Project-Buffy the Freudian.

……in your blog

Joss Whedon quite consciously incorporates both Freudian and Lacanian ideas into his scripts for the long-running TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the final episode of season 4 there are a number of dream sequences, each of which can be seen as, in part, exemplifying one or more of the ideas of Freud or Lacan. Watch it and note as many ideological references as you can find. Make notes as to how they manifest themselves

  • It’s a film night: films include Capricorn One , and Apocalypse now!
  • Each character now has a dream…………

Freud believed that dreams were associated with the unconscious-as well as slips, jokes, neurotic behaviours (Pooke and Newall, 2008: 117)


Willow’s dream

  • Tara is talking to Willow initially.

The 2 girls are not dissimilar looking. Perhaps this is Willow’s perfect ‘other’ as  described in Lacan’s mirror stage. Tara may be the perfect ideal for Willow  who at this stage is beginning to suffer  ‘social’ anxieties characteristic of the Symbolic order (Silverman, 1999: 344)

  • Miss Kitty the kitten is not ‘all grown yet’ and they ‘have n’t found her name yet… ‘

This could be a reference to the development of the (human) psyche- our name is a signifier for who we are, and Lacan suggests that one acquires language only when one enters the symbolic stage. Language separates people from both their drives and the world around them, because the language signifier has no ‘physical’ substance  (Silverman, 1999)

  • The kitten chases the ball of wool

Silverman (1999:349) discusses the interpretation of a child throwing away a ball, in the context of the difference between Freud and Lacan. Freud takes the incident as representing the loss of the boy’s mother, whilst Lacan sees the ball as an objet a petit autre -an object which is part of itself, lost,  and then returned to itself.   Of course Lacan and Freud dealt mainly with humans not kittens.

  • Willow doesn’t want to leave the safe part of the dream…..She does leave and we have more threatening music…………….
  • Next we have several references to Anxiety through the school play. Willow….. ‘Gonna be late’ (breaks human/society rules), has a rubbish part (low personal status), thought it was drama class not a production (unprepared). Also everyone who knows her is watching in the audience (peer pressure), they are all angry (a basic negative emotion and thus within the id) and the teacher says the show has ‘to be perfect’   (either a reference to the Lacanian mirror phase, or a to the different world of the ego/superego (or Lacanian symbolic) where we face the reality of our world through various symbols/significations, one of which is often punctuality.

  • The play is Death of a Salesman

Freud posits 2 major instincts in life; the death instinct (a drive to fight against threats), and a love instinct (a drive to reproduce) (Pooke and Newall,2008:120).

  • The cowboy says to the milk maid ‘can I hold those milk pales for you’ to which the audience sniggers.

This is a typical joke, with a hidden message. The audience realises that behind the language is a reference to the cowboy gaining sexual pleasure by touching the girls breasts (technically the signifier ‘milk pales’ has shifted from referring to in animate buckets, to referring to living human breasts).

  • The processed cheese slices recur in four dreams

Everyone knows that our dreams tend to involve many different aspects of our thoughts which seem to knit together, sometime incongruously. Perhaps Willow had eaten cheese that day, but the recurrence of the cheese in 4 seperate dreams (and dreamers) suggests deeper significance here. Perhaps cheese might be a fetish of  the director ? A fetish is the replacement of a sexual object by a non-sexual object which fulfils a similar role in satisfying sexual drives.

Xander’s dream

  • Buffy’s mum tries to seduce Xander,

….at one point the boy replies in a Freudian slip (a mistake in language which reveals a subconscious thought). When he replies to a question by ‘I’d like you’ and not ‘I’d like to’  Xander reveals that he subconsciously wants to have sex with Buffy’s attractive mum.

  • Xander in the bathroom, is observed by a group of soldiers and medics…..

his may suggest the shame of nudity, genitals or excretion. We are not born with feelings like this ( despite the Christian theory of original sin, babies don’t feel ashamed when they poop in the nappy). However, as we develop into the symbolic stage, our signification often includes an embarrassment about these subjects…….

Alternatively, Exhibitionism is one of the pathologies described by Freud, and the punishment for exhibitionism is that the observing eyes will bite off part of the body.  Exhibitionism may often lie behind ‘an exaggerated sense of shame’ ( Fenichel, 1999:337).

  • The garden sequence-

Initially this scene is viewed through Xander’s eyes (first person), but we then  then change to second person, where Xander is the object, not the subject. The garden scene is strongly sexually symbolic in Freud’s opinion.

We have already spoken of natural scenery as a representation of the female genitals. Mountains and cliffs are symbols of the male organ; the garden a frequent symbol of the female genitals. Fruit does not stand for the child, but for the breasts. Wild animals signify sensually aroused persons, or further, base impulses, passions. Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants.

(Bartleby, Date?)

  • Xander serves ice creams from the ice cream van

This is a strong symbol of childhood

  • Willow and Tara are kissing and acting sexually in a lesbian way in the back of the van

This highlights Xander’s sexual impulse/force. More specifically Xander stares at this scene for a long time (several seconds). This stare may be described as the scoptophilic look, and is the primordial forerunner of the actual sexual act. This is a powerful form of looking, not just observing, but more along the lines of sharing the action ‘… by means of empathy in its experience’ (Fenichel , 1997:330). In other words he strongly desires sex with one or other (or both ) of the girls.

  • Xander follows them as if to want sex- but they disappear!!

This often happens in dreams! It’s a frustration of the sexual urge. Wanting to have sex with the girls is a natural dream/fantasy, but it sex also fulfils the Lacanian imperative. This states that the original loss which we experience when we are born (that of being both sexes simultaneously) can only be overcome through sex and procreation (Silverman, 1999: 342).

  • Giles starts speaking in French to Xander

Xander cannot understand the babble. This is a nice illustration of a Lacanian principle, that when humans develop language, during the symbolic stage, they are separated from the world around them as language signifiers have no ‘physical’ substance (Silverman, 1999). This point is also conveyed through Xander’s inability to understand a different language to his own- showing that language signifiers are inherently arbitrarily related to the real world.

  • We have several filmic methods to show dreams/conscious/subconscious

These include distortions of the image involving waviness, rotation, and fade/strikethrough.

  • A re-enactment of the famous scene from Apocalypse Now follows.

Xander is playing the hero soldier who has been charged with destroying the rogue ‘Colonel Kurtz’.  Xander identifies with the hero. The dream sequence suggests that he would like to be more like the film’s hero, these thoughts being subconscious, but appearing  to his ‘preconscious’ via the dream.

It is interesting that the film is notoriously symbolic for Disaster redeemed by success, another desirable symbolic phenomenon. During filming it experience problems with escalatingly ruinous finances, an  overpaid-difficult star (Marlon Brando), a depressed director. Additionally the critics thought it would be a flop,  the star suffered health problems on set, and the weather and politics during filming were difficult (The Guardian, 2015). However, finally the film got made, and was a massive Hollywood success- a massive redemption story.

  • Xander’s dad appears and says ‘are you ashamed of us  ?’

This scene is perhaps the most suggestive of the classical Freudian Oedipus complex in which the male child recognises his genitals are like his father’s, and attempts to usurp the father for his mother’s attention. Throughout this drama the threat of castration by the father is imminent (represented by the mother’s lack of a phallus) (Pooke and Newall,2008:118). The nearest the scene comes is that Xander has obviously upset his dad, who rips his heart out (Xander’s)  saying ‘The line ends here with us……..’  . This being the case, Xander cannot reproduce and is essentially rendered castrated by his dad.

Giles’s dream

  • Giles is hypnotising Buffy-

Hypnosis is one of several ways into the subconscious mind, and true  hypnotists render unconscious with their eyes, a potentially sadistic practise (Fenichel , 1999: 328). Looking can also equate to eating (subconsciously), and the eye also equates to both the penis and vagina! (Fenichel, 1999:334). So hypnosis can be said to include all the usual Freudian elements.

  • Buffy is the child of Giles, and they are at a fair/circus

Buffy has many ICONIC child-like characteristics here, dungarees, pig tails, she repeats ‘I want to I want to…..’ jumping up and down. Perhaps this nuclear family is a representation of the battlefield of ‘Family’ which lies between Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis- The Lacanian family structure is more complex than Freud’s (Silverman, 1999:352)

  • Spike seems to be an attraction at a circus-

Interestingly the picture moves between colour and Black and white, with Spikes performance seen in Black and white only.  This monochrome could symbolise a more ‘archaic’ and ‘libidinal’ look (Fenichel, 1999:   ) than the more sophisticated colour scenes.…).

  • A joke is told on stage beginning ‘ a man walks into a bar……….’

This is an iconic joke beginning, and jokes are another way that Freud postulated we can become aware of our subconscious thoughts.

Buffy’s dream

  • Buffy talks to a similar looking girl (Tara)

Could this reference Lacan’s mirror stage of development?

  • Buffy’s Boyfriend has returned from college and says he’s been made the surgeon general, and  world domination is following….
  • The demons are then said to have escaped………and she looks for her weapons- but they are n’t there- only a sort of face-mask mud in her bag- which she puts on.
  • The landscape shifts to a desert…..
  • The girl arrives again – ‘I am destruction’
  • The cheese again
  • She fights the native …. They fall down a slope………..she wakens-monster hybrid.

This is referred to as ‘the primal slayer could be the child witnessing the ‘primal scene’ (there parents having sex). This may be causing some psychological pathology here, reflected in its presence in the dream.

Or the primal slayer may be the Lacanian ‘loss’ which defines all our lives ( Silverman, 1999: 342)

  • After this terror Buffy makes a joke about the natives hair, and about social/sexual norms………

Terror followed by comedy is a very common theme in artistic endeavours, and life in general. It may provide a release of tension.


Bartelby (2015) Sigmund Freud (1856–1939).  A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.  1920. Part Two: The Dream. X. Symbolism in the Dream. [online] at [accessed 19 Oct 2017].

Fenichel O. (1999) ‘The scoptophilic instinct and identification’. in visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.   p. 327-339

Pooke, G and Newall, D (2008) Art History. Abingdon.  Routledge.

Silverman , K (1999). ‘The subject’. In visual culture: A reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds), London. SAGE Publications.   p. 340-355

The Guardian (2015) My favourite Cannes winner: Apocalypse now. [online] at [accessed 19 Oct 2017].




Project -Women artists- In your BLOG…..


One of the most interesting of the young artists coming out of British colleges in the 1980s/90s was Sarah Lucas. Her work is often self-portraiture and she works in most mediums. In general her work is a critique of life as a woman in the modern world.

Select and annotate at least four works by contemporary women artists, including Sarah Lucas.

How do these works relate to some of the theories and ‘isms’ that you’ve explored so far?

  1. Untitled (2014)- Inge Jacobsen.




2. A Girl Walks home Alone At Night (2015)- Ana Lily Amirpour.



3. Single room furnished ( 2000). Cecily Brown.


4. Two fried eggs and a kebab (   ). Sarah Lucas.

  • CS15_0015_Lucas_OH_GCRThroughout art history ‘Western art replicates the unequal relationships already embedded in society’ (Tate, 1989). This artwork parodies how women are perceived as mere objects (usually naked) in historical art- The parts of the women’s body which are especially desirable to men have been transformed into inanimate objects emphasising their ‘consumer goods’ characteristic in male eyes.


  • This may be also considered ‘Abject art’ , a term which includes reference to bodily functions and ‘aspects of the body, that are deemed impure or inappropriate for public display…’ (ref). The breasts and vagina here remind us more of lactation and menstrual blood flow- functions which may be far less appealing to men than their sexual alternatives. In this context it is a strongly aggressive feminist statement.


  • Lucas often uses food to represent sexual body parts (ie. Signifier/signified). This is a feminist technique to highlight how women are degraded by (usually male) connotations between body parts and food ( eg. Chopped liver, Butcher’s window, bearded clam, ………all terms for the vagina).


  • Perhaps this piece presents a Lacanian image screen or ‘stain’ (Haveland, 2009: 93)- here contributing to  how men’s view of women as people is somehow separated by their strongly conditioned tendency to objectify and sexualise them (both socially and biologically enforced).


  • The simplification of the woman’s body reminds us of the representation of women on the film screen, often seen as single bodily areas,  more iconic, and breaking up narrative (Mulvey, 1999: 384).


  • Alternatively this stark portrayal of the female genitals may make male viewer’s worried due to Freud’s ‘castration anxiety’ (Mulvey, 1999: 385)


  • Finally, the representation of the women’s genitals by food may reference the idea that the pleasureable (scoptophilic) gaze is often likened to the eye as either a penis, or a devouring mouth (Fenichel, 1999) , hence the concentration on female genitals, and their transformation into food items respectively.



Benjamin, W.(1999) ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ in In visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.      p. 72-78

Berger, J (1972) Ways of Seeing Middlesex, England. Penguin Books

Fenichel, O. (1999) ‘The scoptophilic instinct and identification’  in visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.   p. 381-38

Haveland, P. (2009)  Visual Studies 1 Understanding Visual Culture. Barnsley : Open College of the Arts.

Mulvey, L. (1999) ‘Visual pleasure and narrative cinema’ in visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.   p. 381-389

Textileartist (2014) inge-jacobsen-hijacking-image [online] at [accessed 21/9/2017]

TheGuardian  (2015) The skateboarding Iranian vampire diaries [online] at [accessed 21/9/2017]

TheGuardian (2005) I like cheap and nasty [online] at   [accessed 21/9/2017]

Tate (no date) Feminist Art [online] at [accessed 21/9/2017]

Tate (no date)   Abject art   [online] at [accessed 21/9/2017]

Waldemar (2006) shes-laying-it-on-thick [online] at [accessed 21/9/2017]


Two fried eggs and a kebab, [mixed media] [online] at


Fig. 1


Fig. 2

.Fig 3



Assignment 4- Formative feedback.


Formative feedback

Student name Philip Hepworth Student number 508858
Course/Unit Understanding Visual Culture Assignment number 4


Overall Comments

As I have annotated you work as part of the tutor reports you will need to send the annotated versions as well as the tutor reports with your work for assessment.  Ideally these should be in the form of pdf files due to the software used for assessments at OCA


Assessment potential

 (after Assignments 2 and 4)


I understand your aim is to go for the Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.


Feedback on assignment  

My notes made on your assignment are to make the basis of our discussion along with the following:

  • I think you have made a pretty good attempt at this assignment.
  • You have written it clearly and in appropriate language.
  • There is a logic to the essay
  • Good use of both reference to the item under discussion and your chosen theories
  • You raise a number of questions in the mind of the reader that are beyond the scope of the essay but invite further investigation


Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical review/essay

I think this is coming together well, the posts are filling out and it si not difficult to find what is needed.

Suggested reading/viewing

This is a revised site for the Buffy primer: file:///D:/My%20Documents/Peter/Open%20College/Visual%20Studies/Primer_for_Buffy,_Restless.html

Some people have found Beaudrillard’s The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (ISBN 0-919952-23-X) useful for the coming assignment and you might find some ideas in Ian McEwan’s Saturday (ISBN 978-1400076192), it’s a good book anyway!

Pointers for the next assignment

 The final assignment is about reality or at least the ways in which contemporary visual culture mixes the real with the virtual (even the word has changed its meaning), uses the term ‘reality’ (particularly in television) to mean anything but and the ways the society needs mass media confirmation before believing something actually happened, not to mention the question of whether some things that are so confirmed did in fact happen. Baudrillard is the main theoretical source, both his Simulacra and Simulation and The Gulf War Did Not Take Place can help. But there is much in Ian MacEwan’s Saturday of interest and you have already looked briefly at Bladerunner and The Matrix in your blog. For this assignment you might like to think about ‘reality’ TV, or computer games and/or discuss the manipulation if images in factual reportage etc.

  • You might want to take this opportunity to go beyond the scope of the module, beyond postmodernism and think about Hal Foster’s ideas about the Return of the Real (ISBN0-262-56107-7) or Terry Eagleton’s After Theory (ISBN978-0-14-101507-1) but that is no more than a suggestion and not really asked for in the brief



Tutor name Peter Haveland
Date 10/09/2017
Next assignment due N/A


Project- Ecclesiastes misquoted.

My notes on an extract from Jean Baudrillard’s book  Simulacra and Simulations

  • The map made of the Borgia’s empire is described. It was a perfect representation of the Empire, but then the Empire dissolved, and the map became a second-order simularcrum.
  • Abstraction and simulation are not what we expect today- eg. Mirror images, maps, they do not contain a real at all. They are a real world made up by images, which have no real about them. This is the precession of the simulacra.
  • In today’s world there is very little of the real.
  • The charm, poetry and magic of the Borgia’s map is dependent on the lost reflection of the map and its territory, but today no such relationship exists and the simulacrum’s ‘operation is nuclear and genetic, and no longer specular and discursive’ (Stanford, 1999).
  • The real now is all about miniaturization and reproducibility, and no longer has rationality, or an associated ‘imaginary’, so it is not real at all. ‘It is a hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere’ (Stanford, 1999).

         An example?? What about the financial industry which deals with figures/computers/changing indexes, but has relation to the manufacture of goods ….

  •  Now we have got rid of any referent, and instead use the less precise system of signs, which is open to a different sort of language and algebra.
  • Every real thing is replaced (substituted) by a sign, and this has none of the weaknesses or difficulties (‘visicittudes’) of the real thing.


Stanford (1999). Jean Baudrillard Simulacra and Simulations [online] at [accessed 26 August 2017]

In your BLOG…………….

in your blog
• Watch Blade Runner, the director’s or final cut rather than the cinema release version.

• Is Deckard human or a replicant? Make notes as to the reasons for your conclusion. What are the visual clues?

• Watch The Matrix. Make notes as to how far the ideas of the simulacrum inform the film

Project- Illusion only is sacred, truth profane.

.in your blog
• Look for three examples of current advertising that sells by appeal to lifestyle rather than the virtues of the product itself and make notes to show how.

• Find advertisements for products that have been in production since before the second world war (Coca Cola or Bovril for example), in the Modernist period and today, and annotate them to show how, or if, there has been a change from product to lifestyle as the selling point.