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The Besieged Ego

The Besieged Ego: Doppelgangers and Split Identity Onscreen

Caroline Ruddell
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Besieged Ego
    Book Description:

    The Besieged Ego critically appraises the representation, or mediation, of identity in film and television through a thorough analysis of doppelgangers and split or fragmentary characters. The prevalence of non-autonomous characters in a wide variety of film and television examples calls into question the very concept of a unified, ‘knowable’ identity. The form of the double, and cinematic modes and rhetorics used to denote fragmentary identity, is addressed in the book through a detailed analysis of texts drawn from a range of industrial, historical and cultural contexts. The doppelganger or double carries significant cultural meanings about what it means to be ‘human’ and the experience of identity as a gendered individual. The double also expresses in fictional form our problematic experience of the world as a social, and supposedly whole and autonomous, subject. The Besieged Ego therefore raises important questions about the representation of identity onscreen and concomitant issues regarding autonomy and what it means to be ‘human’, yet it also charts a generic account of the double onscreen. Case studies include horror, fantasy, and comedy

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-9203-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    The close ofAngel Heart(Alan Parker, 1987, US/Can./UK) provides a significant dilemma for both the central character Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) and also the viewer. Harry, as one would expect, firmly believes that he is Harry. He looks like Harry and speaks like Harry. Viewers have identified with him as Harry Angel, the rather charming and likeable private investigator, for the entire film up to this point. The climax of the film, however, displays Harry desperately screaming at his mirror image ‘I know who I am’, after being told by the Devil (Robert De Niro) that he is not...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Why Psychoanalysis?
    (pp. 18-35)

    Any reader familiar with film theory will be aware that psychoanalytic film criticism has an intriguing past. Once the darling of film theorists, mainly during the 1970s, psychoanalysis has now largely fallen from favour as a preferred method of analysis when it comes to interpreting film and television texts. Of course, the relationship between film and psychoanalysis goes back further to the origins of both film and the inception of psychoanalysis as a therapeutic method. Both began at roughly the same time, about the end of the nineteenth century, and they have continued to dance around each other ever since....

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Ego in Freud and Lacan
    (pp. 36-54)

    Many heroic figures in film and television can be considered as a representation informed by the psychoanalytic concept ego. Such representations are problematic owing to the differing accounts of Freud’s ego (realist and narcissistic as noted in the Introduction) as well as the fact that Lacan takes up only the narcissistic ego in his theory of psychoanalysis. For Lacan, the ego can never be attached to reality and in control, as is largely the case with Freud’s realist ego. The hero as ego is key to the research premise of this book as a means by which to understand representations...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Monster Within
    (pp. 55-78)

    The example ofAngel Heartoutlined at the beginning of the Introduction, where Harry is doubled with/possessed by Johnny, can be read as a tale of the monster within. Harry is our likeable protagonist while the Johnny persona is the dark double who carries out atrocious murders; practises voodoo which can be read in the film as black magic; attempts to outsmart Lucifer; and, ultimately destroys Harry. This is a particularly prominent trope in moving image examples where the double is apparent; viewers are encouraged to identify and sympathise with one part of the dualistic identity; the other is demonised...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Gendering the Double
    (pp. 79-103)

    As argued throughout this book, the double usually has a specific cause-and-effect narrative function that drives the storyline to its conclusion, and this is also linked to character motivation. Specific visual devices, such as mirroring, are also used to denote the idea that identities are ‘in trouble’. Perhaps one of the most striking characteristics of the double is that, through rendering one into two, the double’s gender identity becomes confused or ‘difficult’; one of the most significant ways that the double’s identity is in trouble is played out through problems the doppelganger has with a masculine and/or feminine identity. This...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Doubled Up: Body Swapping, Multiple Performance and Twins in the Comedy Film
    (pp. 104-123)

    InMe, Myself and Irene, Jim Carrey plays two sides to one personality, both of which occupy one body. Charlie is a respectable policeman and is also a responsible single father, while Hank is a freewheeling chaos-monger who pays little heed to social conventions or respectable behaviour. In one prominent scene, the two personalities fight over the one body which plays out as Jim Carrey beating himself up on a train, and on the train platform, much to the shock of various onlookers and fellow passengers. Though on the surface this may sound similar to the fight between Buffy and...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 124-127)

    InThe Double Life of Véronique[La double vie de Véronique] (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991, Fra./Pol./No.) Irene Jacob plays both Weronika and Véronique, two women who are linked throughout their lives, often in enigmatic ways. The film suggests they are doubled through several devices, such as a distorted glass window on the train which makes the world seem dualistic and awry. At several points in the film, both characters are framed close to mirrors or reflective surfaces, suggesting that there is more to their identities than may be initially apparent. Both characters seem to feel a connection to someone they do...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 128-133)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 134-140)
  13. Filmography
    (pp. 141-142)
  14. Index
    (pp. 143-146)