I have chosen this particular image because it is exemplifies one of the standard themes of Hollywood cinema in the immediate post-war period: the romantic attraction between men and women, and its tension with the respectable role of husband and father which American males are supposed to play. It also illustrates why Marilyn Monroe is such an iconic figure in film history and provides a starting point for deeper analysis of how she achieved this status.
The film was made in a very moralistic period, and so most of the tempting that occurs is a matter of imagination, conveyed in a series of somewhat chaotic dream sequences in the mind of Richard Sherman. Hemmed in by the moral tastes of the time, the director treats the whole topic as a kind of psychological exploration of sexual attraction, rather than a narrative tale of actual adultery. Very little in the way of real connection exists between the girl (Marilyn Monroe) and Sherman, but there is an expansive depiction of how he imagines her. This photographic image epitomizes the relationship between the two characters, and in so doing it also draws the audience in to a voyeuristic appreciation of the actress, taking pleasure in the chance revelation of her physical form that occurs over the subway grate.
These voyeuristic elements can all be detected in this single still image of the two main characters shown in Fig. 1 above. In looking at this theme of the woman, seen through the eyes of a man who is theoretically unavailable, the theory of “the gaze” as proposed by Laura Mulvey (1975) is very useful. It rests on psychoanalysis as a basic underpinning idea, and proposes that phallocentrism is at the heart of much visual pleasure in cinema. This theory holds that there is an unequal relationship between men and women in Western societies, and that there is a central paradox in the lower status of the female and the heightened fascination of the