“Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most forward-thinking filmmakers of the 20th-century, advancing the art form and anticipating the taste of audiences. Through his most famous films–Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo–we find a common theme: anonymous watching. This theme is exponentially more relevant today than in Hitchcock’s own time, living as we do with the power to present our stories and peer into the lives of others. Though Hitchcock’s cinema is often morally askew, gleefully implicating the viewer as just another peeping tom, his work offers a powerful lesson. Art offers us the chance to see ourselves through the screen. It draws us in through the chance to watch unseen, but then reveals to us our own motives. One of the most famous features of Hitchcock’s movies–his cameo–shows us that the director is as aware of the audience as we are of the actors. Though we may think that we are bystanders in media, Hitchcock suggests, we are really participants. Like Norman in Psycho, we think we are anonymous watchers, but Hitchcock’s cinema shows that there is no such thing. Someone is always watching us, if only the creator of the works we consume. Like Jeff in Rear Window, our idle past-time of peeping grows to an obsession that will be found out, but it can offer moments of genuine insight. Like Scottie in Vertigo, however, if we unthinkingly accept the vistas we are offered, vision can easily degrade into delusion. Hitchcock, more than any other modern filmmaker, understood this and helps us to see it as well.”

This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with Journal author Philip Tallon about his feature article “Caught Looking: Hitchcock’s Films in the Age of Instagram.” 

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