Among Hitchcock's body of work, the film which best argues that it's sometimes beneficial to be a voyeur is Rear Window. The plot hinges on the protagonist 's voyeurism. Initially, Jeff's obsession with watching his neighbors is inspired by boredom and viewed negatively by other characters. His nurse Stella...
Among Hitchcock's body of work, the film which best argues that it's sometimes beneficial to be a voyeur is Rear Window. The plot hinges on the protagonist's voyeurism. Initially, Jeff's obsession with watching his neighbors is inspired by boredom and viewed negatively by other characters. His nurse Stella claims that "In the old days, they'd put your eyes out with a red hot poker" as a way of criticizing his snooping.
But when Jeff thinks he's witnessed a murder, his voyeurism becomes more focused and investigative. In many ways, Hitchcock is suggesting voyeurism, so often prompted by curiosity and even perversity can lead to increased action, pulling the voyeur from a passive role to an active one. Of course, this can be terrifying (as in Psycho) but in Rear Window, more engagement is a positive thing for Jeff.
Hitchcock's main way of presenting voyeurism is through point-of-view shots, where the viewer sees what Jeff sees through his camera. Since Jeff is far away, these voyeur scenes are shot in long shot (where the subject is seen from head to foot, far away) or medium shot (where the subject is seen from the waist up). This creates a distancing effect that mirrors Jeff's initial emotional distance from his neighbors. Eventually, the distance becomes a way of making Jeff seem more impotent and distant from the subjects he wants to help. He is unable to help Lisa after she breaks into Thorwald's apartment. Also, these scenes are shown with either no sound or muted sound, since Jeff has no way of hearing what is being said in the other apartments unless someone is shouting.
In a positive way, Jeff's voyeurism makes him more concerned about his neighbors. He realizes the possible danger posed by Thorwald. He believes the man has killed his wife and hidden incriminating evidence in a flowerbed. On a more emotional level, he also realizes that his neighbors, whom he stereotypes with one-dimensional nicknames, are human beings. A significant moment of this comes when he sees Miss Lonelyhearts, who he'd previously regarded dismissively, trying to kill herself. He then intervenes by calling the police.
The central consequence of voyeurism is that the voyeur can be drawn into what he or she is watching, whether that is their wish or not. In Jeff's case, investigating and then seeking to bring Thorwald to justice involves him and his friends in the case. They are drawn into mortal danger. Both Jeff and his girlfriend, Lisa, are nearly murdered for their troubles once Thorwald realizes they are spying on him.