The Gaze of the Other in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hitchcock's The Birds

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Department of English, NTNU


Here I first briefly review the Western metaphysical conceptualization of “self”/“other,” based on the logic of identity-and-difference, and the post-Hegelian, post-structuralist move away from this logic toward a notion of “difference” or “otherness” that cannot be contained within the hegemony of a (Eurocentric) rational “self” (mind, consciousness)—particularly as we get this move in Lacan and Levinas. Then I look at Hitchcock’s The Birds and (more substantially) Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in (the Lacanian and Levinasian) terms of intersubjectivity, the inverted “gaze,” the self-negating (or abnegating) move toward/into the “other.” If the birds attacking fromthe sky are (as on Žižek’s reading) an other which can “negatively” signify and thus absorb or replace the social conflicts among the characters—nature “above” becomes the inverted gaze of culture “below”—then in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon we are dealing with a more purely horizontal (socio-cultural) matrix of relationships in which the inverted gazes of/within the “pairs” (of warriors, friends or lovers) signify or signal inversions/reversals of identities or roles, including gender roles.