Trauma and Sexuality in Crash and Blue Velvet

KYLE MACLACHLAN BLUE VELVET (1986)

TW: rape

Crash and Blue Velvet are intimately concerned with the link between trauma and sexuality, both consciously and unconsciously revealing the impact of traumatic sexuality on its participants, particularly women.

Two films that are often considered the most successful of their respective directors, their presentations of trauma and sexuality are also indicative of the flawed societies in which they are produced. Yet despite their shared preoccupation, David Cronenberg and David Lynch approach this relationship from inverse positions.

Whilst Cronenberg explores the erotic potential of traumatic events in Crash, Lynch’s Blue Velvet highlights the inherently traumatic origins and nature of sexuality through its Freudian themes.

Their respective examinations of traumatic sexuality disproportionately affect their female characters, with Cronenberg reinscribing misogynistic tropes within his supposedly liberating new form of sexuality, and Lynch’s visceral rape scenes complicating his otherwise progressive rejection of violence against women. Cronenberg’s and Lynch’s views of traumatic sexuality are complex, but both struggle, to varying degrees, with regressive attitudes towards female characters.

To understand what Cronenberg and Lynch are saying about trauma and sexuality, their differing attitudes towards Western society must be clarified. Cronenberg’s film is, of course, an adaptation of the 1973 novel Crash, whose writer J. G. Ballard gives the film’s protagonist his name.

Like the novel, the film presents a culture which is deeply commodified and almost entirely devoid of affect, adopting a clinical visual style to reinforce this. The sexual scenes have been described by Cronenberg as “anti-pornographic” , perhaps mimicking the disconnection felt by the film’s voyeuristic viewers as they watch a paraphilia they do not share.

In Crash, commodity culture and sex are intertwined, with neither ultimately producing a satisfying emotional response. The film’s two opening scenes, each an introduction to a principal character, convey both the eroticised marketing of objects and the objectification of female sexual partners.

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Catherine has sex with her lover in an airplane hangar, whilst James sleeps with a camera assistant surrounded by recording equipment. Sexuality is produced in environments of commodity fetishism, a culture that has minimised affect through its consumerist principles, and so mainstream sexuality is influenced by this.

When James and Catherine reunite, they have sex on a balcony, but it is “disconnected, passionless, as thought it would disappear if they noticed it”. The sexual response they are seeking is muted.

Outside of the fetish that is explored in Crash, car accidents are shown to have a unique position within American culture, particularly when involving the famous. The James Dean re-enactment highlights the mythos that turns celebrities into icons through their violent deaths, just as Vaughan points out when he says Dean’s crash was “a moment that would create a Hollywood legend”.

Likewise, James correctly identifies that Vaughan drives the Lincoln due to the Kennedy assassination, a moment he sees as “a special kind of car-crash”. Extreme events such as car accidents are a break in an otherwise monotonous equilibrium, hence their potential to act as sexual encounters for people like James and Vaughan, reflecting the reality that even subversive taboo forms of sexuality are created by the society that vilifies them.

If Cronenberg’s critique of Western society is that it is devoid of emotion, then Lynch’s view is the opposite.

David Foster Wallace best defined the term Lynchian as referring “to a particular kind of irony where the macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter”.

As such, Lynch’s defining trait as an auteur is his fixation on the horrifying everyday, depicting in Lynch’s words the tension between “this beautiful world and you just look a little bit closer, and it’s all red ants”. Blue Velvet is perhaps Lynch’s most Lynchian film in its portrayal of the trauma of everyday existence, and he like Cronenberg encapsulates this subject in his opening scene.

Bobby Vinton’s rendition of Blue Velvet plays over images of Americana- blue skies, white picket fences, a red fire truck with a man waving dreamily. The objects are mundane but subtly disturbing; Mrs Beaumont watches a man with a gun whilst the pressure in her husband’s twisted hosepipe builds, coinciding with his heart-attack on the front lawn.

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The camera descends into the grass and focuses on a swarm of black beetles, a symbol of evil throughout the film. The veneer of Reaganesque values in Lumberton, the town in which Blue Velvet is set, is juxtaposed with its seedy criminal underbelly, illustrating the perpetual horror within even the most seemingly innocent town.

Cronenberg thus portrays his sexualised trauma as a reaction to the affectless society he critiques, whereas Lynch sees the trauma of sexuality as the natural product of this deeply horrifying state of existence. Their specific views of trauma and sexuality form the principle concerns of each film- Crash with its exploration of car accident fetishism, Blue Velvet with its depiction of sexual assault against both men and women.

Yet despite their thematic similarities, these views approach the relationship from opposing positions; Cronenberg eroticises trauma in Crash whilst Lynch reveals the red ants underneath the cherry tree, the trauma hidden behind Jeffrey’s sexual development.

To initially focus on Cronenberg’s film, eroticised trauma is possible by the alignment of the human body- particularly the female body- with technology. Through this device, Cronenberg suggests a general interchangeability that forms the logical principle behind his concept of traumatic sexuality, the eroticised car-crash.

Again, Crash’s opening scenes best illustrate the objectification of female bodies. In Catherine’s opening scene she presses her breasts and face to the fuselage of a biplane; the camera focuses on “hard nipple and rivets” and Catherine’s body becomes a visual extension of the machine’s body.

Juxtaposing this scene, the naked camera assistant’s body assimilates into the environment around her, becoming one more piece of machinery. As James and Catherine experiment with their new paraphilia, Catherine’s body is described in increasingly mechanical terms, such as when Cronenberg details the “unique geometry” of her breasts.

From James’s perspective, the individuals he engages with sexually become linked with machinery; when he watches Vaughan and Catherine have sex in the car wash, himself the voyeuristic but distant third participant, the couple are described as “two semi-metallic human beings of the future making love in a chromium bower”.

As the body may be aligned with objects, so too are objects like cars sexualised by Cronenberg to illustrate the interchangeability of body and machine.

James is producing “a commercial for a minivan” in which the van is “polished for a beauty tracking shot”, imbuing the object with aesthetic value much like a person. The screenplay describes the car used in the James Dean reconstruction as “curvaceous”, and Cronenberg lingers over the car’s body to reinforce Vaughan’s sexual response to it.

When James has sex with Gabrielle in her modified car it’s noted how the metal is “moulded into the reverse of a driver’s palm” , another extension of Gabrielle’s crash-altered body.

Even James’s, Catherine’s, and Vaughan’s cars are coded to their bodies, with Catherine’s convertible “especially fragile and delicate” in comparison to James’s own vehicle. James notably repurchases the same model and colour of car after his crash, suggesting a connection to the vehicle and to the crash that damaged it.

In a society that is largely devoid of emotion, Crash highlights how car accidents are one of the few ways in which emotional extremes may be achieved. A car crash is essentially the meeting of two machines, just as sex is the meeting of two bodies, each changing the other upon impact.

When the body is interchangeable with the machine, then the logic of the eroticised car crash becomes clearer; the machine/machine interaction may have sexual power through the crash itself, as may the body/machine interaction through the wounds sustained, each inducing a transformation of sorts.

Vaughan believes “the car crash is a fertilising rather than a destructive event” because it creates change, both bodily and through “a liberation of sexual energy”. In this way it is likened to the life-giving function of sex, a creative force rather than an ostensibly destructive one. The traumatic event becomes sexual for Ballard and his peers because of its extremity and the close relationship of modern bodies with technology.

Car accidents, events that would typically be described as traumatic for all involved, are sexualised throughout Crash. After James’s crash, Catherine sensually describes the ruined vehicle to him whilst washing him, her soap-covered hands acting as a Freudian visual euphemism. James is forced to stop her account of blood “like little streamers of black lace running towards the windshield wiper gutters”, uncomfortably aroused by her words.

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James’s true introduction to the sexualised crash is when he drives his fellow crash victim Helen; after nearly crashing again, they drive to a nearby carpark and “awkwardly meshing with the technology around them, they make love in the driver’s seat of the car”.

After Helen introduces James to Vaughan, it becomes clear that he is not alone in his desires; Vaughan’s own sexual response to car crashes leads him to stage famous car accidents, and his excited panting both before and after his James Dean crash is a clear mirror of conventional sexuality.

Beyond the event itself, artefacts of car crashes or the act of witnessing them also provides sexual pleasure for the characters of Crash in much the same way as pornography or voyeurism might. James’s “new sensitivity to traffic” is likened to the public’s voyeuristic interest in car crashes later in the film, as Cronenberg depicts the “pervasive sexuality in the air amongst the onlookers” of a traffic accident.

The victims of the crash, once again female, are sexualised; the screenplay describes how one woman’s “skirt has ridden up around her waist”, and one medium closeup deliberate aligns Catherine’s profile with that of an injured woman, inviting a comparison of their beauty.

Both Vaughan and Catherine are drawn to the crash, with Vaughan leaping from the vehicle to photograph it and Catherine follows him; the pair have sex in the following scene, perhaps aroused from their earlier voyeurism. Vaughan’s photography again reinforces the idea of car crash images as pornography- for example, Vaughan’s workshop is full of “crude frontal pictures of motor-cars and heavy vehicles involved in highway collisions”.

Later, Helen watches tapes of car safety testing with James and Gabrielle and touches them sexually. Helen admits later that she fantasised about Vaughan photographing her sexual encounters “as though they were traffic accidents”.

At the end of the film, Vaughan’s restored car is described as “a mobile accident”, becoming a sexual artefact for James and Catherine to use in their own sexual activities.

Perhaps the most prevalent example of trauma’s intersection with sexuality in Crash is through bodily trauma, the wounds sustained in car accidents becoming erotic for fetishists like James and Vaughan. Vaughan explains his interest in car crashes as “the reshaping of the human body by modern technology”, before ultimately decrying this as “a crude sci-fi concept”; the line is a wry reference to Cronenberg’s own thematic preoccupations throughout his films.

However much Vaughan decries this concept later, it is the reshaping of human bodies in car crashes, and more specifically the sexual response derived from this, which fascinates him and his followers.

Almost every character in Crash sustains wounds as part of a sexualised traffic accident or a simulated sexual encounter- for example, the camera lingers over the wounds James’ obtains in his car accident, each given a close up. Both Vaughan and Catherine also have wounds objectified by the camera and those they are with, although Catherine’s are bruises caused by car sex with Vaughan that remind James of “crash injuries”.

Perhaps the most obvious examples of sexualised wounds in Crash are Gabrielle’s injuries; Gabrielle is a crash victim who is so badly hurt that she walks with the help of a back brace and leg supports.

In the film’s most extreme scene, Gabrielle has James literally penetrate a scar on her leg, the wound’s shape evoking a vagina and described as a “neo-sex organ”.

The triton imprinted on the hand of Helen’s dead husband is also emblematic of the sexualised nature of bodily trauma in the film, the process mimicked later by James when he has Vaughan’s hood ornament tattooed on his inner thigh.

Vaughan painfully kisses the wound as James caresses his scarred hands, reliving or imagining the events that placed the marks there. Throughout Crash, Cronenberg demonstrates the bodily trauma left behind after car accidents and the sexual pleasure it gives James and Vaughan, revealing the erotic potential of physical injuries as well as the events themselves.

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Whilst Cronenberg eroticises traumatic events and effects on the body, Lynch inversely reveals the trauma of sexual development for his protagonist Jeffrey, and the sexual assault he and Dorothy are subjected to during Jeffrey’s investigation. In Blue Velvet, the role of victim and perpetrator, as well as parent and child, shift and blur to illustrate the ubiquity of trauma in sexual development and behaviour.

To now shift focus to Lynch’s film, it almost seems needless to clarify that Blue Velvet is openly, overtly Freudian in its themes. Jeffrey returns to Lumberton after his father’s stroke, itself a sequence that may be interpreted as a sexual crisis of sorts.

The incapacitated Mr. Beaumont holds the tangled hose at his crotch, spraying water into the air as a young boy discovers his body. This phallic image may represent one form of Freudian seduction theory, a largely discredited but nevertheless potent idea that hysteria was caused by early sexual trauma, through either molestation or the witnessing of sexual scenes in childhood.

In the original cut of Blue Velvet, Jeffrey sees his father’s blood samples and witnesses “his disease”; the word is later used by Dorothy about semen, aligning Jeffrey’s father’s stroke with the dangerous sexuality of the underworld.

Jeffrey’s mother is also representative of maternal deprivation, an idea developed by psychologist John Bowlby about the importance of the mother in early development. Jeffrey’s investigation of Dorothy Vallens takes him away from the suburban family life of Lumberton and thus away from his mother.

This investigation begins after Jeffrey discovers an ear, through which Lynch has the camera travel; the ear becomes symbolic of entering a new world, a birth of a kind that represents the ultimate separation of mother and son.

Again, Jeffrey’s maternal deprivation is mirrored by Dorothy’s separation from her son Donny, whose own father is dead.

Through Lynch’s dream logic and imagery, the impotence and incapacitation of the father coupled with the separation from the mother codes Jeffrey as a child, one who will undergo sexual development and achieve manhood thanks to these Freudian traumas.

Throughout Jeffrey’s twisted sexual journey, he witnesses the sexual traumas of Dorothy and Frank as alternative parental figures in an Oedipal conflict. Lynch complicates Freud’s theories of sexual development by having Frank and Dorothy themselves shift between the role of parent and child.

When Jeffrey first sees Frank at Dorothy’s apartment, the pet names Dorothy gives him chart the shift in his role; first “baby”, which he rejects for “daddy”, before shifting back to “baby” again and then immediately reverting to “daddy”. He finally settles on the role of the child, calling Dorothy “mommy” as he climaxes.

Dorothy too shifts between child and mother in reaction to Frank; the moment when Frank as parent runs scissors close to her vagina is reminiscent of castration, another parentally enforced trauma of psychosexual development according to Freud’s theories.

The shift in parental/child roles is reduplicated in Dorothy’s sexual encounters with Jeffrey, particularly in the original screenplay. When she first meets Jeffrey, she threatens him with a knife whilst orally pleasuring him, another symbolic threat of castration, and later asks him if he’s “a bad boy”.

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In the original screenplay, she shifts into “a little girl” after Jeffrey refuses to hit her, suggesting a further fluidity outside of her relationship with Frank or a dynamic she is attempting to regain as part of her internalised trauma. The continual re-enactment of Oedipal dynamics indicates the continuing relevance of early sexual traumas to the sexual behaviour of adults, consensual and non-consensual alike.

It is through non-consensual sex that Lynch’s portrayal of traumatic sexual activities is clearest. Just as figures shift between parent and child, Jeffrey and Dorothy shift between roles of the victim and the perpetrator in sexual violence. Jeffrey’s ambiguous ethics are highlighted by Sandy, who says she can’t tell if Jeffrey’s “a detective or a pervert”.

In the original cut of Blue Velvet, he witnesses a sexual assault in the janitor’s quarters of his college, watching for a while before ultimately deciding to confront the rapist. With this scene in mind, Jeffrey’s surveillance of Dorothy is more than sub-textually voyeuristic, it becomes evidence of a pattern of behaviour dependent on the non-consent of other participants.

In her influential essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey highlights the “active” nature of the male gaze, in which woman becomes image alone to be viewed and not to view. Jeffrey does so here, and inflicts an act of sadism upon Dorothy and the unnamed female victim of the original cut. Later, when he hits Dorothy during sex, he can be seen to mimic Frank’s “mean sexuality”  through violence against women.

Yet in this complex film, Jeffrey also becomes the victim of sexual violence as well as a perpetrator, firstly through Dorothy and then through Frank.

When Dorothy discovers Jeffrey watching her, she forces him to undress and threatens to kill him, clearly terrified despite his arousal.

Dorothy, once victim of Jeffrey’s voyeuristic desires, becomes the instigator in another sexual assault, having internalised her experience with Frank. She even repeats his words, saying “Don’t look at me” just as Frank tells her later, clearly a command Dorothy has heard before.

The language of looking again highlights the shifts in power for Dorothy, as viewed through Mulvey’s concept of the gaze; in Barbara Creed’s analysis of Blue Velvet she also describes how Dorothy “subjects him to her gaze” as part of a transfer of power.  Dorothy is at once a victim of Frank’s violence and a further perpetrator of it in this moment.

Later in her encounters with Jeffrey, the origins of which are tainted by her assault despite the seemingly consensual nature of their relationship, Dorothy attempts to reduplicate the conditions of Frank’s assault on her by asking Jeffrey to hurt her.

She claims to know “the difference between right and wrong” despite her assault on Jeffrey, but due to Lynch’s thematic reticence and hatred of explication it is unclear whether her desire to be hurt is out of genuine masochism, internalised trauma from her assault, or both at once.

In the original screenplay, Dorothy also taunts Jeffrey with the thought of Frank raping him, another sign of how Dorothy’s position shifts from victim to perpetrator within the same scene which further complicates her role.

What is clear from Dorothy and Jeffrey’s relationship is that they both occupy roles of victimhood and violation; Barbara Creed again outlines it best when she states that “a series of positions is presented, the terms of which are taken up successively by Jeffrey and Dorothy”. In violating the binary ideas of victim/perpetrator, traumatised/traumatiser, Lynch demonstrates the ubiquity of trauma within sexual encounters.

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Both Dorothy and Jeffrey are ultimately victims of rape and physical assault at the hands of Frank. Upon discovering their relationship, Frank drives Dorothy and Jeffrey to a deserted road and begins to assault Dorothy, informing Jeffrey that “you’re like me”  to indicate his complicity in the attack.

Jeffrey distinguishes himself from Frank when he tries to protect Dorothy, but is then subjected to a violent beating as a result. Frank covers himself in lipstick and kisses Jeffrey, before rubbing a square of blue velvet against his face, a material that acts as another of Frank’s fetishes.

The sexual assault is ambiguous in the final cut of Blue Velvet, but the original screenplay is less so- there Lynch describes how Jeffrey’s “pants have been pulled down and ‘FUCK YOU’ has been written with lipstick on his legs”, suggesting Jeffrey has been raped as well as beaten.

In this original version of the film, Jeffrey’s body forms a parallel with Dorothy’s when she arrives on Jeffrey’s lawn, also having been beaten and raped. Both are victims, both are perpetrators, and they can only escape these roles once Frank is killed.

Both Crash and Blue Velvet ultimately consolidate their protagonist’s sexual development, by embracing and rejecting traumatic sexuality respectively. In Crash, James’s sexual awakening leads him to chase bigger and bigger highs; an early example of this is after Catherine simulates sex with Vaughan for him, juxtaposed by the following scene where he has sex with Helen in her car.

Sex with Helen is suddenly lacklustre because he has experienced a new, exciting taboo.

James has more and more extreme sexual encounters until the film’s dramatic climax, when Vaughan attempts to run him and Catherine off the road and is finally killed.

James’s reaction is one not of horror but “excitement” when Vaughan dies, and far from abandoning car accident fetishism by defeating Vaughan, James continues Vaughan’s work. He restores Vaughan’s car whilst retaining the aesthetic damage, just as Vaughan had wanted to do with a famous car crash, and uses it to run Catherine’s convertible off the road before they have sex.

The final words of the film, “maybe the next one, darling… maybe the next one”, suggest that James and Catherine will continue to force car accidents until they are finally killed, achieving the same sexual thrill in death that Vaughan did.

For Lynch, Jeffrey has been coded as the child discovering sexuality, and as such his sexual development is tied to the completion of the Oedipal conflict, to sleep with his quasi-mother figure (Dorothy) and kill his quasi-father figure (Frank). He achieves both by the time he shoots Frank, symbolically replacing the father figure and becoming a man.

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Frank calls his bullet a “love letter” prior to assaulting Jeffrey, and with Ketty Lester’s Love Letter playing as Frank approaches Dorothy’s apartment, shooting Frank becomes another violent act that is associated with sexuality. By killing Frank, Jeffrey secures a victory over the man who raped him and rejects the violence of non-consensual sex.

Having achieved his sexual development, Jeffrey is able to find happiness with Sandy in a healthy relationship; Lynch then brings the shot back out of Jeffrey’s ear, symbolising his rebirth as a new adult and his escape from the underworld that the discovery of Don’s ear brought him to.

The image of family life at the Beaumont house is one that highlights the presence of darkness but focuses on its defeat; the appearance of the robin representing love from Sandy’s dream as it eats a beetle representing evil confirms that though evil may exist, it can be destroyed.

The final shots of the film are of Dorothy, reunited with her son Donny but still hearing Blue Velvet in her mind, suggesting that she has been liberated from her traumatic sexual past but like Jeffrey is still aware of the presence and memory of evil.

Whilst Cronenberg’s film embraces the role of trauma in sexuality, Lynch’s film instead focuses on how healthy love may be achieved despite trauma.

Considering these attitudes, Cronenberg’s presentation of female sexuality is more overtly disturbing than Lynch’s, reflecting a more prevalent misogyny in his film.

Crash is a film about a supposedly subversive sexual subculture that rejects societal rules, but Cronenberg’s vision of sexual liberation is one that reinscribes misogynistic tropes and leaves its female characters without narrative development.

Blue Velvet is on one level a deconstruction of reductive gender roles like the femme fatale or the girl next door, complicating the figures of Dorothy and Sandy whilst championing a new kind of masculinity and rejecting sexual violence. However, the film still suffers from the voyeuristic way in which rape is depicted, with Lynch’s desire to create discomfort from visceral rape scenes reducing the film’s feminist heart.

The female characters of Crash serve three purposes- to be objectified, to be placed in peril, and to facilitate the relationship between James and Vaughan. The “Sexy Lamp Test” is a relatively new concept developed by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, to gauge whether a female character could be replaced by a sexy lamp and the film still make sense.

The image is absurd yet revealing, and in the case of object paraphilias in Crash, it’s uniquely appropriate. Neither Catherine, Helen, nor Gabrielle, all of whom sleep with James over the course of the film, are given character traits beyond their desire for sex and their importance to James, our male protagonist and guide.

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At several points in the film, women expose their breasts to men to engage sexual contact, an atavistic presentation of submissive female sexuality. Catherine, the most developed of Cronenberg’s female characters, is described as “a harshly disciplined puppy” and she is denied participation in James’s ultimate sexual revelation, trapped in the car whilst James watches Vaughan’s crash.

Throughout the original screenplay of Crash, there are largely cut female characters whose only purpose is to titillate, such as the nurse with “sly thighs” at the hospital and James’s diligent assistant and lover Renata, who James watches with his wife as an object not a subject. Cronenberg reinforces this through his images of the female body, eroticising Catherine’s and Gabrielle’s bodies in a way that is rarely seen with the male characters.

Despite Cronenberg’s logic about the objectification of all bodies in this Western society, in practice he only depicts objectification of women. Vaughan is the only male character to be objectified, when Catherine views his scarred torso, and this scene serve to facilitate a quasi-threesome between Catherine, Vaughan, and the observer James.

James is also the only character who is not penetrated over the course of the film, betraying a reinscription of homophobic male anxieties even in this supposedly liberating form.

The sexuality displayed by Vaughan throughout the text is one that depends on a lack of consent- he chases Catherine without her consent whilst James watches, before eventually attempting to kill them both.

The vindication of Vaughan’s way of life, even in a watered-down consensual version between the couple, comes without a condemnation of Vaughan’s behaviour. Even within James and Catherine’s final chase is coded to traditional gender roles- James pursues Catherine, the hunter and the hunted, as dependent on female passivity as any traditional relationship.

Lynch’s female characters are deconstructions of polarised archetypes, ones who are far more complex than their outer appearances would indicate. Sandy, despite her wholesome 1950s appearance, is the one who feeds Jeffrey’s interest in the case, stepping out of the shadows and revealing that she too is a voyeur, eavesdropping from her room “right above my father’s office”.

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Dorothy’s femme fatale glamour is exposed as affectation when Jeffrey watches her in her apartment; she takes off her wig and weeps, discarding one of many symbols of her sex appeal. She vacillates wildly throughout the film between her seductive identity and her traumatised vulnerability, illustrating a depth of character that simply doesn’t exist in Cronenberg’s Crash.

Jeffrey too represents a more complex kind of masculinity to Frank’s and is the survivor of a sexual assault. He ultimately rejects voyeurism and direct violence against women, stepping in to try and save Dorothy from Frank, and is raped himself as a result.

Blue Velvet provokes complex questions about rape that are at the forefront of feminist campaigns today, such as the ability to orgasm despite the absence of consent, and dispelling the myth that men can’t be raped.

Where the film’s feminist message fails is in Lynch’s visual portrayal of rape, specifically in the scene where Dorothy is raped by Frank. This scene is designed to provoke maximum discomfort by being as viscerally disturbing as possible. Though Blue Velvetthoroughly rejects rape, its depiction ignores the effect of such images on the voyeuristic gaze of the viewer, and risks eroticising Dorothy’s pain and sexual response by lingering on such images.

In their depiction of trauma and sexuality, Crash and Blue Velvet are two sides of the same coin, providing alternate but complimentary perspectives on this complex relationship. Cronenberg’s Crash presents eroticised trauma as a radical alternative to modern, unemotional existence, but in fact reinforces damaging tropes of misogyny and homophobia whilst attempting to resist oppressive forces.

Lynch’s nightmarish Blue Velvet reveals the hidden trauma inherent to sexual development, exposing the damaging effects of exploitative sexuality on all genders even whilst reinforcing a voyeuristic male gaze. Both films are compelling, but to varying extents are hampered by flawed reinforcements of misogyny.

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