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David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" 1986


David Lynch’s 1986 film, “Blue Velvet” is a neo-noir mystery film that goes through a long journey of sexual violence, harassment, and gun violence to heighten the story. Those instances of each have led the film to be notable on heavy symbolism when a candle is shown to be lit and then is blown out. This symbolizes a low point in the main character, Jeffrey’s life when he becomes submissive to Dorothy. In addition, this film contains Freudian aspects where two of the characters, Frank Booth, and Dorothy Vallens, were likely symbolic parents to Jeffrey because it was inferred that Jeffrey had a difficult relationship with his parents. This was likely done to show Jeffrey’s inner demons as he transitioned into adulthood.


David Lynch, as a director, inserted as much symbolism as he can into his film. From the very beginning, a clip of cockroaches piling on each other likely symbolized the filth underneath a small town in America and possible foreshadow that something troubling is going to happen. The intense close up and sounds coming from the clip of the cockroaches easily gave viewers an uneasy and disgusted feel. As the film continued, viewers assumed this was going to be a mystery since it shows Jeffrey finding an ear in a field, but it turned out that it was more than that when clips of unusual behavior such as stalking, rape, harassment, and adultery are revealed throughout the story when Jeffrey decides to act like a detective. When looking deeper into the idea behind the film, viewers may learn that the overall story is about transitioning to adulthood, and the transition for Jeffrey was accelerated because he was a young naïve innocent man until he exposed himself to the darkness of the world around him.


The sexual violence and abuse were excessive for the viewers because Jeffrey experienced constant abuse with Dorothy and Frank. There was not one positive interaction between any of these characters, which heated the film and revealed the makeup structure of Jeffrey’s psych of the id, ego, and super ego. The id is the source of needs, wants, desires and impulses that is shown in Jeffrey at the beginning of the film. The ego part acts to please the id’s drive in realistic ways which is shown when Jeffrey explains to Sandy his plan to break into Dorothy’s apartment. The super ego is the internalization of cultural rules that are usually taught by parents, and this is shown during Jeffrey’s sexual encounter with Jeffrey when she begs him to hit her. At first, he says “no” because he was most likely was taught violence is immoral, but then his id eventually wins over and he begins to hit her repeatedly. Viewers continue to see Jeffrey’s confusion with the id and ego’s ability between his relationship with Dorothy and Sandy. It also was unclear how Jeffrey’s relationship was like with his parents because they only showed one scene of him visiting his dad in the hospital, but viewers were unsure how their relationship and connection was, but it was clear Jeffrey lived with his aunt and grandmother, so it was left to viewers to figure out what the family dynamic was since he did not live with his mother.


“Blue Velvet” was filled with critiques because it was likely that sexual violence and nudity was ever this extreme in the history of American film and media. As the film industry was evolving and censorship codes were becoming more laid back, this film was not heavily censored as to other films with new extreme content. Sadly, in real life, real people often get sexually abused or raped during film production, stated in a documentary that was shown at Long Island University’s Fall 2022 Film Theory seminar. That documentary explained how filmmakers, film crew and actors often do not have a good time on set because certain filmmakers want their actors to have sex as well as show the intercourse at several different angles.

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