This article examines the visual dynamics underlying wrong-body narratives of gender through Lacanian psychoanalytic readings of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs of Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair (2015) and Pedro Almodóvar’s film La piel que habito (Spain/France, 2011). Leibovitz’s photographs, seen as the public culmination of Jenner’s gender transition, and Almodóvar’s fictional film, centered on the forced surgical sex reassignment of one of its characters, both comment on the role of technically produced images in constructing visually articulated bodily materiality as central to gender. Staged in Jenner’s domestic space, often before mirrors that reflect the camera alongside its subject, Lei-bovitz’s photos portray Jenner at the center of complex scenarios of mastery over her image. These images demonstrate an awareness of their constructed nature at the same time as they offer themselves as the optical proof of Jenner’s transition; they reveal and, ostensibly, dominate what Lacan refers to as the fundamental misrecognition at the heart of all scopic scenarios of recognition. Almodóvar’s film imagines the reverse scenario in which the body-as-image exerts violent control over the individual, not only erasing the apparent sex of one of its characters, Vicente, but also, and less tolerably, attempting to erase the absence, or misrecognition, of his body in its status as what Lacan calls “objet a,” or object of desire. The distinct ways in which Leibovitz’s images and Almodóvar’s film theorize the relationship between bodies and images with regard to misrecognition and absence point to the continued necessity of considering the influence of scopic relations in formations of gender identity.
How Pictures Make Bodies and Bodies Make Pictures: Gender as a Scopic System in Annie Leibovitz’s Photographs of Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair and Pedro Almodóvar’s La piel que habito
Alanna Beroiza; How Pictures Make Bodies and Bodies Make Pictures: Gender as a Scopic System in Annie Leibovitz’s Photographs of Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair and Pedro Almodóvar’s La piel que habito. Camera Obscura 1 September 2020; 35 (2 (104)): 1–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-8359494
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