Goddesses & Monsters: Freud, Material Embodiment & Surrealism

Before moving on to the Monster side of the study group, it is important to have a clear understanding of what glamour is and how it is recognised. Dyhouse describes glamour as a form of sophisticated – and often sexual – allure, a construction of femininity, consumerism, popular culture, fashion and celebrity, a refusal to come to terms with old age, linked to a dream of transformation, a desire for something out of the ordinary, glitter, fur and slinky dresses, hothouse flowers and a slash of bright red lips, it is about luxury and excess, power, sexuality and transgression. It could also be about pleasure, the sensuousness of fur, silk and rich fabrics. Brown defines glamour as an experience that move one out of the material world of demands…and into another…fleeting, beautiful and deadly.

Glamour, though most often associated with the goddess, has its monstrous side. A phrase that particularly stayed in my mind was the idea that femininity hangs in our wardrobes, acting as a costume that we choose to put on to face the world. This idea of a costume being worn to change who we really are resonates with ideas of both superheroes and super villains – the epitome of god and monster, perhaps showing that this femininity which hangs in our wardrobes is sometimes a superhero cape and others a super villain mask.

Freud’s Theory of Castration Fear

Probably no male human being is spared the fright of castration at the sight of a female genital

Castration fear is an anxiety with relation to female genitalia after a young boy realises his body is different to his mothers and fears that she has had her penis removed, as opposed to realising biological difference. They are confronted by the concept of difference and fear losing their genitalia as they believe their mother has. This also instills an idea that women are lacking something. The genital area remains a site of trauma and so males revert to before the traumatic realisation, creating fetishism of feet, legs, shoes etc. Drawing this attention away from the site of trauma reassures them that the woman hasn’t actually been castrated. For this reason, so often in the media women are place near a phallic object to make up for the fact she lacks a penis. This is apparent in many images which we discussed, such as Salvador Dali’s ‘Venus with Draws’ sculpture, James Bond posters featuring beautiful women with weapons and a most relevant one in the film industry today, Margot Robbie’s depiction of Harley Quinn in ‘Suicide Squad’.


Harley Quinn’s appearance in this image and throughout the film is a response to castration fear as she is seen constantly carrying a baseball bat – a phallic object. Her ponytails infantilise her, and her t-shirt which reads daddy’s little monster and the fact she is constantly chewing bubblegum support Freudian theories of an oedipal complex and oral psychosexual stages of development. The story of the Joker and Harley Quinn is reflective of the myth Pygmalion, as Harley the psychologist was led to her demise by a patient who she fell in love with, a villain who changed her mentally and physically to fit his idea of his dream woman. The Joker is Pygmalion and Harley is the statue he desires. She is oblivious to her sexuality and sensuality and is loyal to the Joker – her lover and creator.

I am continually enjoying constellation and am looking forward to next weeks. I already have ideas of what I would like to write my formative assessment on, though I am sure I will find more in the coming weeks.


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