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Marrying Guido to the Spectator: 8½ and Fellini-Spectator Verification

Federico Fellini composes according to the limits of his own subconscious, giving his spectators an interesting take on the inside of a director’s mind. The film weaves between dream and reality, sometimes confusing the two, but other times introduces a surreal fantasy that projects an unconscious vulnerable to Freudian speculation.

The spectator is stuck in a place not exactly known, but felt and experienced. This, among others, calls for an examination of Todorov’s idea of the fantastic with respect to literary theory, which is the hesitation created when “there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world” (Todorov 26). Many sequences of the film begin in this fantastic state of confusion as to whether they are reality or pseudo-movie-reality (unconscious included). Though prevalent in defining the fantasy genre, the employment of the fantastic is important in examining a text’s relation to reality, specifically that hesitation in the spectator. Rather than focusing just on the form and content of , it is important to include the spectator’s contribution in constructing those scenes according to the reality of the film. It is vital for the audience to share a position next to Fellini as he builds a world in the film that challenges the spectator’s relationship with unconscious reality and defines the limits of a man in his pursuits to direct the film in which he is also the subject—ultimately playing with the uncanny resemblance between dream and film.

The story of includes a director’s attempt at being creative; through his attempt, he hopes to find inspiration to continue with the project that many people are depending. John C. Stubbs argues that “Fellini presents the creative process as occurring more or less in Henri Poincaré’s four stages: preparation, incubation, Eureka! moment, and verification, with an emphasis on stages 2 and 3” (116). Stubbs continues to examine and Guido (the protagonist-director) from a psychoanalytic references to explain the four stages in relation to the story, consequently “sharing in his creative efforts” (130). In the same vein, Isabella Conti and William A. McCormack examine the creative process an artist must go through to according to the Jungian theory; they write, “Jung emphasized a cognitive unconscious and interpreted psychic disturbances as the individual’s attempt to achieve a wholesome integration of the various parts of the personality” (294). Conti and McCormack find the theme of to include “the creative energy released by successfully coming to terms with archetypes and understanding how they are expressed in the various components of the personality of an artist” (295). These various writers are attempting to examine Fellini in relation to defining himself as Guido, an artist, with these examinations central to all artists and aspiring artists.

These papers fail to define the spectator’s relation to , which I will argue is central in producing meaning and inspiration for both oneself and Fellini’s Guido. Conti and McCormack’s paper ends with an important note that will guide this discussion further: “Inspiration still must come from within” (307).


I would like to call attention to the harem sequence, which features a myriad of women from Guido’s life gathered in the small house. According to Stubbs, this sequence represents the “incubation phase” of the creative process, characterized by Guido “[playing] with his materials and [trying] out new combinations” (123). This scene plays out as a fantasy for Guido as he visually constructs a scene using unconscious archetypes; the audience hesitates as the women of his life parade around the set, interacting with each other—one clue which may lead us to believe we are in the fantastic. The spectator sits in suspension and confusion as Guido literally whips the women into a circular formation and asserts his power (as a man but more importantly an artist). This scene guides the audience through the internalized storytelling Guido goes through, which is important in visually guiding the audience through the second step of the creative process. Stubbs finishes his analysis of the sequence by arguing that “this image will eventually give Guido the guiding principle for his movie, and it will give Fellini the image for the ending of ” (124).

If we are to assume the harem sequence is a psychological progression within Guido, then it must preclude the possibility of further inequality. Women become slaves of labor and objectify their bodies at Guido’s command, which leads to the assumption that Guido must first ‘get over’ a major hurdle in his life: the incubation phase. Stubbs articulates that “before Guido can get to this moment of insight, he has to modify and even destroy some misleading or false premises and images” (124). These false premises and images involves his unconscious rendering of women from his life trapped in slave labor; in destroying these images, Guido and the audience can successfully move to the third phase: the Eureka! moment.

In guiding the audience through this unconscious rendering of events, the spectator metaphorically becomes Guido. Through the spectator’s point of view of Guido, we complete three of the four steps of the creative process and give meaning to both Guido and the spectator’s lives. Going back to Stubbs, he states that the ending of the film constitutes the Eureka! moment (third step). By extension, the harem sequence is a partial representation of the ending. Where Guido tries to control the women earlier, by the end he let’s go of his control and becomes part of the circle. This ending represents the death of one phase (incubation) while simultaneously becoming the beginning of the movie.

Where does the spectator fit in?

In our masked interpretation of the final events at the unfinished launch pad, the spectator is left to assume Guido has found resolution in his life and therefore can complete this project. This is false. Guido’s subjectivity traps the audience and the only way out involves a completion of the creative process trajectory. According to Stubbs, “what the movie celebrates…is the moment of breakthrough—the ‘Eureka! moment” (129). Where does the spectator go from here to complete the fourth moment: verification? The answer lies in the completion of 8½. By Fellini displaying Guido’s trajectory of the first three phases and disguising it as the story of Guido creating the film, Fellini then verifies the process itself by the completion of 8½. In other words, Guido completes his process of creativity once Fellini finishes the film and releases it to an audience.

At this moment the audience becomes as important in Guido’s life as all other characters in his filmic world. Without the spectator, Guido will forever be stuck at the Eureka! moment, always searching for a verification; thus the spectator verifies Guido.




Conti, Isabella, and William A. McCormack. “Federico Fellini: Artist in Search of Self.” Biography 7, no. 4, (fall 1984), 292-308.

Stubbs, John C. “Fellini’s Portrait of the Artist as Creative Problem Solver.” Cinema Journal 41, no. 4, (summer 2002), 116-130.

Todorov, Tzvetan, and Richard Howard. The Fantastic. Cleveland: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973.

Isolation and Western Perception in Satrapi’s “Persepolis”

Oppression and misplaced representations of Iranians as foreign ‘Others’ led Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian in exile, to publish Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood; a graphic novel released in Western countries to communicate the unknown virtues of Iranian culture. These virtues unknown by Westerners, Americans specifically for this essay, include the perception of Iranians as being hostile and fanatic fundamentalists, which is only being spread instead of diminished because of faulty stereotypes.

September 11th and the subsequent war on terror placed Iran on the shortlist of ‘Axis of Evil’ powers, suspected of building nuclear weapons. The image of Iranians as ‘evil’ and the icon of their women hidden under black veils became a notable interest for Americans and their instant knowledge base through the sprouting online world in the early 2000’s. One piece of valuable knowledge that eluded Americans was that of an actual Iranian’s perspective inside Iran during their Islamic Revolution and Iraqi War.

Satrapi, through the experience of living in France, noticed this failure of perspective/representation and decided to describe her experiences in the form of a comic book. Her narrative sold millions of copies and reached the upper echelons of the graphic novel world, like Maus, published in 1991 by Art Spiegelman. The story sold exceedingly well because of Westerners heightened interest in Iranian culture and through the unique agency Satrapi explored with her main character Marji—her goal being to dissipate the oppressed figure she was seeing while living in exile in a Western country.

She creates a character that both Westerners and Easterners can identify with, therefore deconstructing the boundaries and stereotypes separating the East from the West.


Edward Said wrote Orientalism in 1978 in which he notes the same struggles as Satrapi by living in a Western country as a native to the Near East. In the introduction, Said claims disunity between his view and the American’s:

My own experiences of these matters are in part what made me write this book. The life of an Arab Palestinian in the West, particularly in America, is disheartening. There exists here an almost unanimous consensus that politically he does not exist, and when it is allowed that he does, it is either as a nuisance or as an Oriental. The web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim is very strong indeed, and it is this web which every Palestinian has come to feel as his uniquely punishing destiny. (27)

Said is disheartened by how the West views the Near East because of the ‘web of racism’ that nobody has bothered to unpack. The fact that Satrapi wrote Persepolis because of her experience of living in an ignorant society shows that neither Said nor Satrapi encountered an anomaly. Clearly there is a wrongful marginalization about the perception of their respective countries and Muslim cultures; they try to fight, and more or less overcome this ‘punishing destiny’ from the literature they successfully released; thereafter providing a closer identification for Westerners. Said later remarks that “no person academically involved with the Near East—no Orientalist, that is—has ever in the United States culturally and politically identified himself wholeheartedly with the Arabs” (27).

This essential quality of identification is important for the power of cultural recognition; without identification, the perception of the ‘Other’ will be based off stereotypes created by the dominant culture. This misperception creates a confusing binary, and dangerous stereotypes will only continue to grow. If Orientalism is Said’s response to the political cry for identification of Palestine, and the Near East in general, then Persepolis is Satrapi’s response to the cultural roar for identification with Iranian women.

Where Said and Satrapi differ is in their approach to form. Persepolis describes Satrapi’s time from ages nine to fifteen (1978-1984) in which she was living in conflict-stricken Iran. The novel ends on a sad note with Marji moving to Vienna alone because her parents feared for her future in Iran; Marji looks on in terror as her father carries her weakened mother at the airport (Satrapi 153). The sequel, Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, focuses on teenage Marji as she ventures around Europe, returns to Tehran in 1989, and experiences love. This novel ends in 1994 just before Satrapi leaves to live in exile in France. After receiving her master’s degree in visual communication from Islamic Azad University in Iran, Satrapi publishes Persepolis six years into her exile (Schroeder 136).

The graphic novel form allows Satrapi to communicate her ideas visually to the audience she wants most to appeal towards: Westerners. For example, Manuela Costantino points out that “Satrapi’s depiction of Muslim leaders as uneducated, primitive, and narrow-minded brutes strengthens her connection with her Western readers whose perception of Muslim extremists might indeed be quite similar to the one crafted in the autobiography” (432). Satrapi fully understands Western audience’s image of her home and people, and includes this rendition in response to the visual narrative she engages. By telling the story through the eyes and thoughts of a young girl in the middle of Iran’s cultural and political crises, it allegorizes the way her Western audience (for the most part) understands the situation in Iran: as naïve children.

Another clue that sheds light on the appeal of Persepolis to a Western audience, America specifically, is the cover of the graphic novel for the English print release, which Costantino also points out in her essay. The original French language editions released in 2000 in four volumes features revolutionary type warriors riding horses for the first two covers, and the last two display Marji riding a horse. Costantino explains these covers appeal to the French because of their “subconscious” feeling of pride of freedom fighters battling evil forces that try to invade their country (433). Released in 2003 to America, Persepolis centers a veiled Marji in black and white (the same drawing that appears in the first frame) enclosed in a diamond-shaped border surrounded by arrows pointing towards Marji. Costantino argues that ‘the ‘open window’ revealing the child beckons the reader inside the book. In this way, opening the memoir and/or removing the dust jacket functions as a form of metaphorical unveiling” (436).


Americans, through the rise of reality television and wide Internet usage, adopted a culture of trying to understand the unknown. This cover allows Americans to “metaphorically unveil” the oppressed and subdued appearance of the Iranian woman in the wake of former President Bush’s State of the Union Address in 2002, where he placed Iran on the list of Axis of Evil countries along with Iraq and North Korea. This chance of viewing an oppressed figure inside an ‘evil’ country appeals to the interest of the American that wishes to experience and support the underdog character. America came from a long history of rooting for the underdog, starting with the War for Independence; Persepolis becomes part of that tradition by forming an identity of a nation out of the oppression of another.

Satrapi, although appealing to her Western audience, still includes icons and experiences specific to Iranian culture. In Nima Naghibi and Andrew O’Malley’s essay, they talk about the front cover in terms of the tulip drawn below the window of Marji. They suggest that “tulips, which have a universal association with springtime, are popular flowers in Iran where they grow in abundance” (Naghibi and O’Malley 230). To the Western audience, tulips have no immediate significance beyond their natural beauty. For Iranians and the history of Persian culture, Tulips are essential to their history; Persian poets as far back as Omar Khayyam in the 12th century have “celebrated the beauty of tulips” (Christenhusz 282). Naghibi and O’Malley’s argument focuses on the use of that symbol from this history; they argue “[the tulip’s] universal signifier of new life, however, shifts in the context of the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war when tulips became potent symbols of martyrdom” (Naghibi and O’Malley 230).

This makes sense that the tulip appears upside-down on the front cover: at once, it is an Iranian symbol of beauty and unified culture, but Satrapi grew up in a counter-culture that celebrated the West as a symbol of hope and escape, effectively damaging and subverting her connection to Iranian culture. She includes subtle clues, like the upside-down tulip, to symbolize the partition with her own identity between the binaries of the East and West. The use of the tulip breaks down the binary by having a dual identification between Iranian’s historic culture and recent counter culture that embraces Western culture; showing the reader that the two cultures have matching qualities—also evident in young Marji’s embracement in Western idols such as Kim Wilde and Iron Maiden. By matching the symbol of the tulip and displaying it upside down on the front cover, Satrapi is showing the uselessness of binary construction.

Persepolis is a classic bildungsroman, featuring of a young girl going through an extreme case of existential crisis at the same time as her home country. There happen to be two essential reasons that made Persepolis popular among American audiences; first is America’s increased interest in Iran due to their position in the Axis of Evil; second is in Satrapi’s exile to France, which associated her understanding of the way in which Westerners falsely viewed Iranians. Without studying or spending time in Iran, a Westerner will not have the proper empirical evidence to make a judgment on the people of that country. This is potentially destructive because it reinforces the Oriental stereotype, as explained by Said, for nations and religions in the Near East and Asia.

Although Satrapi caters to the Western audience, which justifies her ‘teaching’ them the ways of Iranian life, there still appears cultural clues of Iranian culture, like the icon of the tulip to provide a symbolic identification and unification between East and West; and through this the binaries are weakened and rendered useless. Whether Iranians agree to the order of events of their culture that appear in the graphic novel, Persepolis provides an undoubtedly distinct perspective to a previously veiled segment of society.


Christenhusz, Maarten J. M. “Tiptoe through the Tulips – Cultural History, Molecular Phylogenetics and Classification of Tulipa (Liliaceae).” Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 172 (2013): 280-328. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Costantino, Manuela. “Marji: Popular Commix Heroine Breathing Life into the Writing of History.” Canadian Review of American Studies 38.3 (2008): 429-47. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Naghibi, Nima, and Andrew O’Malley. “Estranging the Familiar: “East” and “West” in Satrapi’s Persepolis.” (2007): 223-48. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York, NY: Pantheon, 2003. Print.

Said, Edward W. “Introduction.” Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979. Print.

Schroeder, Heather Lee. A Reader’s Guide to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Melrose Park: Enslow, 2010. Print.

Where is Freddie Mercury: The Need for a Hero in Science-Fiction Films

Experiencing the uniqueness of Queen’s Freddie Mercury, an occidental bystander will mark him with the distinctness of being both masculine in his rock-star stage persona and feminine in his private-life affairs and outfits (by no means is this observation made in full). According to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Mercury exhibits heroism in avoiding the binaries of illusion—these illusions accounted by Nicholas of Cusa’s idea of the “’Wall of Paradise,’ which conceals God from human sight”—first experienced in the Old Testament’s myth of Adam’s exile from the Garden of Eden.[i] “The removal of the feminine into another form symbolizes the beginning of the fall from perfection into duality…and thereupon the building of the Wall of Paradise.”[ii] Adam experiences this fall from perfection and in doing so creates, in the conscious world, duality—found in the distinction between Adam/Eve, man/woman, or masculinity/femininity.

Resembling Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject—literally defined as “cast out”[iii]—femininity is cast outside, distinct from the “Self” with clear physical boundaries or barriers separating the two (according to the biblical text of Eve forming from Adam’s rib). The Self, not to be confused with identity, herein means humanity at large. It is this “binary opposition,” theorized by Markus Rheindorf, between bodies (the Self and the other) where “articulations of unresolved cultural conflicts” take place in an externalized, fictional world; Rheindorf further defines the “other”—in science fiction films—as “embodying fears of various cultural others such as the female, the homosexual, the technological, and the pathogenic.”[iv] In this essay, I will be focusing on the duality between the Self and the other in two science-fiction films in terms of technology and ideology as it relates to humanity, rather than physical bodies/boundaries and “grotesque” abjection.

Conflict naturally arises from opposites; Freddie Mercury dissolves his persona of the distinction between masculinity and femininity, and travels “between which the heroes always pass.”[v] For the films Metropolis (1927) and Alphaville (1965), the only conceivable resolution to their conflicts is in the hero’s journey in bringing to light all that is dark and repressed from the unconscious and dissolve the illusory duality in the conscious world. The hero today (circa 1949 according to Campbell) questions whether “to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the coordinated soul.”[vi] This draws a nice parallel to Lemmy Caution bringing light to those who need it most (will be discussed later). Campbell continues: “the lines of communication between the conscious and the unconscious zones of the human psyche have all been cut, and we have been split in two.”[vii]

Science-fiction films explore the conscious externalizations of the unconscious, where images of repression are present in the hard line between monster/other and the Self. In physical space, the boundary of the Self—represented with the human body as containing all that distinguishes subjectivity from objectivity—is constantly in threat of assault from the “other”—represented through technology in science fiction as distinct from subjectivity and humanity. The repressed represent the dangers of exploring the Self (both consciously and unconsciously) without what Campbell refers to as “lines of communication” to help guide the Self—previous guides in primitive cultures (before conscious maturity and the extreme scrutiny of the unknown)[viii] being myths, tales, and rites of passage.

This paper will examine the need for a hero in the two science fiction films to reveal the illusions of duality and restore humanity to societies and technologies that seek to control it. Rationality through technology becomes a force of oppression in these films, controlling the masses into uniformity (objectivity without subjectivity), thus creating an illusion or representation of reality. The inherent paradox of rationality through technology is this: attempting to control the natural order of humanity and culture through ideology by forming boundaries and reinforcing them with dualities that are not in themselves natural or whole.

In Metropolis, the working class (hands/irrationality) is in direct conflict with Fredersen (head/rationality). The former resembles a robotic-prison in their living and working routines underground while Fredersen sits high above on his tech-rational throne. Both socially and spatially, the two are separate at the start of the film—this separation acts as the externalized conflict of the world that needs redemption/mediation. The repressed unconscious of Fredersen’s modernity morphs the true, virgin-Maria (symbolizing pure emotion) into a vamp-figure, the “false Maria.” Through technological means, Fredersen creates this figure of oppression and false emotions to strengthen the borders of his externalized unconscious and make a false reality that he claims to be “natural”—specifically when the workers pledge allegiance to the false-Maria and follow her wicked ways. Were Fredersen to create a true reality of nature, no conflict would arise and therefore no film be made; but due to the inherent paradox of rationality, conflicts arise and the events of the hero’s journey develop into a grand spectacle.

The hero, or mediator according to R. L. Rutsky in the essay Between Modernity and Magic, is Freder,[ix] son of Fredersen. Applied to Campbell’s hero archetype, Freder, to achieve resolution, must embody “a perfect human spirit alert to the needs and hopes of the heart.”[x] Similarly, Rutsky finds that “[Freder] is supposedly the ‘heart’ that enables the division of the head and the hands, his father and the workers, to be overcome, transformed into a whole, living body once again.”[xi] This is evident in the resolution of the film: the last intertitle piece of dialogue from Maria reveals the “brain and hand want to join together, but they are missing the heart…You [Freder], as Mediator, can show them the way to each other…”.[xii] Thus, Freder joins the pair together, expels the binary, and leaves the world in a more natural, living order contrasted from the beginning.


Another science-fiction film to exhibit an explicit hero in conflict with the tech-established order comes with Lemmy Caution in Alphaville. Chris Darke describes the film “as an allegory of cinematic light,”[xiii] with the generalized conflict as the city of Alphaville not having light—like humans before Prometheus.[xiv] Alpha-60, an omnipresent computer-based intelligence, controls the city, keeping humans in the dark: both physically and ideologically (humans as robots without emotions or thought).

The representation of technological life controlling humanity is more prominent in Alphaville than in Metropolis, where humans conform to robotic standards of puppetry and submission for the benefit of technology, rather than a greedy human (although this can be debated). As Darke notes, Alphaville reveals modes of hegemonic authority through various artistic techniques—light, character/camera movement, sound, and poetry—to reveal the artificial qualities of the idealized city: darkness (unenlightenment), circular patterns (repetition of oppressive-order), and controlled speech/thought (control over humans through ideology).[xv] With this influence, humans repeat their lives continuously, unable to record memories, with no way to escape or change the order—i.e. losing their humanity without the ability to recall it. Again, rationality is a paradox; but in this instance, an omnipresent force of technology—distinct from the organic Fredersen—tries to conform humanity to something not entirely human (resembling Freud’s uncanny).


Lemmy Caution, as the hero to restore humanity in the city of technological hegemony, enters this world “armed with light.”[xvi] Lemmy uses physical light (enlightenment) with planar lines (progression) and free-thought poetry (subjectivity) to defend against the hegemony and establish humanity once again—obviously an over-simplified summary but it works for now.

Ferdinand de Saussure from his Course in General Linguistics defines semiology as the study “of signs as part of social life,” with language being “a system of signs expressing ideas.”[xvii] Cultures express their ideology (signs of value and uniqueness) into physical consciousness through language; and through the control of language (like in Alphaville), one is able to control the ideology of a culture (famously abused by Hitler). The greed-king (Fredersen or Alpha-60) conforms the culture to fit their own “economic-political organization;”[xviii] in the context of science-fiction films, this malevolent force is some form of technology, monsters, or aliens that embody/externalize the fears of various cultural others attempting to assault the boundaries of our own cultures in the attempt to make us less human, more other. The hero means to mediate between cultures, between rationality and irrationality, and between the Self and other to preserve subjectivity and humanity.


PS: I split some of the larger paragraphs up from the original to make it easier to read through but in doing so may have caused some ideas and evidence to split into two or more paragraphs of thought.

Lastly, this short essay is designed to introduce the idea of hero and mythmaking, according to Joseph Campbell’s theories, into science fiction stories; by NO regards will this cover more than surface-level observations and assessments. If you would like to argue or add an obvious point I missed, simply send an email.



 Alphaville. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 1965. France: Athos Films, 1998. DVD.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato: New World Library, 2008. Print.

Darke, Chris. “The shape of things.” In Alphaville, 38-54. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2005. E-journal.

De Saussure, Ferdinand. Couse in General Linguistics. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1986. Print.

 Metropolis. Directed by Fritz Lang. 1927. Berlin, Germany; Kino Lorber films, 2010. Blu Ray.

Rheindorf, Markus. “’The Line Must be Drawn Here’: The Body as the Final Frontier in Science Fiction Films of the 1990’s.” In Reconstruction (2007). E-journal.

Rutsky, R L. “Between Modernity and Magic.” In Film Analysis, a Norton Reader. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005.



[i] Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Novato: New World Library, 2008), 73.

[ii] Ibid., 131.

[iii] Rheindorf, Markus. “’The Line Must be Drawn Here’: The Body as the Final Frontier in Science Fiction Films of the 1990’s,” in Reconstruction (2007), para. 14.

[iv] Ibid., para. 2.

[v] Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 73.

[vi] Ibid., 334.

[vii] Ibid., 73.

[viii] Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 333-334.

[ix] Rutsky, R. L., “Between Modernity and Magic,” (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013), 163.

[x] Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 272.

[xi] Rutsky, Between Modernity and Magic, 163.

[xii] Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang (1927; Berlin, Germany; Kino Lorber films, 2010), Blu Ray.

[xiii] Darke, Chris. “The shape of things,” in Alphaville (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 39.

[xiv] Ibid., 41.

[xv] Ibid., 39-44.

[xvi] Ibid., 42.

[xvii] De Saussure, Ferdinand. Course in General Linguistics (Chicago and La Salle: Open Court Classics, 1986), 15.

[xviii] Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 334.