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Michigan Quarterly Review (1999) - Camille Paglia meets Alfred Hitchcock!




Weber reviews "The Birds" by Camille Paglia.



The Birds. By Camille Paglia. London: British Film Institute Publishing/Indiana University Press, 1998. Pp 104. $10.95.

Camille Paglia has been warning us for some time that the second volume of her magnum opus Sexual Personae will focus on popular culture. This is not particularly good news, considering that her greatest strengths lie in deflating feminist egos and steering academics away from asinine theories of classical literature and art. Her fawning essays about specific pop icons or genres — Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, rock 'n' roll — have produced more than a few embarrassing bits. I fear that if Paglia delivers, as promised, a tome with chapters on other favorite enthusiasms — the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, American football — the project may prove her undoing. Like a pop diva, Paglia has tremendous gifts that must be applied to the right material. Otherwise, she's just bellowing into the microphone, strengthening the case of her detractors, who are legion.

It was with subdued expectations, then, that I approached Paglia's examination of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror film, The Birds. Asked by the British Film Institute to contribute a book-length essay to its Film Classics series, Paglia chose, from a list of some 360 archived works, a movie she had first seen as an impressionable teenager. The result is a long discourse in which enthusiasm is bestowed unflaggingly on a film that doesn't warrant it.

It's easy to see what would initially attract the author of Sexual Personae to Hitchcock's film, the central conflict of which concerns "nature's d...

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