex and identify with the masculine point of view.'  The reverse question—whether men might not also, on occasion, elect to betray their sex and identify with the screen females—has scarcely been asked, presumably on the assumption that men's interests are well served by the traditional patterns of cinematic representation. (43)

The above excerpt sets the stage for Clover's consideration of what she dubs "The Final Girl," who acts as "a congenial double for the adolescent male" (51).  Clover's work is pivotal in Horror film theory because it addresses the fact that the Horror cinema is instrumental in creating a deeply allegorical text whose content is rooted in pre-Oedipal development—thus the subjective gaze is more closely linked to masochism—and Horror's metacinematic comment on gaze and gazing directly references itself (iv) and through this transcends problems of gender and plays instead with psychosexual representation.  Both Clover's and Studlar's theories take into account male masochism as playing a vital role in spectatorship, and as both Clover and I would argue, it is the primary role in watching Horror films.  "What I am saying is that 'feminine masochism' as it has been outlined in psychoanalysis finally offers the best answer to the question that modern Horror repeatedly raises: just why it is that male viewers would choose to 'feel' fear and pain through the figure of a female—a female, in fact, whose very bodily femaleness is at center stage" (224).

Deleuze & Guattari – "A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst's couch" (2).

[12] Studlar is not the only theorist to call on the works of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose landmark book, Anti-Oedipus, dismantled psychoanalysis and challenged the way sexuality and desire are understood.  Together, the two designed an opposing concept to psychoanalysis, termed schizoanalysis.  For Deleuze & Guattari, desire is a primary force unregulated by oedipalization, family, or repression.  Deleuze and Guattari's full frontal assault on psychoanalysis and Lacanian theory is influential and vital to contemporary film theory concerned with avoiding Freud.  It has been a slow progress, as some theorists, particularly Linda Williams and Kaja Silverman, still seem to be in psychoanalytical recovery—while their texts suggest a desire to leave Freud completely.  Along with Clover and Studlar, there is one more theorist whom has been very influential and whose own work completely avoids Freud and is just as strong in its attack on psychoanalysis. 

[13] Steven Shaviro's theory-subversive tome, The Cinematic Body is perhaps the most revolutionary film theory text to come out in the 90s.  In the book, Shaviro brilliantly utilizes the work of Deleuze & Gauttari, among others, in his radical and highly personal approach to reading cinema.  Shaviro argues lucidly that the cinematic apparatus is at odds with psychoanalytic theory.  His discussion paints a picture of psychoanalytical film theorists carelessly running in circles or banging their heads on the wall, trying to explain each and every aspect of spectatorship and representation with Oedipus, disavowal, and "lack."  As stated by Shaviro, "This process of deracination, the freeing of sounds and images from their referents, is of course what the psychoanalytic theorists have in mind when they compare film to language and describe it in terms of lack, absence, and castration.  I am arguing, to the contrary, that the deterritorializing and deoriginating force of the apparatus leads directly to the visceral immediacy of cinematic experience" (35).  Shaviro continues:

Psychoanalytic film theory's claims for the centrality of the active gaze, of Renaissance perspective, and of narcissistic identification are at best archaic—they refer to a much older technology, which the photographic and cinematic apparatuses and the social developments of nineteenth- and twentieth-century capitalism may have rendered obsolete. (43)

What is so unique about Shaviro's book is the personal investment he places in his theory.  This is at odds with the normal cold and detached analysis that is often found in psychoanalytical film theorists.  Shaviro is also aware of this connection and criticizes it at the beginning of his book.  "What disturbs me in the founding texts of psychoanalytic and poststructuralist film theory is an almost reflex movement of suspicion, disavowal, and phobic rejection.  It seems as if theorists of the past twenty years can scarcely begin their discussions without ritualistically promising to resist the insidious seductions of film" (10).  Shaviro argues how it is impossible to detach oneself from the manipulation of the dream screen.  He is aware of his own masochism and credits this as a primary means in acquiring full viewing pleasure.

[14] Shaviro's use of Deleuze & Guattari is concerned with many aspects of theory—one of the most important being the constructed binary that regulates sex and which is intrinsic to psychoanalysis.  Shaviro's discussion of hermaphroditism is directly influenced by Deleuze & Guattari's discussion of the sexuality of plants.  "The hermaphrodite is an aggregate of contiguous but noncommunicating singularities: as in certain plants, male and female partial organs are both present, but separated from one another, in the same individual" (Shaviro, 75).  As Shaviro is quick to comment, "the hermaphrodite lacks nothing" (76).  All of this writing centered around molecular sexuality not only rearticulates desire in a Deleuzeguattarian manner, but creates a postmodern multifaceted concept of sex.  "This ultimate level is infrapersonal, composed of multiplicities, becomings, and asubjective singularities" (75).  I cannot help but link Shaviro and Deleuze & Guattari with the Canadian Horror film director David Cronenberg, whose own concepts and cinematic portrayals are so richly in sync with the kind of sexuality we are discussing.  In the book, Cronenberg On Cronenberg, the director's cinematic obsessions clearly echo what is discussed above.

Human beings could swap sexual organs, or do without sexual organs as sexual organs per se, for procreation.  We're free to develop different kinds of organs that would give pleasure, and that have nothing to do with sex.  The distinction between male and female would diminish, and perhaps we would become less polarized and more integrated creatures. (82)

Cronenberg's wish to become "less polarized" is at the root of the attack on psychoanalysis.  Imposed sex binaries and "lack" do nothing but further impose these restrictions and binaries.  "We cannot really oppose the dominant male-heterosexual order when our only language is the code that defines and ratifies precisely that order" (Shaviro 66).  What are most important to Shaviro's argument are "nomadic multiplicities" that "effect a transversal communication" and do not act as a  "regulator, like the phallus, that separates and prohibits, that distributes exclusive differences" (78).

[15] Shaviro's work, heavily informed by Deleuze & Guattari, is monumental in combating psychoanalytic film theory.  As I have shown in quoting and summarizing the work of Studlar, Clover, and Shaviro, theories of cross-gender identification have already seeped into contemporary film theory.  My concentration aims to build upon these works by contributing a symbolic order unrelated to Freudian analysis that will help facilitate cross-gender identification in the Horror film.  Instead of Freud, I call upon Georges Bataille.

The Application:

[16] I have carefully chosen three films that will serve as a backdrop for a demonstration of my model.  Italian director Lucio Fulci's 1979 film Zombi 2, whose infamous eye mutilation scene I will describe later appears to welcome psychoanalysis, but will provide an example of how a Freudian reading may be challenged through a Bataillian analysis.  Dario Argento's 1987 film, Opera, makes a direct reference to the act of voyeurism which has its origins in ocular violation.  Similarly, Luis Bunuel's 1928 film, Un Chien Andalou, like Opera, references audience voyeurism and retaliates with a violent rebuttal to such gazing.  I will wrap up each discussion of the above films by illustrating how cross-gender identification is facilitated by way of the violation of the eye.

[17] To break down my theory, let me explain how Bataille functions within the reading of the Horror film.  I have isolated two different ways my concept of the globular may be integrated into the Horror film theoretical discourse. 

[18] 1. The portrayal in film of an eyeball mutilated in any manner. 

Although eyeball mutilation is not exclusive to the Horror film, it is a common occurrence within Horror narratives.  Films that exhibit eyes in the process of being gouged, sliced, poked out, or otherwise destroyed communicate a non-gendered form of  castration for the viewer.  Because I use the term "castration," this may seem directly linked to Freud, thus working against my thesis, but I intend to remove the association of ocular castration from psychoanalysis and posit it within the parameters of a system of coding that has as its origin a non-gendered sexuality as illustrated by Bataille's The Story Of The Eye. (v)   As I have considered above, the globular (Bataille's non-defined object) assumes the role of sexuality for each of the sexes due to its non-phallic and non-vaginal appearance—the globular's otherwise metamorphic shape may act as the eyeball, thus informing the cinematic gaze with a new, sexualized genitalia; that like the penis and vagina, is a soft organ wholly vulnerable to destruction.  When this destruction is depicted on the dream screen, it has an effect which resonates through Bataille's system of coding and produces an equal effect of castration for the viewer whose gender is irrelevant to the experience of castration.  This example is core to my discussion of Lucio Fulci's films later in the essay.  To sum up; Bataille's system of coding develops a sexuality that revolves around the globular which is a metamorphic nomenclature that can assume the role of both eyeball and genitalia.

[19] 2.  The self-referential film that directly comments on the viewer's gaze by assaulting it.

This kind of film is much more indirect than the illustration above.  Here, the eye torture steps out of the diegesis and serves as a comment on the act of viewing.  This way, the film calls attention to itself by referencing the audience's gaze and reacts to it through violence.  This application will be used in my discussion of Bunuel and Argento.  In these films the mutilation is of the gaze and not the just eye exclusively.  As I will discuss later, by assaulting the gaze other ramifications come into play that are not present in the more visceral cinema of eye gore.  What does remain is a system of coding that permits cross-gender identification.

Oscillating the Globular:  Cross Gender Identification in Zombi 2

[20] Lucio Fulci has a long and diverse history in the Italian cinema.  In the early 60s He began making comedies with the popular Italian duo, Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia.  He also served as assistant director to the late great Italian director Steno (Stefano Vanzina).  Fulci would eventually try his hand at the Western, which resulted in relatively mediocre films like Massacre Time (Le colt cantarono a morte e fu... tempo di massacro, 1966), starring legendary cult star, Franco Nero.  Fulci reached a high point when he began directing Giallo films, which lead to, in my opinion, his two best films, A Lizard In A Woman's Skin (Una lucertola con la pelle di donna, 1971) and Don't Torture A Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino, 1972).  However, Fulci did not receive much attention until he was asked to direct a sequel of sorts to George Romero's epic Dawn Of The Dead (1978).  Fulci, already having formed by now into an impressive auteur, demanded that his film stand out from Romero's.  What resulted was an incredibly gory zombie film whose location was the sandy and dilapidated Caribbean shoreline. 

[21] I would like to apply this conceptual framework of the globular as our universal sexual organ, to Lucio Fulci's film, Zombi 2.  Not since Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou has there been as graphic a portrayal of ocular mutilation than the infamous scene from Zombi 2.  Fulci's Zombi 2 impressed audiences internationally with its unflinching camera eye.  In this renowned scene, actress Olga Karlatos is being harassed by a zombie forcing its way through a door to her villa.  The force of the impact has left a large splinter that protrudes.  The zombie then reaches out and clutches Karlatos' hair and slowly, painstakingly pulls her closer to the point of the splinter and eases it directly through her right eye.

[22] Here, we must begin our analysis with consideration of the audience's gaze—both male and female.  There has been much written about the male gaze projected upon the female representation, but normally this is read as being regulated by castration anxiety or as a way of associating the otherness of women with that of the monster. (vi)   In a Bataillian framework, castration anxiety still exists but is not regulated by way of a binary relationship.  Instead, it is regulated by a single object that functions to represent both the male and female sex.  When the eye is pierced by the protruding splinter it not only castrates the woman but the masculine gaze as well—genitalia now rests within the gaze itself.  This concept is vital to film viewing because of the design of the cinematic apparatus.  Everything projected on the screen must be taken in by the gaze.  If representations of desire and anxiety are to be conveyed in cinema they need to be connected through the gaze—our genitals must be on the receiving end—thus, within the gaze.  The genitals are then transformed into the eyeball, or the globular.  In considering this form of cross-gender identification, Stephen Thrower suggests that:

it could simply be that all viewers, male and female, experience 'common' humanity by observing the nightmarish penetration of the 'I.'  I find it unlikely that a male viewer could shrug off his anxieties about the 'soft' parts of his body merely by attributing the exorbitantly filmed eye mutilation to a plight suffered by 'femininity'. (28)

This analysis would even more clearly illuminate the cross-gender identification at work in the film if we substituted for the phallocentric foundation from psychoanalysis a focus on the globular.  I do not think Thrower's main point would be problematized by instituting the globular as symbolic of the "soft parts" of the male and female body, these being the eyes respectively.  This provides an impetus for a system of coding that would provide a new angle in the Horror film theoretical discourse.  I do not think it is a coincidence that when male viewers are presented with images of eye mutilation the urge to cross ones' legs is irresistible. (vii)

[23] This style of cross-gender identification is most elegantly displayed in The Story Of The Eye during the bullfight scene.  There are incredible parallels between Bataille's narrative during this part of the story and the act of viewing in cinema.  In The Story Of The Eye, the bullfight scene is set up so our main character, Simone, is watching the fight while becoming sexually aroused.  The following actions that take place are all being taken in by Simone's feminine gaze.  In the midst of Simone's "lewdness" where she inserts a bull's testicle into her vagina, Granero, the bullfighter is,

thrown back by the bull and wedged against the balustrade; the horns [strike] the balustrade three times at full speed; at the third blow; one horn [plunges] into the right eye and through the head.  A shriek of unmeasured horror [coincides] with a brief orgasm for Simone, who [is] lifted up from the stone seat only to be flung back with a bleeding nose, under a blinding sun; men instantly [rush] over to haul away Granero's body, the right eye dangling from the head. (64) 

In both, Fulci's and Bataille's scenes, we have a setup that is mechanically dependent on the feminine gaze.  For Fulci, this is the audience's gaze, for Bataille, it is Simone's (who is part of an audience as well).  Simone is sexually invested in the bullfight scene—meaning, she is the reciprocator of sexual arousal born from the penetration of Granero's eye by the bull.  The external penetration (Granero) coupled with the insertion and masturbation involving the bull testicle (the globular) creates an arena where a form of communication unreliant upon gender/sex binaries is at its most expressive.  Simone's orgasm and the death of Granero are linked within this arena and serve as the final outcome for what has been an example of the globular's role within a Bataillian sexual framework.  The death of Karlatos in Fulci's film by way of eyeball penetration is in direct parallel to Granero's.  In Horror, death stands as the final outcome of the metamorphosis of the phallus into the globular.  Bataille, in his work, Erotism writes of the relation between sex and death.

One need look no further for the cause of the fear associated with sexual activity.  Death is exceptional, an extreme case; each loss of normal energy is indeed only a little death compared with the death of the drone, but whether obscurely or clearly this little death is what is feared.  On the other hand it is also desired (within human limits at least).  No one could deny that one essential element of excitement is the feeling of being swept off one's feet, of falling headlong.  If love exists at all it is, like death, a swift movement of loss within us, quickly slipping into tragedy and stopping only with death.  For the truth is that between death and the reeling, heady motion of the little death the distance is hardly noticeable. (239)

Simone has experienced this "truth."  Her having been "flung back" during her orgasm represents the "reeling" Bataille speaks of—the "falling headlong."  This scene in Story Of The Eye, not only represents Bataille's globular in operation, but also portrays his lifelong work of analyzing the connections between sex and death. 

[24] Italian theorist, Franco Rella has commented on one other scene in The Story Of The Eye, similar to the one above.  Here, the narrator of the story peers into Simone's vagina and sees a deceased lover's eye peering out at him.  "The image is tragic because here in the incandescence of an indelible symbol, it is possible, as in every symbol, to see its opposite.  This death should thus be a testimony to life" (86).  Likewise, Foucault comments on the role of the eye in Bataille's work as a "figure of being in the act of transgressing its own limit" (35).  In writing about the bullfight scene, Foucault reads the gouging of the eye as the "extinguished flash of its being" (35).  Transgression for Foucault in this scene is compounded with semiotics, "the sovereignty of the philosophical language can now be heard from the distance, in the measureless void left behind by the exorbitated subject" (35).  The ability to see and reflect is transgressed quite literally by the violence perpetrated upon the eye.  For Foucault and Rella the orb is emblematic of sex, death, language, and philosophy.  Bataille is successful in positing the globular as a cross-gender identification symbol while also supplying, through this act, a rhetorically transcendent arena where sex and death merge, thus making it an appropriate framework for which to approach the Horror film as shown by the example of Fulci's film, Zombi 2.

[25] Fulci continued his obsession of ocular trauma in his subsequent films, City Of The Living Dead (Paura nella citta dei morti viventi, 1980), The Beyond (L'Adila, 1981), The House By The Cemetery (Quella villa accanto al cimitero, 1981), and The New York Ripper (Lo squartatore di New York, 1982) and his commentary on the whole act of sight may be traced as far back as his incredible giallo, A Lizard In A Woman's Skin (Una lucertola con la pelle di donna, 1971).  The eye mutilation that occurs in The New York Ripper rivals Zombi 2, but also provides, much in the same way, a reading that allows for cross-gender identification.  The female victim of the film's namesake is lying tied to the bed.  In classic giallo style we first view the victim from the point of view of the killer.  We then watch the hand slowly carving downward from the forehead with a razor.  Once the razor comes into contact with the eyeball, we get a peculiar, extreme close-up of the razor going down the screen.  It only takes a millisecond to realize we are now in the victim's point of view and it is now our eyes that are covering the razor's edge with blood.  This is a direct assault on the audience's gaze which, as I will discuss, may have its roots in Luis Bunuel's surrealist short, Un Chien Andalou.  What this shot specifically plays with is forcing the viewer, whether male or female, to assume the role of masochist much more explicitly than, as in Studlar's argument, simply acting as a viewer whose ego submits to the loss of image control.  This perverse portrayal of eyeball mutilation affects the non-gendered, universal gaze, causing the entire audience to share in the experience of castration.

[26] As I have illustrated, cross-gender identification may be successfully achieved in the Horror film by the many examples it provides of eyeball mutilation.  But, is not this limiting since not all Horror films contain such scenes?  For the next two films in my discussion, we will also see how films which are self-referential in their comments on the audience's gaze also provide a foundation for which a form of cross-gender identification may also be articulated.  The next section will accomplish just this by pairing two films that more strongly confront the gaze.

From Surrealism to Postmodernism: Representations of Cross-Gendered Gazing in Opera and Un Chien Andalou

[27] Luis Bunuel's sixteen-minute surrealist short, Un Chien Andalou was a landmark cinema exploit that continues to defy interpretation today.  Much of this has to do with the style being firmly situated within the surrealist genre—a movement governed by dreams and irrationality, guided by Andre Breton in the early part of the twentieth century. (viii)   Despite the text being close to impossible to read, this does not mean that, like Bataille's The Story Of The Eye, the text lacks a system of coding.  As I will discuss below, the text is made up coding very similar to that of Bataille's novel as well as engaging a separate aspect of spectatorship revolving around seduction and horror.  Un Chien Andalou is also best know for the most graphic and earliest example of eye mutilation, which has its place in the film's prologue. 

[28] As I discussed at the beginning of my essay, The Story Of The Eye revolves around the globular—which is the foundation for a system of codes.  It is at this point in the essay, within my discussion of Bunuel's film, that this code may be quoted directly from the text in an effort to illustrate how the system is set up and how it directly relates to Bunuel.  The italics in the following are all Bataille's.

Upon my asking what the word urinate reminded her [Simone] of, she replied: terminate, the eyes, with a razor, something red, the sun.  And egg?  A calf's eye, because of the color of the head (the calf's head) and also because the white of the egg was the white of the eye, and the yolk the eyeball.  The eye, she said, was egg-shaped.  She asked me to promise that when we could go outdoors, I would fling eggs into the sunny air and break them with shots from my gun, and when I replied that it was out of the question, she talked on and on, trying to reason me into it.

Next, the narrator references the author's own writing and construction of the system.

She played gaily with words, speaking about broken eggs, and then broken eyes, and her arguments became more and more unreasonable.

There are numerous layers to this excerpt.  Bataille's choice to italicize certain words strongly suggests that a system is inherently at work in the text.  For, it is words such as eyes and eggs that are italicized to obviously reference one another.  The system is set up as follows, eye-sun-egg, and this system is implemented into scenes involving termination and sunlight.  These scenes wrap themselves around the system, allowing a foundation from which the narrative may unfold in violence and transgression (gun shots, urination).  The characterization of Simone as becoming more unreasonable seems to fit into the Surrealist agenda and a system born from such thought processes only seems appropriate.  What I most want to draw attention to is how this system relates back to Bunuel's film and how it facilitates cross-gender identification.

[29] In the prologue titled, Once Upon A Time, we see a man by a window sharpening a razor.  Once finished, he tests it out on his thumbnail.  The man then exits the room through the window leading to a balcony.  The camera assumes his gaze and shows the moon in the dark, night sky.  Approaching the moon, are some faint white clouds.  We are then treated with a close-up of a woman's face that is soon manipulated by the man's hands, holding open her left eye.  He aligns the razor with her eye and looks up, via a subjective shot again, to see the same white clouds intersect the moon.  The next close-up is of the woman's eye being graphically slit open.  The eye bleeds forth fluid.  There is a short fade and the scene cuts to a new subtitle of the film.

[30] The eye in Bunuel's film is linked to the moon just as it is to the sun in Bataille.  The clouds that figuratively slice the moon act as an astral impetus to the slicing of the women's eye.  The globular is in full function during the prologue.  There are four linked objects in the system at work:


The system becomes set in motion through the correlation established between the moon and the woman's eye.  Once the eye is violated by the razor, it leads directly to the next object in the system—our gaze.  The film directly references the act of viewing and in so doing castrates the viewer's gaze.  It says, "you are looking at me and I will violate your look."  There exists a provocation on the film's part.  This is made all the more symbolic when one considers that it is the director, Luis Bunuel, who performs the eye slicing. 

[31] Much has been read into this infamous prologue as a response to cinematic voyeurism.  Jenaro Talens' book-length study of Bunuel's film makes this connection most poignantly.

When Bunuel slits open the woman's eye with a razor in a close-up, the physical aggression suffered by the spectator's sleeping sensitivity prevents the viewer from continuing to look passively, if not motivating him or her to decide to leave the movie theater at once altogether.  The mere conditioned reflex of preparing oneself for a new aggression physically forces the spectator to adopt an active attitude toward the screen. (42)

What is interesting about Talens' argument here, is that it also suggests Bunuel wished to send a wake-up call to his spectators so they would be shaken up and forced to pay full attention to the film.  In mild contrast, Linda Ruth Williams makes the point "it is perhaps the viewer who occupies the most painful position" (14).  For my present argument, I am much more in sync with William's statement rather than the politics Talens suggests in his analysis. (ix)   The prologue accomplishes the same response in the audience as Fulci's Zombi 2—a form of non-gendered castration via eye mutilation.  What Un Chien Andalou ultimately exceeds in doing is directly referencing the audience's gaze through a system of coding as shown above.  It is exactly this element that causes me to draw a distinction between Bunuel's film and Fulci's film in my discussion. 

[32] There is another connection with the work of Georges Bataille aside from the construction of the globular sign system.  Because Bunuel was Bataille's contemporary, he was able to view Un Chien Andalou and write about it.  His reaction is recorded in an early essay simply titled, "Eye."  In it, one can see Bataille's developing concepts of horror and eroticism which would be further explored later in his career.  "It seems impossible, in fact, to judge the eye using any word other than seductive, since nothing is more attractive in the bodies of animals and men.  But extreme seductiveness is probably at the boundary of horror" (17).  Here, seduction and horror are shown to be inextricably linked.  We are seduced into horror—we want to look away, yet our gaze never leaves the cinema screen upon which pure abject horror is articulated.  Bataille continues, "That a razor would cut open the dazzling eye of a young and charming woman—this is precisely what a young man would have admired to the point of madness" (17).  This brief sentence only hints at Bataille's discussion of transgression and taboo he would later develop into the book Erotism: Death & Sensuality.

[33] As illustrated above, the portrayal of eye mutilation fits easily into a Batailliean framework, even outside our discussion of the globular.  What remains regardless is a sexuality—a fetishizing of the eyeball which allows the system to function in a genital manner and relate itself back to the gaze.  The act of looking is informed by seduction, and seduction, as Bataille states, is "at the boundary of horror."

[34] Un Chien Andalou leads nicely to the next film in my discussion, Dario Argento's Opera.  Argento's cinema, made up of elaborate color schemes and irrational camera angles, may be posited within Surrealist aesthetics.  Argento himself has hinted this in an interview with writer Maitland McDonagh, "I really don't like to expose too much of what's behind my films.  I work in a surrealistic way, like being in a trance" (253).  Both films tend to embody a postmodern desire to defy interpretation; Bunuel through irrationality and dreams and Argento through his creative manipulation of the subjective camera.  In Opera, the subjective gaze embodies everything from red herrings to the killer, a convoluted revolving zoom shot to most incredibly a raven's eye.  The audience's identification is thwarted by Argento's camera work, thus problematizing interpretation.  What is ultimately conveyed by Argento's aggressive and erratic camera work?  Film critic Adam Knee would answer:

a sense of pleasure and excitement in a pure sensory, perspectival play partially rooted in ambiguity, an emphasis on sensual dynamics that begins to transcend stable gendered generic polarities of active/passive/, sadistic/masochist, stalker/stalked.  The cinematic gaze is refigured not specifically because the stalker's vision is somehow qualified, but because the look becomes radically diffused, unmoored from classical subject/object positions. (222)

What Knee illustrates above provides support for calling Argento a postmodern filmmaker.  Argento's camera is fragmented in character, motivation, and architecture.  By having the camera assume an array of odd angles and peculiar movements, it challenges cinematic aesthetics and finally disrupts character identification in such a way that the viewer has no choice but to take in, as a whole, the structural make up of the film.

You'll Just Have To Watch Everything!

"The author with Dario Argento at the San Jose Film Festival 1999"

[35] Dario Argento's contribution to the Horror genre has been a gender ambiguous one.  Before discussing the portrayals of ocular violation it is necessary to first historicize Argento's oeuvre within the confines of the Giallo.  By doing this, we may be able to better trace Argento's treatment of gender and sexuality through his career; eventually ending at the film in question—Opera.

[36] Argento's cinema belongs to what is known in the Italian film industry as the Giallo film.  These films were at their highest popularity during the late 60s and 70s.  It is often considered that the director Mario Bava is responsible for the first Giallo, Evil Eye (La ragazza che sapeva troppo, 1962.).  Evil Eye, contains the filmic style of Hitchcock, but is also informed by the literary works of Agathie Christie and Conan Doyle. (x)   The films are often made up of whodunit plots revolving around a non-descript killer whose murders are explicit and highly sexualized.  These films range from the technically brilliant and stylized (Michaelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, Bava's Blood & Black Lace) to art-house excessiveness (Guilio Questi's Death Laid An Egg, Sergio Bergonzelli's In The Folds Of The Flesh) to the cheap exploitation fare (Mario Landi's Giallo a Venezia, Silvio Amadio's Amuck).  The Giallo is a very diverse and rich but neglected part of Italian film history.  It is within this history (albeit in the late 80s) we find Argento's film Opera

[37] One of the elements Opera shares with its Giallo history is its reluctance to subscribe to typical male/female roles in relation to pleasure and desire.  Whereas the Giallo film avoids a normative analysis of gender relations, Opera one-ups this equation by fixating the film within an S/M narrative.  This problematizes approaching the film with a theoretical paradigm that equates the male gaze with sadism. For within Opera, the gaze is reconfigured so that its source—its identification—is perpetually in question.  Much of this has to do with S/M sexual politics which eliminates sex binaries, only to replace them with those of dominance/submission.  How this then figures into gazing is one of the many things Opera plays with.  This contributes even more difficulty in analyzing the gaze in the film.  However, as we shall see, questions of what gender holds the subjective gaze are so profoundly problematized by the inclusion of S/M within the narrative of the film that they become irrelevant.

Mirrors & Dialogues of Rhizomatic Identity: Desiring Production As A Means To Identity Construction

"The schizoanalysis slogan of the desiring-revolution will be first of all: to each its own sexes" (Deleuze & Guattari, 296).

[38] Opera's narrative revolves around a young Opera singer, Betty, who by chance fills in for the famous Mara Cecova, of whom she was the understudy.  Heavily played upon in the film is the theater convention that the opera Betty is performing in, Macbeth, brings terrible luck.  An atmosphere is thus set in which Betty becomes the object of a murderous stalker who graphically kills a stagehand during one of the performances of the opera.  Argento is famous for elaborate murder scenes and Opera is no exception.  What is included within the murder episodes is the forced participation of Betty who is tied helplessly with her eyes forced open by needles taped beneath her eyelids.  This way, she is made to watch the bloodshed of her obsessive stalker whose climax does not result in Betty's murder, but only in having forced her into "watching everything."  The killer leaves her unharmed and cuts her loose before exiting the scene himself.  Betty is doomed to repeat the same horrible event again in the film.             

[39] There are numerous layers woven into the bloody fabric of the murder scenes in Opera.  The film is by far Argento's most sexually complex and analytically challenging.  In what follows I will analyze how an economy of mirrors and dialogues are constructed and informed by desiring-production. 

[40] It seems natural to first consider what is so harrowing about the murders—the needles applied to Betty's eyes.  The genesis for such an idea stems from Argento's personal frustration with audience members covering their eyes during the more violent moments of his films.  "I thought of something as a joke.  I wanted to give the audience little pieces of Scotch tape that had tiny needles attached to put under their eyes before entering the theater so when they would try to close their eyes, they would feel the pricking of the needles.  Instead I used it in the movie." (xi)   By the inclusion of this technique within the film, the narrative offers a painful image that clearly conveys and equates Horror film viewing with masochism.  The mechanics of gazing are unveiled as the eyes are forced open and respond to the viewer's gaze.  What develops out of this dialogue is a cinematic mirror that validates the viewer's masochism and comments on the relationship between viewer, victim, and abjection.  It is this form of self-referentiality that so interestingly separates Opera from Zombi 2 and other Horror films that exhibit ocular violation. 

[41] However, if Betty's gaze is a mirror of our own, can it be fair to say she is a stand-in for the viewer's gaze?  Chris Gallant, author of the recent study on Argento's work would suggest it is.  "This frantic shifting between the points of view of violator and violated is the core of Opera's complex commentary on the ambiguity of looking and being looked at."  In comparing Opera with Michael Powell's film, Peeping Tom, Gallant further elaborates.

Whilst in Peeping Tom we alternate between objectifying on-screen characters from Mark's point of view, and being objectified by Mark's camera or the staring eye, Opera complicates matters, placing a greater emphasis upon the ambivalence of the gaze.  Murder, in Peeping Tom, is a scenario which unfolds between three parties: Mark, Mark's victim and the audience.  In Opera, Argento widens this circle to include Betty, the captive audience, our diegetic stand-in. (16) 

If it is accepted that Betty is our stand-in, then Clover's argument that cross gender identification transcends sex is in full operation.  However, the point I want to make is that viewer identification in Opera is facilitated through the violation of the eye, the non-gendered organ that joins Betty's gaze in also standing in for our globular genitals.  Adam Knee concurs and would add that, "the eye becomes thematically pivotal as an organ which is itself not intrinsically gendered, but which is at the center of sensory and erotic experience nevertheless" (219).  It is this association of the eye with genitalia that informs the eye with a fluid sexuality making the scenes of Betty's horror not only sexual but detached from normative sex binaries.

[42] Despite the obvious reluctance of the film to subscribe to gender conventions and identities, some critics still cannot help applying a Lacanian framework which imposes on the film a sadistic male gaze thus forcing further analysis to originate from this tyrannically phallocentric base.  Ray Guins, whose article, "Dario Argento and Visual Displeasure"—as the title suggests—is heavily informed by the work of Laura Mulvey,   constitutes Argento's camera as masculine.  During his discussion of the murder scene involving Betty's pin-taped eyes, he relies far too much on Betty as the passive object and only vaguely hints at her role as the viewer's gazing stand-in.  Relating the second murder scene in which Betty is tied up within a display case, making her all the more—in Guins' words—"meant to be watched" (148), Guins relies on Mulvey in his reductive analysis.  "The point of view and reverse shot used in this scene supports Mulvey's claim that spectatorship is from an active male perspective that watches a passive—in this case bound, tortured, and displayed—female."  The cinematic gaze is all over the mise en scene, once from Betty's perspective, the killer's, the victim's, and at anonymous and ambiguous angles.  How could a camera be, as Guins argues, "very much masculine" (148), when its gaze is incredibly multivalent in its perspective and thus, allows a fluidity through which the viewer may construct an identity that is at its very core non-gendered?  This is a clear example of how imposing a framework that immediately dubs the camera as masculine and sadistic inherently problematizes any further analysis proceeding from this flawed foundation.  Guins' work is close to considering the non-gender flow of camera angles and perspectives in Argento's films, but for some reason or another, he insists on basing his work on the Mulvey/Metz school of psychoanalytic film theory.

[43] Steven Shaviro puts it best when he writes, in reference to the above scenes in Opera.

It is precisely to the extent that these scenarios are so blatantly prurient and pornographic that they resist being classified according to the conventional binary opposition of sadistic male violence and helpless female passivity.  I am proposing them as a singular counterparadigm for film spectatorship on account of both their extremity and their subversive, complicitous, and irreducibly ambiguous blurring of traditional polarities between male and female, active and passive, aggressor and victim, and subject and object.  They point not to Lacanian specular dynamics, but to a radically different economy/regime/articulation of vision. (49)

Shaviro is correct in claiming that scenes such as these are best articulated as a "counterparadigm" due to the ambiguity of aggressor, victim, and active and passive gazing.  Shaviro's argument stems from his suggestion that "cinematic pleasure does not put the spectator in a position of active mastery of the gaze" (42).  The gaze is an uncontrollable machine—one that produces identity rather than submits to identity.  To summon Deleuze & Guattari, the gaze is a machine producing mirrors that set up dialogues articulated through the cinematic apparatus, producing and desiring—a system of economy operating beyond sex/gender binaries.  What develops is not a hierarchy of gazes that regulates positions of power and control, but rather a rhizome of mirrors and lines of flight.  "There are no points or positions in a rhizome...  There are only lines.  These lines always tie back to one another.  That is why one can never posit a dualism or a dichotomy, even in the rudimentary form of the good and the bad" (Deleuze & Guattari, 8-9).  Reading a dichotomy into the gazing economy of Opera undermines the free flow of spectatorship.  It redirects gazing and inevitably consolidates it into a single fascist gaze, out of which everything else is defined.

[44] The elaborate murder scenarios in Opera rely on such an economy, where gazes oscillate between desiring and producing.  Betty is not necessarily the victim—she is not the one being murdered.  However, her gaze while in dialogue with the audience, is also disrupting objectification.  Who is the victim?  Who is the aggressor?  It is suggested, as a result of the S/M politics of the film, that these scenes of murder are produced for Betty's desire.  By this analysis, Betty becomes an armchair sadist whose sexual thrill results from the brutality of the murderer.  This is further elaborated through the plot of the film which explains the impetus for the stalking is a result of the murderers' former relationship with Betty's mother, who forced him to kill young women in front of her for her own sexual pleasure.  This also explains why the killer is so invested in Betty's erotic charge.  After the murder he tells her she is "not frigid" and is really a "bitch in heat."  The inclusion of S/M politics provides another flow of dialogue which further blurs gender/sex binaries.  How then may an identity be developed within this economy?         

[45] Within this gazing economy, links of mirrors/reflections are constructed: Camera - Betty - Killer - Victim.  Each of these gazes are in dialogue—meaning they are in a constant flux of desire and production between one another by way of a rhizome.  Our masochistic desires are invested in Betty who in turn is producing an identity for us.  Her relationship with the killer is composed of ambiguous S/M politics producing desire that in turn blurs the lines of our own objectification.  It is within the complex economy of desiring-production that a fluid sexuality is allowed to flow and freely construct its own non-gendered, nomadic, and multiple identity. 

[46] To sum up, the film's economy is regulated by a self referential narrative based on eye mutilation.  The viewer's contribution to the economy is pulled in by the intimate relationship shared with Betty's ocular violation.  Through streams of desiring-production, non-gendered identities are constructed. 

[47] Georges Bataille has been useful in providing a new symbolic order in substitution for Freud's phallocentrism.  While only a moderate percentage of my argument has also relied on Deleuze & Guattari, I feel that these theories too are able to synchronize themselves with the globular.  What has to be kept in mind is that Horror cinema is a genre where everything, in one way or another, is transgressed.  Depictions of bodily abjection, sexuality, and death are all explored and worked through to their fullest extent by the camera.  Within such a genre, why would gender and sex fail to be transgressed as well?  It would be reductive and disastrously unproductive to speak of gender and sex in a strict binary sense when reading the Horror film.  These aspects of our humanity, as with our own fears and phobias, must also be transgressed and, with everything else, shown to be nothing more than transparent components of a greater meaning-making machine.    


(i) Flaxman, Gregory, ed. The Brain Is The Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 2000. p. 366.

(ii) To further explain Creed's interpretation of the Little Hans story I will refer back to an important part of Hans' childhood.  When Hans was playing with his doll and inserted a small knife up into the doll and spread open the legs so the knife would fall through and stick out like a penis, he proclaimed, "Look, there's its widdler." Creed considers this the main point in Hans' perception of his mother as castrator, rather than castrated.  Her "widdler" as Hans referred to the penis, was in fact a sharp knife and could cut off Hans' widdler. (96)

(iii) Though Creed's book does come close to arguing this, it ultimately simply provides the feminine with a surrogate and detachable phallus.  The most interesting element of this analysis is that it empowers the feminine in the Horror film.  But this is by way of the phallus and not something totally unique to the female sex.  Thus, Creed still operates within a binary system of sex.

(iv) I am thinking particularly of films such as Hitchcock's Psycho, Vertigo, and of course Rear Window, but also Michael Powell's Peeping Tom—of which Clover gives a brilliant analyses of in her book.  A large percentage of Horror films acknowledge the act of viewing and comment on it within their narratives.  More examples can be found in films such as Videodrome, The Eyes Of Laura Mars, Last House On Dead End Street, Demons, and of course Argento's Opera which I dissect in some detail much later.  Comments on the gaze are also articulated in the numerous depictions of eye mutilation which makes up the subject matter of my paper.  Films like Zombi 2, Evil Dead Trap, Un Chien Andalou, all revel in grotesque visuals of eye mutilation that function as an allegorical comment on spectatorship. 

(v) It may be helpful to remind the reader that the term "castration" is also used to refer to clitoral incision and/or infibulation.  Thus, there is no real reason to assume the term posits the phallus as the only real sexual organ.

(vi) see Linda Williams. "When the Woman Looks." Re-Vision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism. Ed. Doane, Mellencamp & Williams. University Publications of American, Inc. 1984.

(vii) Speaking from my own experience.

(viii) Although the movement may be traced as far back as Lautreamont's epochal text, Les Chants De Maldoror (1869).

(ix) Some have argued that, Bunuel, in the Surrealist tradition was in fact attacking the bourgeoisie during the eye slicing scene as well as shocking the Catholic Church.  See: Koller, Michael. "Un Chien Andalou." Senses Of Cinema.

(x) In fact, the protagonist, Nora Dralston played by Leticia Roman, even references works by these authors in the film.  This is perhaps a qualifying reason the Giallo genre essentially begins with this film.

(xi) This quote is taken from the Anchor Bay DVD which includes an interview with Argento and the cast of Opera.  See the films cited below.

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. Critical Essays. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972.

Bataille, Georges. Erotism: Death & Sensuality. San Francisco: City Lights, 1986.

_ _ _. Story of the Eye. San Francisco: City Lights, 1987.

_ _ _. Visions of Excess. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous-Feminine. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Deleuze, Gilles., and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

_ _ _. A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Foucault, Michel. "A Preface To Transgression" Bataille: A Critical Reader. Ed. Fred Botting & Scott Wilson. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 1998. 24-40.

Gallant, Chris, ed. Art Of Darkness: The Cinema of Dario Argento. London: Fab Press,            2000.

Guins, Ray. "Tortured Looks: Dario Argento And Visual Pleasure." Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror & Erotic Cinema 1 (1996): 141-153.

Knee, Adam. "Gender, Genre, Argento." The Dread Of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film. Ed. Barry Keith Grant. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999. 213-230.

McDonagh, Maitland. Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994.

Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Film Theory and Criticism. Ed. Leo Braudy & Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 833-844.

_ _ _. "Individual Responses: Laura Mulvey." Camera Obscura 20.21 (1990): 248-252.

Rella, Franco. The Myth of the Other. Washington DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1994.

Roughly, A.R. "Textual Surveillance: The Double Eyes (and I's) of George Bataille's Story Of The Eye." Rhizomes 6  (2003).

Shaviro, Steven. The Cinematic Body. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Studlar, Gaylyn. "Masochism and The Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema." Film Theory and Criticism. Ed. Gerald Mast, Mashall Cohen, & Leo Braudy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. 773-790.

Suleiman, Susan Rubin. "Pornography, Transgression, and the Avant-Garde: Bataille's Story Of The Eye." The Poetics Of Gender. Ed. Nancy K. Miller. New York: Columbia University Press,1986. 117-136.

Talens, Jenaro. The Branded Eye: Un Chien Andalou. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Thrower, Stephen. Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci. London: Fab Press, 1999.

Williams, Linda Ruth. "An Eye For An Eye." Sight & Sound 4.4 (April 1994):14-16.

Films Cited

Opera (Terror At The Opera, Terror In Der Oper). Dir. Dario Argento. Perf.Cristina Marsillach, John Charleson, Urbano Barberini. Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematographica, 1987.

Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog). Dir. Luis Bunuel. Perf. Pierre Batcheff, Simone Mareuil, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali. Video Yesteryear, 1929.

Videodrome. David Cronenberg. Perf. James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits, Jack Creley. Universal Pictures, 1983.

Zombi 2 (Zombies 2, L'Enfer Des Zombies, Woodoo, Die Schreckens Insel Der Zombies, Zombies, Neuva York Bajo El Terror De Los Zombi, Zombie Flesh-Eaters, Zombie, Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us, The Island of the Living Dead). Dir Lucio Fulci. Perf. Ian McCulloch, Tisa Farrow, Richard Johnson, Olga Karlatos, Al Cliver (Pier Luigi Conti). Variety Film, 1979.