Film Being John Malkovich Sexuality Term Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Women's Issues - Sexuality Type: Term Paper Paper: #26718878 Related Topics: Film, Movie, Sexuality, Film Analysis
Excerpt from Term Paper :

His stance is also one of superiority as he presents himself as the victim of his own vision and artistic expression. In this context, the generic pronoun "they" symbolizes Craig's detachment from the world around him as he feels superior which he believes, is what causes his isolation.

Craig's wife, Lotte, is perhaps the most radically changed as a result of traveling through the portal. She becomes convinced that she is a transsexual, and consequently, feels the only way she can be true to herself is to assume a new sexual identity, i.e. that of a man. However Lotte abandons her desire of sexual reassignment when she becomes aware that by starting a relationship with Maxine, she can in fact assume a different gender role simply by falling in love with Maxine. Maxine, on the other hand, embarks on a sexual relationship with Malkovich so she can be with Lotte. Through the masculine John Malkovich body, Lotte experiences a kind of reverse sexuality in which John Malkovich becomes the female part and Lotte functions as the male part. Rejected as a woman, Lotte instead experiences sex with Maxine through John Malkovich's body but while Maxine professes her love for Lotte, she rejects her in person, only accepting her in John Malkovich's body. The fact that Maxine only accepts Lotte as her lover when the latter inhabits Malkovich signifies that the former needs a masculine validation of the affair in the sense she is unable to fully accept a lesbian relationship, so she turns to a male figure i.e. Malkovich that can legitimize the affair to some extent. Lotte becomes gradually addicted to being someone else. She provides an extremely dramatic response to the experience of switching sex and gender roles which determines her husband to remind her that the is only experiencing the "thrill of seeing through the eyes of someone else," a thrill which he thinks will pass. Here, the addition caused by seeing through the eyes of John Malkovich is suggested to resemble that experiences by the film audience who is also allowed to be someone else, and see through someone else's eyes during films.

The motif of the beautiful woman is also explored in the movie using the character Maxine. This motif is one of the most utilized throughout the history of literature; the beautiful woman is unreachable and often causes misfortune and heartache for those around her. Maxine appears as a sort of temptress, the object of everyone's desire, and the reason which triggers Craig and Lotte's private war. They embark on a sort of competition whose prize is Maxine; however no one can possess her completely.

Maxine is also manipulative; in fact, one of the strongest themes in Being John Malkovich is manipulation. Malkovich becomes a puppet in the hands of those who control him; his identity as well as free will are compromised completely by the portal. Malkovich, Craig and Lotte are all manipulated by Maxine who uses sexual attraction in order to get what she wants i.e. money. Manipulation is given a double meaning; firstly one can consider manipulation as the handling of objects, in this case, puppets, and more specifically, Malkovich - the main puppet. Secondly, manipulation refers to the fact that the characters seem to lose their free will, and find themselves at the command of either other characters, or their own thirst for fulfillment. The issue of manipulation raises an important question i.e. who controls Malkovich? Who is the true puppeteer? In this sense, Maxine can be viewed as the true puppeteer in the movie because she is never controlled by anyone or anything, and her free will is never compromised. Maxine is never interested in the portal itself; she is not concerned with the implications and consequences of its existence. Unlike Craig and his wife, Maxine sees the portal as a solid business opportunity; as the plot progresses, the portal also becomes an opportunity for sexual gratification which Maxine seeks either with Craig or with Lotte depending on which of them happens to inhabit Malkovich at any given time. In this sense, Maxine is the only one who does not expect the portal to change her identity in any way; unlike Craig, Maxine does not wish for fame - she wishes for wealth. Unlike Lotte, she is not interested in experiencing what...


In the beginning, Maxine is not attracted to either one of the two. Maxine admits to her attraction to Lotte only when the latter inhabits Malkovich; she says she is attracted to the "feminine longing" in the actor's eyes while Lotte is inside of him, but the attraction vanishes as soon as Lotte returns to her own body. However, this might be Maxine's way of denying her sexual orientation, because when Craig inhabits Malkovich and pretends to be Lotte inhabiting the actor, Maxine is unaware of the lie. This could mean that Maxine justifies her attraction to Lotte through Malkovich's body because she is unable to accept her sexual orientation. Moreover, her thirst for wealth could be a mask that Maxine wears in order to hide her longing for something deeper and more fundamental, but at the same time, harder to admit to and obtain. Although in the beginning Maxine rejects Craig and tells him she could never be attracted to a man who plays with dolls, she soon realizes that she needs his help to set up "JM Inc.," a company that would actually sell time inside John Malkovich. Craig openly expresses his fear related to the portal, and the implications of starting a business which relied on taking people on a fifteen-minute trip inside John Malkovich, but Maxine promises to protect him. Thanks to his puppet handling skills, Craig manages to get permanent control over the portal thus becoming one with Malkovich. This is the moment the very pragmatic Maxine realizes that she needs to abandon her love affair with Lotte, and marry Craig. Their next move is to direct Malkovich's career to puppet representations which bring the couple affluence and fame. The power relations are altered once again, because although Craig is the mastermind behind Malkovich's successful career, he does not benefit from a position of absolute power. On the contrary, he is being manipulated by Maxine. What's more, he has to accept the fact that his spectacular skills as far as puppeteering are not acknowledged as his own, but as Malkovich's. He is thus unable to receive the public recognition he has longed for all his life. At this point, Craig's position suffers a subtle change: he has the opportunity that he has longed for i.e. To prove himself, and even manages to do so, but he does not receive public acknowledgement and cannot thus validate himself. Such a position is very interesting from a historical perspective; in this sense, Craig's gender role is that historically associated with women, who were not publicly recognized and appreciated despite their skills and accomplishments. Sexual life is altered by the unintended consequences of social life sometimes more than through the intention of the authors (Weeks: 25). The three main characters explore being inside Malkovich in different ways according to who they are in the beginning. Craig is immediately attracted to Maxine whom he perceives as the opposite of his wife, Lotte: "Craig Schwartz: Can I buy you a drink, Maxine? / Maxine: Are you married? / Craig Schwartz: Yes, but enough about me." However, from this point-of-view, Lotte is the only one who evolves as a result of having been inside John Malkovich. She enters the tunnel inside Malkovich as a heterosexual stuck in a marriage that does not bring her any happiness. Lotte becomes attracted to Maxine and starts identifying with a male character with the audience perceiving her as a transgender, only to emerge as a lesbian from the experience. In this sense, it is equally hard for Maxine to acknowledge that she has feelings for Lotte simply because from the standpoint of society, she is the beautiful woman whom everybody wants but no one seems to have. She is the one who accepts - out of vanity, at first - to be part of a love triangle with Lotte and her husband, and acts as a prize that both spouses seem to compete for. The forces which shape sexuality vary from one society to another (Weeks:18). The Western perspective on sexuality presents a dichotomy between the spirit and the flesh, the body and the mind. This dualism is tackled in a very subtle manner in Being John Malkovich; the film is full of sexual symbolism, ranging from the portal which leads into Malkovich to the visual depictions of the sexual encounters, they all have the same purpose i.e. To outline the sexual identity crisis which affects all of the characters, including Malkovich himself. As far as the deep symbolism of the film, it…

Sources Used in Documents:

Weeks, Jeffrey. 2003. The Invention of Sexuality. In Sexuality, 11-28. New York: Routledge.

Dragunoiu, Dana. "Psychoanalysis, Film Theory and the Case of Being John Malkovich." Film Criticism 26.2 (2001): 1-7

Gauntlett, David. 2002. Michel Foucault. In Media, Gender, and Identity: An Introduction, 115-134. London: Routledge.

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