Just as Freud noted that detached body parts were subconscious thoughts of male castration, Jeffrey’s finding was representative of the general unconscious of society. When Beaumont brought the severed ear to the police department, the detective, Detective Williams, urged Jeff to let the incident go, because there were darker problems occurring in town. As expected, Jeff ignored Williams’ comment, deciding to pursue the matter himself, receiving help from his girlfriend, Detective Williams’ daughter. Relating back to the detached ear, it largely foreshadowed the upcoming events.
As noted above, a severed body part often resembles male castration on the psychoanalytic level. When Jeff began to investigate the case, he soon found himself encountering a nightclub singer and her sadistic male abuser. This singer, Dorothy, and her abuser, Frank encapsulate the Freudian definition of sadism and masochism. Due to the looming issue of male castration, one could assume that Frank was possibly interested in sexual dominance, power, and pain in order to compensate his own sexual insecurities. Freud heavily believed that sadism and masochism, which is a form of sexual pleasure derived from inflicting pain upon others or receiving sexual pleasure from receiving pain, was associated with innate male sexuality (Freud 1).
Viewers watch as Frank belittles, insults, and beats Dorothy, but soon discover that she gains pleasure and arousal from the abuse. Here, Lynch is exposing society to the darker side of sexuality, utilizing psychological theories, and forcing viewers to think about their own sexuality. Furthermore, he is allowing several people to act on their own fantasies as an outsider in a fantastical world. This greatly relates to the purpose of the Gothic genre, which is to expose and allow people to process and cope with difficult issues without actually having to endure the pain in reality. When examining Dorothy and Frank on the psychoanalytic level, the Oedipal complex is also seen. Freud believed that the Oedipal complex was a child’s internal desire to have sexual relations with their parent of the opposite sex (Klein 12). Applying this theory to the characters, Frank largely represents the child, while Dorothy represents the mother, in a dysfunctional mother-son relationship.
Interestingly, despite Frank’s aggression, he referred to himself as a baby, illustrating his oedipal fantasy. It Is heavily illustrated, here that Lynch wanted to confront the less than comfortable theories and fantasies that many people truly have. Essentially, Lynch is supporting the notion of “forbidden emotions in powerful but carefully distinguished forms” (Johnson 522). By this, he means that often times repressed, and or, unconscious emotions that are ignored due to stigma, are expressed in other ways. Lynch was able to depict this through the characters throughout Blue Velvet and their sexual tendencies and personas. Jeffrey represents the Oedipal complex even more.
When Jeffrey’s father was stung by a bee in his garden, he is brought to the hospital. During this time, Jeffrey stayed home, tending to domestic duties and obligations. His father’s incapacity and helplessness forces Jeffrey to go to his father’s home and hardware store. Fittingly, it was around this time that Jeffrey found the ear.
This discovery could be representative and symbolic of his own feelings of castration because of the domestic duties he began to take on. Generally speaking, the ear is representative of male’s anxiety and shame towards their Oedipal fantasies. Lynch was able to depict this anxiety-provoking journey through Jeffrey’s own investigation of the severed ear. Jeffrey’s anxiety and tension were, not surprisingly, further exasperated by Dorothy.
His sexual attraction and longing for a desirable, yet perverse female, relates back to the Oedipal complex. It is more important to focus on Dorothy, because of her perverse sexual nature, and how it impacts the men around her. Moreover, the psychological reasoning behind these fetishes and tendencies forces readers and viewers to think about themselves, and possible pervasions, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and society. It particularly addresses inner conflict and tensions. Some of these inner tensions can be seen in Dorothy though her fetishes. In terms of fetishism, Freud also heavily studied this psychological phenomenon.
Fetishism relates to sexuality, especially in terms of children’s sexual fantasies towards their parents. The author’s claim that we must question of our own perception of reality, as well as the issue of good versus evil, was precisely what Lynch forced his viewers to do throughout Blue Velvet. Makarushka tended to use the term “illusion” quite often, which was interesting, because Lynch’s film had a strong illusionary tone to it, tracing back to the uncanny, and the dreamlike imagery and emotions throughout his film. Her article was complementary to Blue Velvet because she was able to pose the mysterious and often unsettling aspect of reality versus illusionary life in the supernatural sense throughout the film. Furthermore, it did force readers to question how realistic the perfect, “cookie cutter,” image of the American Dream is, ultimately redefining its meaning.