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Film & History (2011) - The Savage Audience: Looking at Hitchcock's The Birds




  • Most sources indicate that the author later redacted this paper.


Hearkening to the allure of what Tom Gunning has termed "the cinema of attractions" - exhibitionist early films that addressed extra-diegetic beholders who, watching in the context of variety shows, actively responded to the ocular stimulations - diegetic audiences in Hitchcock's films behave in a similar way, responding to spectacle with animated association. The onscreen mass audience constantly oversteps the traditional boundaries between spectator and spectacle, heckling the performer, swarming the object of display, halting exhibition altogether as it rushes out of the theater during midperformance, and usurping the position of object of the gaze. According to The Birds, the motivations of this magnetized legion are impenetrable; they elude rationalization and regulation.