Saturday, January 22, 2011

Representation of the Female in Lost Highway

I hate to be the one to bring this up and I genuinely hope that someone can offer a more positive view, but I actually found Lynch's representation of women to be fairly offensive in Lost Highway. Though this was the first time that I have ever seen this movie and there is a good possibility that I'm leaving out details or forgetting some plot points, it seems as to me that the women in the movie were almost completely used as sexual objects. The only two women in the movie I can think of were Patricia Arquette's characters and Pete's girlfriend and both really only seemed to be preoccupied with the men in their lives and both were used in sex scenes that pretty thoroughly objectified them.

At the end of the movie, I really couldn’t tell you what the point of Renee’s character was. As far as I can remember, I think she had sex with literally every other character in the movie with almost no explanation for her motives. If it is true that she was having an affair with Mr. Eddy, why would she do that? He was a contemptible old man and Lynch seemed to make it clear that Renee didn’t owe him anything, it was only Alice that did. Also, why did Alice begin having sex with Pete? I don’t think she genuinely cared about him, as seen through one of her last lines when she tells him “You’ll never have me.” But I also don’t think she was just using him to get away either, because she didn’t really need Pete to get the money. She was already in Andy’s house. Why didn’t she just take his money and run away? I think I would have less of a problem with the gratuitous sex scenes if Renee’s motivations were explained at all. Instead, it just seems like Lynch just put her in the movie as an excuse for really long sex scenes. I hate to sound like a prude, but it just seemed extremely unnecessary. My discomfort might also stem from the fact that while watching it in the MRC, someone asked me if I was watching a porno.


  1. Kathleen- I will agree with you that yes, Lost Highway does contain A LOT of sex scenes. Yes, Renee/Alice seems to get around the block a couple times. However, I would venture to argue that this movie does not objectify women and sex any greater than any modern day action movie, like Transformers. The only depth to Meghan Fox’s character is her ability to bend over cars or the most convenient object. In contrast, Renee/Alice has a certain depth and mystery about her. We know only what she tells us about herself. Her motives are subject to our interpretation. In addition, I think we can explore the representation of Alice/Renee in the movie in a broader context of Fred’s retelling/fantasy.

    In class, we discussed the possibilities that the vast part of the movie was entirely within Fred’s mind- whether in his final moments, while in prison, or simply from quiet imagination/fantasy unrelated to crime. Indeed, we kept returning to the notion that Fred was reinventing his life- reinterpreting what was happening, since he announced that he preferred to remember things the way he wanted. In this fantasy, his presumably dead wife is reincarnated as a blonde porno producer’s girlfriend. She is overtly "sexualized" and tempting to the reincarnated Fred, Pete Dayton.

    Right, here is where my theory takes off. If Fred is remembering things his own way, then he remembers Renee his own way- as Alice. Remember the first sex scene of the movie with Fred and Renee at their home, everyone? They stop having sex and Renee tells Fred that “it’s alright.” Perhaps Fred is impotent; he can’t seem to “get the job done.” His eyes watch and hunger for what he cannot make his. However, in Fred’s fantasy, Fred/Pete has sex all the time. Specifically, Pete lands on Alice’s radar in no time after they meet. All they do is make love and rendezvous at shady motels late at night. One might also make a case for this theory in that nearing the end of the film (while Pete and Alice sex it up in the desert), Alice tells Pete, “You can never have me.” Now why would she say that? Pete is left frustrated to watch who/what he wants walk away. Alice’s message might reassert Fred’s own anxieties about his impotency. He can’t have her; he can’t have her physically the way he desires. After she leaves him, he does turn back into Fred’s body- which may indicate that the fantasy of Pete and the cad lifestyle is over. Thus, the super sexy, objectified version of Renee, Alice is pure fantasy. She represents Fred’s lust, his desire, and his impotency. If not for the reason that Fred is impotent, we might also read the heavy sex scenes as indication of his fears that she is having an affair. In Fred’s fantasy, he kills both men he suspects his wife may be cheating on him with- her friend Andy, and Dick Laurent (Mr. Eddy), who she seems to bear some knowledge of at the party. The point of Renee/Alice is therefore not to develop her character, but as a reflection of Fred himself.

    Lastly, I don’t know if we can lay the entire guilt of numerous sex scenes on David Lynch. Let’s face it- sex sells. And no one wants to see movies with ugly people doing the deed; Hollywood exploits this. Lynch is not the only director who enjoys portraying/sexualizing (or objectifying, if you will) women in film. Need I mention the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, who insisted on blonde hair in his actresses and notoriously pressured them to sleep with him? Thank you for raising an interesting point from the film about women. I think we can turn your offensive reaction into an interpretation that puts the sex of the film in a more neutral and perhaps clarifying light.

  2. I also realize that I wrote a lot. whoops. ;)