Notes on Mulvey, L – Pandora’s Box

Throughout participating in the ‘Goddess’ and Monsters’ study group i have grown an interest for Cinema and fetishism and would like to write my dissertation based on these subjects. I’m hoping that by reading books upon these and similar subjects with help point me in the direction of exactly what question i would like to answer for my dissertation.

Upon reading ‘Fetishism and Curiosity: Cinema and the Mind’s Eye’ By Laura Mulvey i have been able to make the connections from the myth of Pandora’s box to themes that we have previously learnt about in the study group such as beauty, fetishism, interior/exterior, unraveling bodies and more.

In the Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth that was created by the God’s. She was given gifts such as beauty and charm and sent to earth to ‘seduce and bring harm to man’. Pandora was then given a container (a jar or box) that secretly contained all the evils of the world. Although she was told never to open the box, her curiosity over came her and so evil escaped and misery was bought to man.

“A mask-like surface enhances the concept of feminine beauty as an ‘outside’, as an artifice and masquerade, which conceals danger and deception. And lingering alongside is the structure of fetish, which, with its investment in eye catching surfaces, distracts the gaze from the hidden wound on the females, or rather the mother’s, body.”

Laura discusses the purpose of Pandora’s creation. She suggests that Pandora is a manufactured object and that her creation is based on a ‘interior/exterior’ basis of ‘surface/secret’, comparing her to a ‘Trojan Horse’ and evoking the idea that Pandora causes mystery and is a trap for man. She suggests that her beautiful, feminine exterior acts as a distraction to the male gaze to hide the fact that Pandora, is in fact, a woman. This links to Freud’s theory of fetishism and masks Pandora as a typical character of ‘femme fatale’. ‘Inside/outside’ is then explored more in terms of femininity. Laura suggests that an ‘inside’ space may link with maternal femininity such as a womb, but, could also be related with the secrecy of an inside space such as a box/a room.

Pandora’s box – originally a jar – as an object. Both are a container. They are made up of an inside and an outside. The outside, designed to look beautiful, creates curiosity as it contains something unknown. This draws excitement, but also fear.

‘The seductive mask and the box: each conceal a secret that is dangerous to man’ 

In comparison to Pandora. Both are built around an interior and an exterior. Laura suggests that the shape of the box and its associations with secrecy ‘allows a metamorphic relationship to come into existence between the box and the female genitals‘.  She backs this up by inputting a piece of text by Lumina Jordanova in Sexual Visions which associates secrecy with the female body. She also links this to a conversation between Freud and Dora in ‘Fragment of an analysis’ where dora talks about her dream of a jewel case and Freud suggests this of her female genitals, also suggestive of an interior/exterior basis.

Die Büchse der Pandora als Stilleben


Laura analyses this painting by Paul Klee. The vase, suggestive of the female genitals, containing flowers and evil vapours. She uses this as an example to imply that throughout history female sexualisation has been seen as something to be disgusted and repelled by. This links back to the monstrous body that has been discussed within our study group. We have talked about the unravelling of the body, and the idea that when insides of the body become outside it is seen as something that repulses and disgusts. Laura concludes that ‘masculine desire is caught in an oscillation between erotic obsession with the female body and fear of castration..” 


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