Eyes Wide Shut Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2371 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … sexuality in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut?

There are two highly distinct themes (which are largely intertwined) in Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut -- sexuality and enigma, both of which revolve, to varying degrees, about the presence of an unnamed, all powerful secret society. Whereas there is little attempt to illuminate the inner workings and structure of the latter, the film largely details a number of different aspects of the former, which are decidedly unconventional. Aside from the nearly maudlin ending of this film, the portrayal of sexuality is quite distinct from that in which sexuality is typically portrayed within Western society. There are a number of different sexual encounters and allusions to sexual encounters that present alternative varieties of conventional standards of both power and morality. A thorough analysis of this film, however, as well as of salient works related to both sexuality and mores within Western society, reveals that it obliterates Western morality as it conventionally pertains to sex and establishes a new morality (or immorality) which revolves almost exclusively around power.

The staid Western morality pertaining to sexuality (which has reigned ever since the sexual revolution at the turn of the 20th century) is greatly contrasted with the representation of sexuality as power within this film. Aside from overt instances in popular culture in which homosexuality -- in all of its myriad forms including transgender individuals, lesbians, gays, and virtually everything in between -- is not only embraced but seemingly forced upon the population, the morality of sexuality and sexual practices is strictly enforced in the U.S. Such conventional mores as monogamy, family values, and the sanctity of marriage largely govern the perception of sexuality (between heterosexuals as well as homosexuals, interestingly enough). In this respect then, Kubrick's film appears to be a dedicated assault on such mores and presents instances in which nearly every one of these values is not only challenged but, for the most part, largely eradicated. The significance of this assault on the typical perception or background of sexuality is considerable -- the reserved, Western sense of morality that typically surrounds sexuality is not the only perspective on this issue within Westernized culture. It becomes fairly clear that there is a different sort of morality enforced within this film in regards to how sexuality is defined and, for the most part, such morality is actually based around power. This aspect of power is suggested in the following quotation. "men are not gentle creatures, who want to be loved, who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness" (Freud). This quote implies that there is a core element of power and aggressiveness that is central to man (and woman's) fundamental being which evinces itself everywhere -- even in sexuality.

An examination of the two main characters within this film -- Bill and Alice -- (particularly in their interactions early on in the movie) indicates that the conventional moral values associated with sex are largely eschewed in Eyes Wide Shut in favor of one in which power is the chief determinant. Initially, the pair seems like every other reserved, sexual-morally conservative couple. Bill has a certain social eminence due to his occupation as a doctor, they have the requisite home to fulfill the American dream, and a darling daughter who completes this image. However, when the pair attend a party they quickly abandon one of the chief characteristics of sexual morality -- monogamy. Bill shamelessly flirts with a pair of young women (regardless of the fact that Alice is present); Alice shamelessly flirts with an older "Hungarian" (Ebert) man (regardless of the fact that her husband is present). In fact, it quickly becomes apparent that the pair is flirting as such because one another is present as later on in the film the fact is revealed that each was aware of the other one's flirtation. Bill's social eminence is transformed into a form of power with the women he flirts with, who are enamored by his status as a doctor. Similarly, Alice's status as a married woman is effectively a form of power which makes her more desirable in the eyes of the older man. These manifestations of power have forsaken the conventional moral value of sexuality -- monogamy -- and have replaced it with one based on social power.

The crux of the plot of this film is that on another night, Alice reveals to Bill that she frequently fantasized about another man (another implied instance of polygamy in violation of the sanctity of marriage), which is an assertion of power which Bill cannot usurp -- unless he engages in his own extramarital sexual endeavors (which he is sufficiently spurred to do). This point in the plot is extremely pivotal to the proper interpretation of sexuality as power within this film, and as the sort of power which subverts conventional Western morality. There are numerous flashbacks that Bill has while wandering the streets of Alice having sex with this other man. Alice's recounting of this tale is the ultimate exercise in power, because she is telling Bill about a man who, for all practical purposes, no longer exists and for whom she was perfectly willing to sacrifice everything that represented conventional Western morality pertaining to sexuality -- her husband, her daughter, their home, her family life. This assertion is her way of reassuring Bill that he does not control her sexually (or emotionally or mentally, even) and that she has considerable sexual power which is more than Bill possesses over her at this point in the film. Further testament to the degree of power that Alice asserted is the fact that it galvanizes Bill into his own lewd sexual encounters, and a whole underworld of sexual behavior based on power and not of conventional Western morality.

Perhaps the most cogent way in which this film illustrates sexuality as pertaining to power is in the scene in which Bill goes to an undisclosed location which is actually an orgy. The concept of power pervades every aspect about this event -- attendance requires an invitation, only the most wealthy and powerful people are invited, and everyone in attendance is wearing costumes including elaborate masks so that there is no accountability for their actions or for what takes place there. Due to these circumstances, the typical standards of Western morality that define its sexuality no longer apply. In their place is a simple standard of morality as applied to sexuality: power, and the exercise thereof. One of the most revealing indicators of this fact is that there is a clear delineation between those who are empowered and those who are effectively disenfranchised. The wealthy elite in costumes are those who have the power and autonomy to do anything they want -- especially as it pertains to sex. The women, who are not wealthy socialites or notable political figures, are left to do the bidding of the former. They are disenfranchised in the sense that they have been brought to this event to fulfill a particular purpose: to let others sexually do what they want to them. This imbalance of power is crucial to the way that power is used to represent sexuality in this film. There are those who have (power) and those who do not; the former use power to exercise their dominion over the latter, whether this includes Alice flaunting her sexual fantasies with another man to her husband or the rich and powerful engaging in acts of coitus with prostitutes at a salacious masquerade party.

Another fairly eminent way in which it becomes clear that power is the premier representation of sexuality in this movie, and not conventional Western morals related to it, pertains to concept of sex with children. From a western moral point-of-view, sex with minors is strictly prohibited and, utilizing one's children to provide sexual favors is also severely discouraged. Within Eyes Wide Shut, however, which utilizes a model of power to represent the very notion of sexuality, these taboos simply do not exist. An excellent example of this fact is found in the scene in which Bill attempts to procure a costume for the party. In talking to the shop owner, he inadvertently comes upon two other men (dressed like women, perhaps, or maybe like transgender individuals) who seem to be in some sort of pursuit with the shop owner's daughter. It is ambiguous as to whether or not she is of legal age -- it is not inconceivable that she is either under or just over the age of 18. The shop owner is furious -- which represents the viewpoint of conventional Western morality. However, when Bill returns to the shop to give back his costume, the shop owner has very obviously been placated about the aforementioned situation. The two men dressed oddly before have now returned to the clothing of power (suits) and… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

?
Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 7-page paper:  $24.68

or

2.  Buy & remove for 30 days:  $38.47

or

3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)

or

4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Raiders of the Lost Ark Directors Steven Film Review


Family Therapy Term Paper


Stanley Kubrick Term Paper


Portfolio on the Relationship Between Movies and Cultural Studies Dissertation


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Term Paper


View 111 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Eyes Wide Shut.  (2014, April 30).  Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/eyes-wide-shut/3893060

MLA Format

"Eyes Wide Shut."  30 April 2014.  Web.  15 February 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/eyes-wide-shut/3893060>.

Chicago Format

"Eyes Wide Shut."  Essaytown.com.  April 30, 2014.  Accessed February 15, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/eyes-wide-shut/3893060.