In the first chapter of her book unInvited, Patricia White discusses the lack of lesbian imagery (or coded visibility) in Hollywood film under the Hayes code in the 1930’s to 1950’s. White writes how there is in fact lesbianism depicted in films from this time, but it is hidden. She writes, “Although the moments of encoding and decoding are historically disjunct, contemporary strategies of reading the traces of lesbianism in Code-era Hollywood film can revise understandings of the historical implications of the “exclusion” of homosexuality form the U.S. cinema to formulate the relationship between reading against the grain and the history of sexuality” (2). White continues by comparing films to Freud’s interpretation of dreams, claiming that “Freud’s model of interpretation suggest that we follow the paths of association laid down by the dream elements to reconstruct how particular representations came to condense and distort aspects of experience and psychic longing,” (8) and that “In Freud’s description of consideration of representability, images are more readily suited to express associations than words” (17). In other words, White is using Freud’s beliefs that by analyzing dreams, deep desires are revealed and that images in fact carry more meaning in dreams than expressing the same idea through words. Films, often thought of as being dreamlike, can therefore be analyzed like a dream to extrude hidden meanings used to bypass the Hayes Code. In class, we watched All About Eve, which clearly (at least today) references lesbianism through the images seen on screen. For example, there is a scene in which Eve looks at Margot. Margot is framed in a close up through Eve’s perspective, connoting Eve’s lesbian desires. This is also seen when Eve takes Margot’s costume to be hung. When Margot realizes she should not have allowed Eve to do so, Margot catches Eve looking at herself in the mirror as if she were wearing Margot’s outfit. As this scene on the surface appears to be Eve’s desire to have Margot’s role, the scene itself suggest deeper desires. Eve is caught in the act of holding Margot’s costume, an extension of Margot, close to herself, and when Margot catches Eve, Eve is embarrassed, believing she was in private. What I am suggesting is that Eve’s desire is not necessarily Margot’s role, but Margot herself, and by Margot catching Eve doing this act, she has in fact caught Eve mid lesbian fantasy.
White, Patricia. “Reading the Code(s).” UnInvited. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1999. 1-28. Print.