II. RAGING BULL
Raging Bull is another movie from Scorsese puts a male character into the center of the camera. Protagonist’s wife Vickie resembles the Taxi Driver’s Betsy and Iris. each of them are blond and white. It is a known fact that in the early years of cinema, women’s representation was idealized, and they were objectified. Even today, we see actresses similar to each other. Also, there are lots of posts comparing resembling actresses to each other all over the social media.Although representation became a big issue when it comes to gender equality and LGBTIAQ+ since the cinema industry is all about mass production and nowadays about online streaming platforms such as Netflix, this sector’s beauty standards may be changing, but it remains.
Even though Vickie presents a generic beauty imposed mostly from Hollywood, she also reflects Jake’s masculinity. Throughout the movie, while Jake struggles in his career and proves his masculinity, he directs his brutality toward Vickie, and she becomes a tool for him to prove that he is still a “real man.”
VICKIE AS AN OBJECT OF DESIRE
At the beginning of the movie, we see Vickie as an object of desire. Although all the men around her have a goal to win her heart and body, she seems like she doesn’t have a problem with that. Movie deliberately highlights this issue and says “even” Jake’s brother has a past with her. Jake’s brother has a history with Vickie. There is no problem with being a desirable woman. However, if we don’t see her as a character having her desires, she becomes a two-dimensional character representing only the desires of men around her.
After Jake sees her, he decides to win Vickie immediately because she is a reward that proves Jake’s dominant masculinity to others and maybe even himself. His way of looking at her is problematic. Just like Travis in Taxi Driver, Jake also takes sexual pleasure from looking at her. We understand it from the scene where they meet. The camera shows Vickie in close-ups, mostly to her face and chest, and later on to her legs. She doesn’t appear on the screen as a person, instead as parts of a body. We also learn from that scene; she is only 15. With the stress on her youth and love affairs, it is clear that she also represents a different angle of Madonna-Whore complex.
For instance, in the sequence where Vickie and Jake first had sex in Jake’s grandparents’ house, Virgin Marie figures appear in the same frame with Vickie. Since she is so young, Jake associates her with the Virgin Marie image, but he also sees her an object, and having Vickie proves to other men that Jake a real man to have her. Later, since she has a history dating other men, he convinces himself that Vickie has been disloyal. He sees her as a whore sleeping with others behind his back, wounding his masculinity. Rather than his decline in this carrier, he sees her as the source of his masculinity crisis.
Vickie also represents a flapper figure. Benshoff and Griffin explain (2009) to a flapper as a woman who rejected Victorian notions and developed her style. Although flapper women may seem a change in the patriarchal system, their primary function is to further male dominance since the flapper is still out there to find a husband. This new type of women representation may refer to a new openness about sexuality. Yet, they often assure that this new notion of sexuality can only lead to tragedy or death. That depiction is what makes Vickie a perfect flapper. Although she seems as a liberated woman initially, her openness about sexuality leads to her tragedy after she marries Jake, she gets punished continuously because of her past.
Another part of Vickie’s representation is again can be explained by Mulvey’s observation (Mulvey, 1999). She symbolizes the threat of castration to Jake. Because she is an object of desire, there is always a risk of losing her to another man. Jake will lose his reward if that happens, and his wounded masculinity would be wounded once more. That is what exactly castration means to Jake. There is a parallel with this notion between the storyline of the movie. To deal with this idea, Jake turns Vickie into a fetish object (Just like the Travis-Betsy relationship), and he starts to get jealous of every act of her. In the end, he loses both his career and his wife. Vickie chooses to left Jake at the end, but after Jake lost his “precious” masculinity and became a joke.
This article was originally a paper submitted for the course “Auteur Theory: Martin Scorsese, W.Allen, Francis F. Coppola (FA48D) instructed by Nilgün Bayraktar at Bogazici University in the 2017-2018 Summer Term.
Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin, America On Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies .USA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44.
Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) in Raging Bull, retrieved from: bluscreens.net