An Open Letter To My Film Professor
Dear Dr. Casper,
I know you don’t know my name.
That’s fine. I’m actually pretty generic amongst your students. I’m not some child star in film school, a cute guy you can pick on, or a foreign film/critical connoisseur. I’m generally a floater in your class; I go with the waves of laughter, excitement, and occasional fear that pass my seat.
I’ve loved the movies you’ve shown me. I’ve loved the lectures you’ve given. I really believe you have contributed to my film education. Until tonight.
I had never seen Vertigo and expected “the greatest film of all time” to be a masterpiece that would shape me as a filmmaker and a woman.
Instead I was disgusted. What started as awe over Hitchcock’s creative effects and narrative emerged as repulsion.
Vertigo is NOT a masterwork. IT IS A PIECE OF SHIT.
This film is glamorizes domestic violence and the abuse of women like nothing I’ve ever seen. We watch Scotty reduce Judy to a pallet to place his fantasies and the world around them to enable it. He’s emotionally degrading, physically abusive, and beyond terrifying. She is nothing more than an object of desire and a disposable one at that. The loss, rediscovery, and rejection of her didn’t make me feel tension, I felt a pit in my stomach that’s still here as I write this letter a half an hour after the screening.
When she falls out of that tower, it’s a not a murder, it’s accident pretty much caused by another woman (the nun who interrupts Scotty’s tirade). He has no fault or blame when in fact had murdered Judy long before she fell. He’s abdicated, and bears no responsibility for death, while Judy is a plotter, an accessory to murder, and an overall liar.
This is not art. This is not an exploration of the human condition, of evil, or ambiguity. This is an exploitation of women.
The audience is entertained by watching a woman get dressed up to be tortured and slaughtered and you proudly declare every class that Vertigo is the greatest film of all time.
Alfred Hitchcock is a great filmmaker. But this is not great film making.
Earlier in the movie when Scotty is investigating Madeline’s ancestor, an expert, Pop Leibel, explains how her great grandmother was thrown away because:
“Men could do that in those days. They had the power… and the freedom.”
As offensive as this line is, it pairs in comparison to the fact men in Vertigo can do the exact same thing. Gavin throws his wife literally out (a window) and Hitchcock does the same to Judy.
I need to tell you that men still have that power. Men do that all the time. Ask my mother, who fled my father after he threatened to stab her stomach when she pregnant with my sister or who disregarded his two daughters for the entirety of their childhood. She knows what it’s like to be thrown out. So do I. So do the countless other survivors of domestic abuse or the unbearable amount of rape victims I share a campus with, some of which are probably in your classes. I doubt any of them thought that this was great art.
You seem like a socially progressive man, and it is appalling that you would screen and expect me to study a film that glamorizes the struggle I have tried to shake off my entire life. You’re above this. So is USC. So is SCA.
When I’m not afraid to walk back to my apartment alone after your class, we can have a discussion about how Vertigo is a cinematic achievement.
Until then lets review Hitchcock’s 57 other wonderful films.
A Survivor of Domestic Violence & Your Student