For this week's Humanities forum, develop a motivated response to Rope inspired by the kind of sophisticated readings we saw in Doty and Savran. Your post should include at least one quotation from one of this week's texts and one form any other Humanities reading we've read from the beginning of the term until now. Consider "queering" psychoanalytic concepts that we've encountered such as death drive, narcissism, sadism-masochism, masquerade, the Oedipus complex, phantasy, the phallus, gaze, superego, or jouissance. Develop a provocative analysis of Rope, well-supported with evidence, that allows us to see the film AND the concept in a new light. Your post is due before class on Monday. To remember character names, always refer to IMDB. The Rope script (along with all Hitchcock scripts) is also easily accessible online.
To help motivate your response, you may consider the following quotation from Doty's "Queer Hitchcock" as a jumping off point (one of many in that essay):
"For the past two decades, most ideological analyses of Queer Hitchcock have taken Wood's middle road, which considers how the ambiguous coding of non -normative gender and sexuality in Hitchcock films frequently allows for readings that recognize the potential for homophobia (or a less specific queerphobia) along with the potential for readings of queer characters and narratives that might, for example, make a case for the attractive (queer) villain, or for a film such as Rope being more about how homophobic, heterosexist, patriarchal culture perverts Brandon and Phillip than it is about how queerness leads to psychopathology and murder" (Doty, 481).
Good luck on your posts! Please mio if you have any questions.
1/11/2018 07:35:33 pm
According to Doty, “Sadomasochism presents the challenge of (1) separating representations of more positive consensual S/M role-playing from its more negative “power-struggle” forms” (p. 478). I believe that the theme of sadomasochism represented in Rope does indeed show the negative power struggle between Phillip and Brandon. In this case, Phillip is the masochist, and Brandon is the sadist. A scene that stood out to me, that represented the sadomasochist aspect of their relationship, was at the very beginning, when they finish killing David Kentley. The moments after they lock him away is a sexual connotation, the scene is almost identical to a post-sex scene; heavy breathing, short, awkward conversation, opening of the blinds and lights. The leather gloves and the rope that they use to kill David indicates BDSM. Phillip also says to Brandon after the murder “You frighten me… part of your charm I suppose”, suggesting again that their relationship is very interested in s/m.
2/11/2018 10:32:27 am
3/11/2018 03:22:48 pm
Rope critiques society in an unfashioned matter through Brandon’s character. The audience is exposed to Brandon’s actions and thoughts that aren’t filtered by societal construct. He argues in the beginning of the film that murder should be a form of art. He compares killing to art because the act expresses the same creativity and provides similar satisfaction. Brandon also expresses a need for perfection. “David was the perfect victim for the perfect murder,” he states (Rope). Moreover, he classifies humans and accords privileges to “superiors” in an orderly matter. His desire for perfection,solely a mask is a justification to his own queerness. In fact, an article of the New York Times states: “Because we naturally want to look away from our ugliness. We paint over racist reality to make a beautiful delusion of self, of society” (Kendi para.23). Brandon gives out a performance, a party in order to hide and create an explanation for his actions. Throughout the night, he guides Rupert to his own way of thinking but inevitably fails because Rupert’s thoughts, although agreeing to certain of Brandon’s arguments, is a result of societal norms. His character represents the queerness and fascination towards death, possessed by everyone that we repress because of society’s construct. Rupert argues that murder can solve many problems found in all communities such as unemployment and poverty but rejects Brandon at the end of the film as his mind is filtered by moral norms imposed by society. He cites: “ It's not what I'm going to do, Brandon. It's what society is going to do. I don't know what that will be, but I can guess, and I can help” (Rope). The observable relationship, duality between the characters queerness towards death and living in a constructed community can be compared to the Ego’s relationship with the Id. Rupert’s Id is filtered by the ego as he still possesses moral construct in his actions and judgement. His malicious thoughts are only verbally expressed and are rejected once he has discovered David’s corpse. However, Brandon’s Ego has no control over the Id. In other words, as explained in the “Dissection of the Psychical Personality”: “often there arises between the Ego and the id the not precisely ideal situation of the rider [Ego] being obliged to guide the horse [Id] along the path by which itself want to go” (Freud 76). That being said, Brandon’s Id has a direct and full interaction with the external world. He believes and justifies his murder as being the right thing to do in hope that it will mask his queerness.
3/11/2018 03:49:43 pm
As Patricia said, there is more than one queer relationship between the characters of ROPE. In fact, there is barely any relationship that follows the social norms in this film. Unlike my classmates, I would like to focus more on the concept of the separation of the mother with the child from Benjamin's BONDS OF LOVE. In this text, we read that boys often have a bigger difficulty in the process of “disidentification” with their mother (76). Sometimes, the separation can be so hard that the boy later becomes a sadist. We can easily relate this concept to Philip. He seems like he couldn't disidentify with his mother. A boy who successfully separates himself with his mother to become an other will be able to reverse “the power relationship so that the master now controls the other” (Benjamin 77). Philip has no control over the dead body of David, even though he was the one who strangled him. He is scared of it and is scared that Rupert discovers his horrible act. Philip is actually being controlled by David's corpse, which seems more like his sexual object, as said in Freud's “Three Essays on Sexuality”: “the object is readily conceivable as that which provides satisfaction (...) the sexual object can be another person, a body part, (...) and so on” (334). Philip thought killing David would provide him satisfaction, but did not consider the consequences of his action.
3/11/2018 06:08:55 pm
The relationship between Brandon and Philip suggests a homosexual one. As Meghan mentioned, the murder scene is a clear reference to post-sex scenes. The film treats the murder as if it were their relationship; the references and attitude towards the murder by both Brandon and Philip can be compared to how a closeted homosexual couple could view their sexual relationship. Philip is ashamed and prays no one finds out while Brandon flaunts it and is clearly exhilarated by it. At the end of the movie, Brandon and Philip are persecuted by Rupert for the murder of David, however it suggests a shaming of their relationship as well. Rupert ends his monologue by saying that “it's what society's going to do. I don’t know what that will be […] You're going to die, Brandon, both of you!” This attitude is comparable to one towards queer people at the time of the film’s release and still today, particularly in religious communities. In “Queer Hitchcock,” Doty states that Arthur Laurents, the screenwriter for ROPE, believed Hitchcock’s religious affiliation had a role in his view of queerness, stating that he was “a strong Catholic, he probably thought it was wrong” (476).
4/11/2018 01:47:47 pm
Brandon and Phillip’s homosexual relationship in the film is represented by their murder of David Kentley. While Phillip is very ashamed of it and tries to hide any and all evidence as much as possible, Brandon views it with pride and tries to see how far he can go without letting the truth come out, much to Phillip’s dismay. Brandon takes charge at the dinner party and all but flaunts their crime, while his partner is forced to just watch and hope that nobody catches on. In THE BONDS OF LOVE, Benjamin defines submission as “motivated by the fear of separation and abandonment,” while masochism entails “the inability to express one’s own desire and agency” (Benjamin, 79). Phillip is submissive by letting Brandon, the masochist, tell everyone about the details of David’s murder even though he can’t explicitly talk about it. He lets Brandon talk out of fear that, if he stops him, Brandon will turn on him and leave, letting Phillip take full blame for the crime. Phillip is clearly the weaker, more delicate link in their partnership, and is therefore an easier interrogation target.
Lyna Ikram Bayou
4/11/2018 02:00:28 pm
I have to say that I completely agree with Meghan when she argues that the opening scene of ROPE, where Brandon and Phillip talk right after killing their victim, is “almost identical to a post-sex scene”. The two characters, by the dialogues, by their nervousness and by the entire scene itself imply that there might be a homosexual relationship going on. Throughout the entire movie, the viewer can sense a certain sexual tension coming off the way Brandon and Phillip look at each other. In that same opening scene, Brandon says “we did do it in the day time”. Although “it” refers to the crime they committed minutes ago, that saying somehow has a sexual connotation, especially when related back to the other elements—that Meghan has listed before—that imply sexual intercourse or a homosexual relationship.
4/11/2018 03:05:47 pm
Power dynamics play a major role in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE. The primary power dynamic of interest is the relationship between Brandon and Phillip. From the very first scene, we understand that both men are a part of a sadomasochistic relationship that is full of homosexual overtones. After killing David, the couple react in rather opposing ways, with Brandon exhilarated, opening the curtains and Phillip filled with remorse, worried about the eventual consequences. There is a very clear disparity of power displayed from this point on, with Brandon taking the role of the dominant one and Phillip the submissive. This power dynamic is expanded upon throughout the film with Brandon mockingly dismissing his partner’s fear, brandishing the rope and tying it around the stack of books, or embarrassing and provoking him in front of guests with the story about the chicken. In “Queer Hitchcock”, Alexander Doty asks “what kind or degree of abusive sadomasochism would mark ‘non-normativity’”, and later argues that ROPE does indeed clearly separate healthy sadomasochistic relationships from their “more pathological queer forms”, specifically in homosexual relationships (478).
Hannah Di Francesco
4/11/2018 03:23:30 pm
In Rope, Rupert acts as an embodiment of the gaze. He wants to know what happened and pushes to uncover the truth. He investigates the actions of the young men, because he knows they are acting differently than usual. As Doty said in QUEER HITCHCOCK: “they can create a more vaguely queer erotic atmosphere around characters and events” (479). As we learn from the past of the characters, Rupert brings out the worst in Brandon, he is the one who inspired the crime and made him think it would be ok. The fact that these characters have such a heavy past together queers their relationship and the obsession Rupert has with finding out what happened. The queerness also applies to the way Brandon wants Rupert’s approval and how he treats Phillip. Brandon asks his former professor how he would have executed the perfect murder so he can validate the way David was killed. He wants Rupert to be proud of what he accomplished, because he is the one who put the ideas in his head and encouraged the murder in his opinion. This is also why Rupert panics after, since this was never his intention. He always talked about murder but would have never acted upon what he said. Brandon and Phillip were so impressed and influenced by him that they took everything literally. They acted upon what their teacher was saying without even thinking about the consequences, they were so focused on the idea of the perfect murder that they did not even consider it killing someone. They considered it more of an experience and this is what validated their actions in their mind. Both Phillip and Brandon are denying the magnitude of what they have just done, Phillip less because he becomes anxious and aware of what he did over the course of the movie, but Brandon stays hidden in his world of denial and pleasing the ideas of his college professor. Like Kendi said in THE HEARTBEAT OF RACISM IS DENIAL: “This denial of racism is the heartbeat of racism.” (para. 11). What keeps Brandon going during the whole movie is the denial of the gravity of murder. His dream of the perfect murder is keeping him from seeing that he just took someone’s life and affected everyone around this person.
4/11/2018 04:12:59 pm
I completely agree with Vanessa’s critique of the movie ROPE, that the opening scene in which Philip and Brandon are shown to be strangling David is, in fact, a parallel to post-sex scenes and thus, a clear demonstration of their homosexual relationship. Adam Philips wrote that “a couple is a conspiracy in search of a crime [and] sex is often the closest they can get” (21). I believe that Brandon and Philip’s relationship is a perfect display of this claim. Adam Philips stated that every relationship desires a crime – something to hide – and in Hitchcock’s film, one could contend that they found the “crime” in both the murder of David, but as well as in their homosexual relationship; tying into the assertion that sexuality could be a crime in itself. In the film, Brandon appears to be invigorated after the death of David and is ready to flaunt their “perfect murder,” and thus their hidden relationship, by inviting guests to the house, which was to the great dismay of his partner. This excitement demonstrates that he assumes the control in their obviously sadomasochistic relationship and that his counterpart, Philip, plays the more submissive role. It is in this argument that I take issue with Vanessa’s statement, that Brandon gains control through Philip’s silence. Instead, I argue that Philip “fear[ed] separateness” and tried to keep Brandon’s attention through “compliance and self-denial,” which explains why he allowed his partner to get away with so much (Benjamin 78). I don’t think it was so much of the fact that his lack of a voice was what empowered Brandon but the reality that he feared being alone and would do just about anything to keep his ‘abuser’ near – which could actually be seen as a form of control, in itself. Philip acquired a sense of “pleasure in pain” and the fact that he expressed the ‘submissive’ side of himself shows a queerness to the character (Benjamin 80).
4/11/2018 04:52:16 pm
Even in a queer movie that forefronts an exclusively male sexual relationship, Hitchcock keeps the traditional patriarchal gender roles and almost makes a parody out of these socially constructed traits. In fact, although the movie suggests a homosexual relationship between Brandon and Philip, the former remains a perfect representation of the toxic heterosexual male and the latter of a submissive and complexed female. For example, their post-murder pillow talk mirrors the stereotypical reaction of each gender; Brandon (the sadistic male) is proud of himself—he’s jubilating— and Philip (the masochistic female) is ashamed and worries about what will happen if someone finds out. As Cato and Meghan have said, Brandon constantly mocks Philip and almost enjoys seeing him lose his temper because it only further supports his dominant role in their relationship. What has failed to be mentioned, is the idea that this apparent sadism—the pleasure derived from dominance and seeing someone suffer— is due to the repression of his queer desires.
4/11/2018 05:45:18 pm
I concur with my classmates when they say that Brandon and Phillip are in a homosexual relationship. However, I argue that there are more than 2 partners to this relationship. Brandon idolizes Rupert, to such an extent he commits murder to feel like he's making him proud. This dynamic between Rupert and Phillip presents itself as a dad-like relationship with a son that felt was lacking.
4/11/2018 06:25:08 pm
In Rope, we can clearly see the Brandon is displayed as the masculine figure throughout the movie. He represents a more “tough guy” in the sense that after him and Phillip murder David, he keeps his calm, portrays a self-confidence and is proud of the deed he’s done calling it “an artistic talent”. You can also see it in his posture, as if he’s almost trying to display his muscles by standing up very straight with his chest out, not having anything to hide. Whereas Philip is shown more hunched over when he feels threatened and worried. All this to say, that Brandon is the person in the movie that “has the phallus”, he has a lot of power over Philip. As Savran points out in his “Taking It Like a Man”, about Rambo that “his enormous strength, self-confidence, and resilience, clearly mark him as a phallic male” (199). I think the Brandon portrays all three of these qualities and a scene where you can see this power being exerted is towards the end, where Rupert is about to come back upstairs and Brandon has Philip in a tight grip telling him “now look, I’m not going to get caught because of you or anyone else. No one is going to get in my way now”(Rope), as you can see Brandon is coming off very intimidating and a man of power. Brandon also exerts his power and masculinity throughout the whole movie in particular scenes while making jokes about Phillip left and right leaving Phillip in a very overpowered situation. However, Brandon’s being the “phallic male” becomes questioned when Rupert enters the room, and it might be because he was previously the boys’ college professor and had already been portrayed at one point as having all the power and as soon as he walks in the room, Phillip and Brandon both halt and shocked almost as if they’ve been caught by their teacher while they were smoking in the boys bathroom. Phillip immediately stops playing the piano and Brandon starts to stutter, at a lost for words and from that moment on, both Brandon and Rupert are almost in a competition for masculine power over each other. Rupert continues to interrogate both Phillip and Brandon, having an inkling of what might’ve happened, but even with this almost dreadful certainty, he continues to question and now becomes an enemy to Brandon and Phillip, and this duo has now become an uninvited trio. As it says in Phillip’s Monogamy "Coupledom is a sustained resistance to the intrusion of third parties. The couple needs to sustain the third parties in order to go on resisting them. The faithful keep an eye on the enemy, eye them up. After all, what would they do together if no one else was there? How would they know what to do? Two's company, but three's a couple.” (94)
4/11/2018 06:26:11 pm
The relationships between Brandon and Phillip, and Phillip and Rupert, demonstrate what Elizabeth Grosz outlined in her book, A FEMINIST INTRODUCTION TO LACAN. “What is apparent in the dynamic relationship between anaclitic and narcissistic lovers is the elevation of the latter to a superior, adored, idealized position” (Grosz 127). As some of my classmates have stated above, it is clear that there was some form of sexual relation between the three boys below the surface. One may observe how, between Rupert and Brandon, they play the narcissistic and anaclitic roles respectively. After Brandon and Philip murder David, Brandon attempts to subtly parade the deed in front of Rupert in an attempt to gain his affection and praise. The way that Brandon uses the chest that David’s body is in as a table, and keeps faintly hinting at the murder, depicts a sense of “suicidal recklessness” also known as ‘death drive’ (Zachar199). Clearly Brandon is enjoying the sense of danger and adrenaline from dangling what he has done in front of the faces of everyone at the party without them knowing it. The relationship between Phillip and Brandon again represents the anaclitic and narcissistic relationship respectively. One may understand that Phillip perhaps was not completely okay with the act that him and Brandon had committed. It is possible that because of his idolization for Brandon, that is what led him to take part in such an activity. Julia said that Brandon insinuated that Phillip could be a narcissist like him, however I believe that Phillip did not wish to be a narcissist but rather the object of Brandon’s desire and receive his love and admiration that he had been giving to Rupert. Another interesting angle of this movie, that can be explored, is the demonstration of both masochism and sadomasochism. As Meghan said, Phillip plays the role of the masochist while Brandon plays the role of the sadist. The “erotic domination” observable in the relationship between these two can serve to “break the encasement of the isolated self, to explode the numbness that comes of ‘false’ differentiation” (Benjamin 83). To understand what caused this sense of ‘false’ differentiation, it would be necessary to know more about the characters’ past.
6/11/2018 10:29:48 am
After discussing in class, i realize that my statement was wrong when i say that Brandon is the one that strangled David. To correct my statement I feel that perhaps when Phillip strangled David it awakened the dark, murderous side of himself that he had been repressing. When this side of himself resurfaces its possible he is frightened of his capabilities and that is one of the reasons why he is so stressed after the deed is done.
6/11/2018 11:48:14 am
My first reply included a typo, this is the correct reply to my original forum post: After discussing in class, I realize that my statement was wrong when I say that Brandon is the one that strangled David. To correct my statement I feel that perhaps when Phillip strangled David it awakened the dark, murderous side of himself that he had been repressing. When this side of himself resurfaces its possible he is frightened of his capabilities and that is one of the reasons why he is so stressed after the deed is done.
4/11/2018 07:16:50 pm
After murdering an innocent person, the natural instinct of a “normal” human being would be to hide as much as possible the crime scene and any clues that would lead the murder back to you. But that’s not the case of Brandon in the movie Rope directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
4/11/2018 07:50:35 pm
While my classmates have focused on the “queerness” of Phillip and Brandon’s implied homosexual relationship in ROPE, I would like to focus specifically on non normative gender and why Brandon can be read as a queer character. We, as the audience, get a sense of who Brandon is as a person from the very beginning of the film: a debonair, manipulative young man with a superiority complex. While at first glance, many would consider Phillip to be in the “female” position due to his submissiveness, I would like to argue that if we follow Lacan’s thoughts on the anaclitic and narcissistic postions, which Jenna touched on in her response, Brandon is the one who falls into the “female” position. The typically “masculine” anaclitic position is more active. The anaclitic lover is one that finds love in another, whereas the more “feminine” narcissistic lover passively wants to be loved. Brandon’s sense of superiority and lack of morality is shown throughout the entire film. He, much like the narcissistic lover, needs to admired. He flaunts his “perfect murder” because he wants recognition, he wants to be loved and appreciated. If he simply wanted to get away with the murder, he wouldn’t have served food to his guests on the chest his victim’s body was hidden in and he wouldn’t have wrapped his books with the murder weapon. Brandon isn’t as afraid to be caught as he is afraid that his murder won’t be recognized, that he won’t have everyone’s admiration and approval, specifically Rupert’s. Elizabeth Grosz’s description of Lacan’s narcissistic lover fits Brandon’s character perfectly: “The strength or degree of the other’s love for her is the measure of her own value and worth. Her aim is thus to catch, and keep, one or many lovers as a testimony of her value” (128). For Brandon, there is no point in committing the perfect murder if no one can love and appreciate him for it. He tries to justify his actions to Rupert in order to gain his approval, showing the audience how intense his delusions are for him to believe that David is inferior, and therefore worthy of death. “Denial is how the person defends his superior sense of self” (Kendi para 2). Brandon denies that killing David was wrong, because admitting that would remove him from the pedestal he put himself on. He wants to remain superior, worthy of killing anyone he deems fit. Brandon fitting into the mold of Lacan’s female narcissistic position suggests that he is in fact queer, and that he defies what is considered to be the typical male anaclitic position.
4/11/2018 08:00:05 pm
Character placement in movies is rarely just coincidental or simply random, especially in a Hitchcock movie. Following this line of thought, why is it David’s aunt and not his mother who accompanies the father to the dinner party? Objectively speaking, her attendance doesn’t bring the plot’s narrative forward. It could’ve very well been herself at home sick or a maid there to inform Mr.Kentley of his son missing, not necessarily his wife. But no, she appears in the film taking the wife’s place. My classmates have outlined the queer face of Rope in terms of homosexuality, sadomasochism, gender roles, and more. I want to add that that list, subliminal/symbolical incestuous desire. Mrs.Atwater is the “Uncle Charlie” of Rope. In “Queer Hitchcock” we read, “Same sex and opposite sex incest turns out to be one of the most persistent forms of queer sexuality in Hitchcock films.”(Doty 13) Which then goes without saying that in a film filled to the brim with concealed sexual queerness, it wouldn’t be surprising that its famous director has also hinted towards incest. Mrs.Atwater’s presence and demeanour stand for what Doty would’ve potentially called incest-suggestiveness. The way she accompanies her brother and speaks consistently extremely fondly of her nephew, in an Alfred Hitchcock movie can’t be overlooked as being normal. “…the incest motif in Hitchcock films most generally takes the form of insinuating or suggesting incestuous desire rather than gesturing toward the physical act itself.”(Doty 13) In that sense, there is a potential love triangle formed between aunt and brother and aunt and nephew. The quasi-parent/child relationship between characters in films which is used to suggest incestuous relationships is furthermore accentuated by the aunt taking the place of Mr.Kentley’s wife and David’s “mother” for the evening. Along those lines, David becomes the object of incestuous desire which is being stuffed in a chest. Thus, demonstrating what Edmundson writes that,"If the incest wish informs every desire, then desire must be chastened time and again.” David represents that symbolical chastening. Ultimately, Rope undeniably embodies the essence of Queer Theory and as Jacqueline Rose writes in Responses to Psychoanalytic Practices Encountering Queer Theories, “…Queer theory once it enters the domain of psychoanalysis-can only be strengthened by engaging with the darker places of the psyche…” and incest is precisely that. So, I am compelled to see its discreet presence in Rope. It’s easy to overlook the signification of secondary characters in works of literature or in film, however they might just be as compelling to analyze.
4/11/2018 08:36:33 pm
I do believe that Brandon and Philip are in a sexual relationship, but what I find most interesting about the film is not the relationship between Philip and Brandon, but Brandon’s clear admiration (or love) for his former mentor, Rupert. I do agree with Patricia that this relationship shares a father-son dynamic wherein the son is vying for his father’s attention, however I believe it more closely mirrors the relationship with the narcissist.
5/11/2018 05:38:42 pm
Typo: “boys must dissolve[...]” for the Benjamin quote
Chris Morgan Arseneau
4/11/2018 08:45:32 pm
The queerness in ROPE can be positioned as the embodiment of an unceasingly intense narcissistic and self-destructive drive.
4/11/2018 08:48:01 pm
The relationship between Brandon and Phillip is certainly interesting but I would like to focus on Mrs. Wilson character who is portrayed very much as a masochistic and submissive woman in relationship with Rupert. A glimpse of this sadomasochistic relationship is shown when Mrs. Wilson tells Rupert that she brought for him what is presumably his favourite meal. Mrs. Wilson really wants to be appreciated by him, therefore, by pleasing him with his favourite meal and controlling her “deepest anxiety (…) through “the discipline of service and obedience”” she manages to “enjoy the sadist’s(Rupert) attack” (Benjamin 79). This “attack” of Rupert happens when he tells her that he doesn’t like that meal anymore but then says he was joking. Mrs. Wilson then tells Rupert that he’s awful with a small. Nonetheless, she clearly succeeds at pleasing him because Rupert then confesses to Brandon that he might marry her.
4/11/2018 09:22:01 pm
Alfred Hitchcock has surprised and entranced the world with his dark and mysterious films. People are unable to pull their eyes away when watching his films, as they fear missing a beat, a detail or a surprise. One aspect that is apparent within all of his films is that of sexuality, which is a concept that is described in many ways. Arguably, Hitchcock has purposefully incorporated sexuality in his movies and placed necrophilia, scopophilia, incest, narcissism and much more into the description of sexuality. This is how Alexander Doty as well as David Sarvan define queer Hitchcock. Brandon can be seen as queer because he shows many sadomasochistic tendencies, which can be seen through the way he speaks and the way he acts around people. After commiting a murder, he does not console a worried Phillip, instead he is arguing and telling him off. He explains to Phillip that commiting the crime is a good things as they are getting rid of someone who is not needed and that they are now stronger than the normal person because only the strong can kill someone. This can be seen as sadomasochist because there is (Doty, 478) “some degree of mental, if not physical abuse.” where Philip is the victim to Brandon’s abuse. Brandon is sadistic in the sense that he enjoys seeing people worry and also enjoys watching Philip begin to worry and break under stress, fear and pressure. He enjoys watching his dinner guests become curious and worry about the whereabout of David, while they take food from the top of his grave and eat right beside his corpse. Although what he gains the most pleasure from is the fear and paranoia that his friend Philip holds in throughout the evening. While Philip is living with the fear of people finding out his secret as well as attempting the come to the realization that he killed someone his companion Brandon sits and laughs at him and essentially enjoys the fear and pain he helped place on Philips shoulders. We learn that Brandon is a sadist. For Brandon, this is his (Rose, 394) "drill of the normative” where his drill is watches people in pain, mentally and physically until they become exhausted and face releasing their secrets to the world. It has been said that he always enjoyed watching people break as well as almost reach the breaking point which is said by Philip when they speak about their days at prep school.
4/11/2018 09:24:05 pm
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope contains several sexual tensions between different characters that portrays the queerness of Alfred Hitchcock himself. In his writings, Doty explains that Hitchcock’s movies are full of non-normative sexual relationships and different notions of gender and sex: “There is also the experience of looking back at Hitchcock and his films from the vantage point of the early twenty-first century, with its considerably different notions of what falls within, and outside of, sex, gender and sexuality norms.” (Doty, 474). Doty talks about necrophilia, incest, sadomasochism, bestiality and pedophilia as being queer sexual practices. Although, it is true that these are in Hitchcock’s movies, I think that another type of sexual practice that creates sexual tensions between characters is the polyamory between Janet, David, Kenneth and Brandon.
Wendy Lopez Ponce
4/11/2018 09:47:59 pm
To further what Lyna expressed, on highlighting queerness through perversion in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE, we can clearly see it when approaching the scene of the murder and its immediate aftermath. For instance, when driven by perversion, we are driven by curiosity of doing, thinking or seeing what we shouldn’t or what we know is wrong and immoral. In ROPE, we see the concept of perversion through Phillip because it is noticeable since the beginning that he was regretful of the murder he committed and yet, although what caused him stress was getting caught, he was at ease with it. I believe that for Phillip what drives his perversion is Brandon himself, since he is the mastermind behind the “masterpiece”, the murder. We can clearly understand that even though he doesn’t completely agree with everything Brandon does, he is still accepting to follow which is why we can consider their relationship as perverse. This concept can be understood when Phillip says to Brandon “You frighten me you always have from the very first day in prep school, part of your charm I suppose”. He is aware that Brandon represents what’s wrong, but he still sees him in a positive way.
4/11/2018 09:58:07 pm
I, along with the rest of my classmates, acknowledge that there is evidently a sexual relationship between Brandon and Phillip. However, similarly to Patricia, I am more intrigued by Brandon’s relationship with his former house master Rupert. In fact, I argue that the most prominent homosexual relationship in ROPE is not that between Brandon and Phillip but rather between Brandon and Rupert. In the beginning of the film, Brandon expresses his content in regards to the murder he has just committed. Furthermore, he quickly adds on, explaining how even Rupert would be impressed with the successfully executed murder. Although this might seem unimportant at first, Brandon’s comment illustrates his desire to please his former house master. His need to please Rupert, along with his submissive attitude (he is rather timid as well as more cautious with his words) both when talking to and about Rupert, not only showcases Brandon’s sense of inferiority to him, but implies that Rupert is the ‘man’ in the relationship. In addition to this, the weapon of choice chosen to murder David (The rope) indicates both Brandon’s sexual desire to be with Rupert as well as his desperation to attaining the phallus and appearing ‘masculine’ as a means to hide his homosexuality. Jacqueline Rose states that it is via an erotic mask that man creates for himself that showcases and “represents an intensification of male anxiety” (77). In Brandon’s case, choosing to kill David with the use of a rope acts as his erotic ‘mask’. The idea of being chocked and/or tied up are two actions that have very apparent sexual connotations; Brandon’s choice of weapon very clearly identifies his subconscious sexual desires, and his mention of Rupert right after committing the crime using the rope merely amplifies the viewer’s confirmation that it is Rupert he longs for. Additionally, Brandon is very adamant on not discarding of the murder weapon, he wishes to keep it around while they have guests over for dinner, as a form of hidden trophy. Not only does the rope represent the accomplishment of the murder, it symbolizes what Brandon believes both her and Rupert describe ‘being a man’. By keeping the rope, Brandon feels as though he is a ‘manly man’ and therefore is his way of ‘having the phallus’ – or at least his way of trying to attain it. We can see this throughout the entire dinner party, Brandon appears immensely confident and sure of himself when speaking to his guests. He is seen both by the viewers and the supporting characters as the host of the evening and thus ‘the man of the house’. However, at the end of the film, from the moment Rupert is seen with the murder weapon, Brandon’s attitude changes drastically. He automatically loses his ‘manliness’ and is seen almost begging Rupert, trying desperately to get him to understand why he has murdered David. Brandon expresses his concern to Rupert by saying: “you have to understand, you have to!” which obviously illustrates how his feeling of inferiority towards Rupert has resurfaced (ROPE). Interestingly, Savran explains how it is the qualities of “enormous strength, self-confidence, and resilience [that] clearly mark […] a phallic male”, three qualities that Rupert possesses at the end of ROPE – NOT Brandon (199). He is not persuaded by Brandon’s words and remains static on his opinion of what he has done. In sum, Rupert is evidently the phallic male in his relationship with Brandon who, without the possession of his rope, does not possess the phallus and remains submissive to Rupert.
4/11/2018 10:20:18 pm
In ROPE, the characters of Brandon and Phillip are greatly influenced by the teachings of Rupert, their housemaster in prep school. So much so that they take his idea that the moral concepts of good and evil don’t apply to superior beings such as themselves and act upon it, killing one of their friends. The relationship between Rupert and Brandon especially is an intriguing one, as Brandon seems to have internalized Rupert mantras and pushed them to their extreme. In some sense, Rupert seems to have infiltrated Brandon’s super-ego, a process reminiscent of what Freud called “identification”. He described it in “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality” as “the assimilation of one ego to another one, as a result of which the first ego behaves like the second in certain respects, imitates it and in a sense takes it up into itself” (63). However, this process is not as one-sided as one might think. When Rupert is confronted with the fact that Brandon and Phillip committed this murder because of him, he denies that he ever would have wanted it happen. While ROPE doesn’t have anything to do with the racism that Kendi says is fueled by denial in his article “The Heartbeat of Racism is Denial”, denial is a major theme in the relationship between Brandon and Rupert. He starts his article with the following: “When our reality is too ugly, we deny reality. It is too painful to look at. Reality is too hard to accept” (Kendi). It is clear that Rupert is horrified that they have committed murder, but he refuses to accept that he is to blame. He even says “There must have been something deep inside you from the very start that let you do this thing, but there's always been something deep inside me that would never let me do it” (Rope). However, all the evidence from the film shows that it was Rupert’s unconscious desire to go through with these ideas, with how strongly he stood up for them when he was arguing with Mr. Kentley. Since he was unable himself to commit the crime, he spread the idea to Brandon, hoping that he would satisfy this desire of his. Therefore, Brandon’s identification with Rupert was on some level forced upon him by Rupert so as to fulfill his repressed desire.
4/11/2018 10:56:07 pm
After reading and reflecting upon the posts above, the two that stood out the most to me were Kelly’s and Angèle’s. Kelly writes, “His [Rupert] character represents the queerness and fascination towards death”. Angèle then writes, “Philip is actually being controlled by David's corpse, which seems more like his sexual object’’. When the idea that death is fascinating and is considered to be a sexual object, it takes the form of necrophilia. Doty explains, “Should all non-normative sexuality practices be considered queer? Incest? Necrophilia?” (474). In this case, necrophilia does since it is a non-normative/ non-conforming way to express sexuality, the word “queer” doesn’t only apply to the LQBTQ+ community, not to associate necrophilia with the LGBTQ+ community, in regards to Hitchcock’s films. In this context, necrophilia doesn’t include sex between them and the corpse, but the sheer pleasure from killing someone and gazing over them afterwards indicating a sexual connotation. For both Brandon and Philip, this is a part of their sexuality they want no one to know about, they murder David at night to keep their acquaintances “in the dark”. There is a part of Brandon, however, that doesn’t want to keep this between him and his “partner” in crime. Bringing the focus on the corpse/ the source of their pleasure is Brandon’s way of freeing himself from his secret, he wants people to find out in order to be liberated. This is especially apparent when, in the end, Rupert discovers the truth. Brandon tries to validate their actions by saying, “Remember we said, we’ve always said you and I that moral concepts of good and evil and right and wrong don’t hold for the intellectually superior (...) I knew you’d understand because you have to, don’t you see, you have to” (Rope). He tries to prove why he his necrophilic/queer desires and actions and acceptable. This is his way of trying to include Rupert in his behaviour along with him and Philip.
4/11/2018 11:10:51 pm
Philip and Brandon live in a repressive society, where they can’t openly express their sexuality. They see themselves as superior and think “civilisation is hypocrisy” (ROPE). In the disdain towards the homophobic culture, they reject the society where they live, as Kendi says “when our reality is too ugly, we deny reality. It is too painful to look at. Reality is too hard to accept” (Kendi, 1). It is hard for these men to accept the position where the society puts them as homosexual man. They believe their teacher’s, Rupert Cadell, view that murder is a privilege “reserved for those few who are really superior individuals” (ROPE). They murder their friend, David, a representation of their heteronormative society. “[A] good [American] usually die young on the battlefield” Brandon says after, killing their old friend (ROPE). The murder emphasizes on his victim’s ordinariness, what makes him “the perfect victim for the perfect murder” (ROPE). This murder allows Philip and Brandon to state their superiority over a hostile society. Also, “under the pressure of [their] repressions, [they] find reality generally quite unsatisfactory” so, Brandon and Philip discharge their repressed anger towards the people that don’t allow them to express their sexuality during the murder (Freud, 27). They want to present how perfect their crime was by showing it to their victim’s entourage in a dinner party. They create a strange atmosphere, almost wanting to be found guilty of their crime, inversing the power dynamics that is usually present on the society controlled by patriarchy and homophobic codes.
4/11/2018 11:28:46 pm
It is made clear, from the opening interactions, that Brandon is the dominant one in his relationship. He occupies the “master” position in what Benjamin refers to in his text The Bonds of Love, as the “slave and master” in a relationship (74). Brandon is a sadist. You can come to this conclusion by looking at the way that he is around his partner Phillip. He talks down to him, disregards his feelings and walks all over him. Brandon is incredibly proud of accomplishing the murder, meanwhile Phillip immediately regrets it. Phillip is more timid, and shows more signs of femininity. Their relationship, although it is never blatantly stated, is a homosexual one. The murder that they commit can be compared to sexual relations. Sex is taboo, it is mostly not a public event, and it is more often done in the darkness than in the light of day, much like murder. One of Adam Phillips’s aphorisms from Monogamy, says “people have relationships not because they want to feel safe […] but because they want to find out what the danger is” (2). I find that this perfectly sums up the situation that Brandon and Phillip are in. They did not commit a murder because they wanted to kill David in particular for something he had done, but simply to prove that they could pull it off. Brandon has a theory that those who are “superior” intellectually should be able to murder those that are inferior. He is so proud of the fact that he has murdered someone, that he throws a party right after, where he serves food from directly above David’s body, almost solely to rub it in everyone’s face. Brandon invites Rupert, because he knows he’s the only one smart enough to figure out the murder, and because Rupert is the only person that could “dominate” Brandon, therefore he feels the need to prove his worth to Rupert.
4/11/2018 11:32:48 pm
As my classmates have pointed out before, the relationship between Brandon and Phillip is very intriguing and obviously very sexualized in ROPE. Yet, the queer aspect of the movie I want to highlight is Janet Walker and her non-normative behavior.
4/11/2018 11:41:22 pm
In the last sentence, I forgot some words.
5/11/2018 12:28:12 am
While analysing ROPE, I found that labelling Brandon and Phillip as homosexuals simply skims the surface and doesn’t allow for deeper investigation. Personally, I think that Hitchcock’s suggestion that these characters are gay is simply a way to distract the viewer from Brandon’s sadistic practices with masochistic undertones. Brandon states that he wants to invite all his guests over so he can get a sense of danger but what he really wants is to inflict pain upon all of his guests, even Phillip. Brandon uses Phillip’s obsession with power against him and manipulates Phillip to be the one that actually kills David. This way, Brandon can inflict all the pain without any sense of guilt since he didn’t actually kill anyone. All of the characters suffer in a different way, Phillip does so through overwhelming guilt that he stripped another human being of its live and having to sit through an evening with all the people who loved David the most. On top of all that, Phillip knows that David’s corpse is still in the room and he doesn’t want anyone to find out. Janet suffers from worrying about David and having someone making sexual advances on her the night that her fiance died. Kenneth suffers from being the man who is advancing on a woman who just lost her husband to be. Henri and Mrs. Atwater suffer from the loss of their beloved David and having to worry relentlessly about his whereabouts. Last but not least, Rupert suffers from feeling responsible for the crime. His words directly motivated two young men to murder their friend for sport because they thought he was an “inferior being”. This responsibility is perfectly portrayed in the poster for ROPE where we see Rupert holding the rope that choked David, meeting the audience’s gaze. While all this pain and suffering is being inflicted, Brandon is waltzing around the apartment with a huge smile on his face, clearly enjoying the pain of others. We can even see a sense of accomplishment in the final seconds of the movie when Brandon pours himself a drink. After all this, it is still up to us whether this is considered queer behavior, as Doty states “Sadomasochism presents the challenge of deciding what kind or degree of abusive sadomasochism would mark ‘non-normativity’.” (487). Now, instead of labelling Brandon and Phillip's relationship as homosexual, we must take into account Brandon’s sadistic doings and see if there is proof of sexual desire between Brandon and Phillip. To complicate things even more, we can suggest that Brandon becomes a hybritophile after seeing Phillip execute the murder.
5/11/2018 06:32:56 am
I find Sophie’s exploration of necrophilia in ROPE very interesting, and wish to expand upon it, and to suggest that Brandon is not the only one expressing necrophilic interest. Everyone at the party, whether they are aware of it or not, expresses such interests: David’s whereabouts are a constant topic of discussion, yet he is but feet away, a rotting corpse. Brandon quite obviously wants David to be discussed: he invited all those closest to David, and his murder victim became the connecting factor between them all, a sort of big Other under which they can all communicate. He hides his work of art that is his crime in plain sight, and watches as those around him unknowingly become obsessed with it. Not only does the obsession that Brandon has with a dead body suggest necrophilic desire, the presentation involved suggests that he also wishes for all around him to feel the same desires. His treating of the murder as a work of art is also reminiscent of the malevolent gaze; in Leader’s STEALING THE MONA LISA, he describes the purpose of art as insuring that the eye is “kept busy, and, crucially perhaps, away from the artist.” (43). This can be applied in various ways in ROPE, for at first, the way that they dress up the chest, David’s coffin, seems to be in an effort to dissuade the guests to open the chest, but since both Brandon and Philip seem to at least partially wish getting found out, this whole murder can be seen as a distraction from something more.
6/11/2018 08:20:29 pm
I think that the movie Rope displays more than just an analogy of a badly repressed homosexual relationship in a very patriarchal society. In the sense that we can understand that there is a certain unspoken attraction between Brandon and Philips because of the way they interact with each other but more than that there is always a power between the two. We can see that Brandon is the one who has the power because he is always controlling Philips actions and behaviors during the party by telling what to say and mostly what to not do and sometimes in a very virulent way. Philip while not being happy about Brandon’s behaviors still obeys him because like said Jacqueline Rose’s essay Domination and the Sexual Difference “Submission… is often motivated by the fear of separation and abandonment”. Meaning that Philip was afraid of being abandoned by his partner in crime, in both sense, so he took the more submissive role during the first part of the movie but near the end the movie he couldn’t keep the secret any longer and wanted to put and end to this. So, when Rupert came back the roles switched, Philp was leading the game since Brandon feared him revealing the murder, so he was trying to win his silence by pleasing him in the sense he would make him sit down and pour him some wine and tell him to put himself at ease. But as the time went on Philip became less and less patient and Brandon more and more stressed about Rupert finding out the truth. This type of dynamic means that the two characters can’t only be given the role of either the masochist or the sadist, like said in Doty’s text Queer Hitchcock the roles are not definitive “Since women in Hitchcock films are rarely complete masochists - they almost always fight back to some extent”. This quotes also applies to this movie although Philip is, obviously, not a woman but he is put in a more feminine position during the movie.
Leave a Reply.
Please respond in the Comments section. To see this section, just click the red "comments" line). To create a new response, use the "Leave a Reply" box.