Double Indemnity- How the film reflects its cultural context.
Double Indemnity (1944), directed by Billy Wilder is another quintessential example of how media texts are shaped by their cultural context. The film explores the relationship between the dominant patriarchal values and traditional attitudes towards gender roles at the time with the manipulation of codes and conventions.
At the time of production, after entering the workforce, women were later being encouraged through the media to return to domesticity. Dominant ideologies underlined that the primary role of females was the ‘homemaker’ and maternal mother figure involved in child rearing. The challenge, the femme fatale, Phyllis presents to the ideology further reinforces the importance of adhering to traditional gender roles, demonstrated as this challenge invariably results in her downfall. Phyllis is constructed ...view middle of the document...
Phyllis’s character is further developed, therefore appropriate for representation of her as non-conforming in terms of a domestic, ‘home maker’ role. At the conclusion of the film, during the final confrontation, Phyllis is killed. This not only meets the Hays production code in that she is punished for her crime and actions but also on a deeper level it shows that society should conform to their expected gender roles. Essentially, Phyllis opposes the common depiction in popular culture of housewifery and domesticity and her demise supports a return to the dominant value of traditional gender roles.
Double Indemnity exists within the context of a patriarchal society. The protagonist, Walter Neff is represented as dominant, intelligent and brave, despite his actions in helping Phyllis kill her husband. However, he is also the anti-hero of the film and is displaced and isolated from society. This is communicated in one of the first scenes where the audience isn’t shown Neff’s face, devoid of emotion, and thus sets him up as being isolated and alienated. His character demonstrates a comparison to American soldiers returning from the war to social change. Neff’s portrayal also parallels with the soldiers feelings of isolation and displacement from society. Towards the end of the film he is also represented as having conformed by way of the confession of his sins, a value that we admire, accordingly viewing him in a positive light. This supports and reaffirms dominant social values at the time in that men were seen as the dominant figures in society, while women were seen as more submissive, thus reiterating the importance of conforming to the traditional gender roles and patriarchal values.
Double Indemnity (1944) is a film strongly influenced by the patriarchal values, and attitudes towards the importance of maintaining traditional gender roles. Through this context, Wilder constructs characters that support and reaffirm the audience’s values which further reiterates how media is a product of the society in which it was produced.