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The Movie “Blue Velvet”: Psychological Criticism Essay

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2021


Blue Velvet is an American movie that was made back in 1986 under the directorship of David Lynch and creatively showcases elements of noir and surrealism. The Movie’s title Blue Velvet, featuring Kyle Maclachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern, was picked from the 1963 Bobby Vinton’s song, which bore the same title. The Movie has successfully portrayed a surreal and convoluted amalgam of erotic and perverse elements of desire.

The Movie presents this desire as a function of inflicted pain that paradoxically provides the gratification of gross sadomasochism (Chion 121). The Movie earned David Lynch his second nomination to the Academy Awards in the category of Best Director. The gist of this paper, therefore, is to offer psychological criticism of the Movie as regards its screenplay, plot, direction, and general presentation, and this is done by applying the Freudian Theory of Psychological Analysis to critique the various Freudian elements of psychoanalysis.

It is a widely held perception by many modern critics today that Blue Velvet is a representative of modern film noir shot around the same time that similar movies started being shot and shown in local cinemas, and this was around the 1980s to the mid-1990s. For a proper psychological criticism using Freudian Theory, the main character will be discussed and various aspects about how the concept of id, superego, ego, a complex of castration and Oedipus complex is presented by the character and his assisting characters throughout the Movie (Chion 45).

Film analysis

This film is centered on Jeffrey, who is a college student. One day on his way home from visiting his sick father from a local hospital sees a human ear on the way near his home in Lumberton, which was his hometown. His investigation finds great assistance from Sand Williams (who is a high school student) and comes in handy, providing Jeffrey with information from his (Sand’s) father, who is a local police officer. Jeffrey’s investigations lead him to the underworld of his home town where he falls in love with a singer with whom they further uncover more criminal activities.

The main traits of this character, as depicted by the narrator, are a sexual perversion, sadomasochism, and stubborn defiance of regulation. It is easy to depict the various elements of Freudian psychoanalysis in this Movie from the behaviors of Frank, who is the psychotic prototype in the Movie. These elements include infantile sexuality, different degrees of pervasion, and extreme display of masochism from the same character (Chion 96).

Blue Velvets has a number of themes that make it eccentric, save the initial perception of mystery that it had when it was first introduced in the market. Here the Movie owes this peculiarity to the 1950s film noir, which at the time incorporated concepts that ventured into conventions like female fate, questionable and valiant outlook on the morality of the central character in the Movie, and finally, a benign touch of shadowy cinematography operates on a number of thematical levels in spite its initial appearance as a mystery movie, where it owes its specialism to 1950s film noir, encompassing and venturing into such conventions (Chino 128).

Psychological Criticism

In this insight, therefore, for further psychoanalysis of the Movie, it is important that we review Jeffrey Beaumont (Maclachlan). He is the main character, and he is portrayed to have a number of qualities. He is portrayed by the narrator as a very inquisitive person considering that he found an ear in the fields and there and then began an investigation as to how the ear ended up there. Jeffery is also portrayed as a character that is not sexually perverted; neither is he morally questionable. This is proven when Dorothy makes sexual advancements towards him, but he declines them and maintains his calm (Chion 102). This makes the view of others on him to that of modest and respect, which is in concurrence with his personal perception.

Dorothy is a character who uses sex as her comfort, which sets precedence for the critical objectives of the Movie. This can be proven by the scene where Frank both cases of abusing her sexually, and after he is gone, she wants sex from Jeffery. This fact can also be proven since she enjoys showing off her body in the club where she works, and also after she tries to seduce Jeffrey and he hits her, she is turned on instead of being furious, which brings sadomasochism to the highest point in the Movie (Chion 85).

This is also a show of how her ego is damaged, prompting her to do all sorts of things to boost her esteem and acceptability among her peers. It is amazing how the character of Jeffrey moves from not even thinking of sexual matter to having a sexual relationship, which portrays him as the image of a curious citizen who has the aim of becoming a hero and saving the day. This is supported by his determination in solving the case on the ear, and finally, he emerges as a hero as he saves Dorothy from becoming another instance where his superego is massaged and boasted.

Another criticism for the movies regards the central theme of the Movie depicted in it of apparent perversity. Blue Velvet speaks for liberalization and represents some of the modern concepts which have since become its trademarks, such as distorted character sexuality and a polarized world. There is a reference to the past of Lynch that is captured in the movie-making as a reference point where an event happened to him early in life that was not resolved, and it was affecting him ever since.

This regards sexuality, where it is recorded that when he was young, he and his brother stumbled on a woman walking naked, and this experience scared him too much that he even cried. It is a benign indication of a castration complex where the scenario most likely traumatized Lynch so much that it is observable that he expresses it as a trademark in all his movies (Chino 126). Probably one of the most outstanding Lynchian trademarks in this great Movie is the unearthing of a dark underbelly in an apparently small idealized town (Chion 121).

According to Chino, “Blue Velvet inaugurates a metaphorical oedipal family that constitutes of the child Jeffrey Beaumont and Frank and Dorothy through intentional citation of film noir and its underlying oedipal themes” (Chino 55). The resulting violence can be deduced to portray domestic violence in our day to day life. Here we find irrational behavior of Frank’s where he is violent towards Dorothy, which is also symbolic of the many family cases of abuse that are happening in many marriages the world over. The control Frank has over Dorothy portrays most husbands’ violence against their wives and families in general in real life.

Jeffrey, as a character, is also symbolic, where he portrays the innocent youth who are scared by the violence in their streets and homes but still want to stand up and have whatever they want to themselves. Jeffery’s relationship with Dorothy may also be used to portray the way many married women are seeking love outside their marriages. Taking a Freudian approach in summarizing the details of the Movie, Blue Velvet is considered by many authorities as an expression of a traumatized innocence which forms the basis of most of Lynch’s’ works (Chino 83). Dorothy represents the sexual mother figure because she is confined to sexual activities only. Jeffrey portrays the aspect of a concerned citizen or a man in love and is ready to protect his love. Frank is symbolic of these persons in the society who are oppressive and domineering to others in society.


If this Movie were to be shot today, I would strongly advise David lynch to leave it just the way it is. In this regard, therefore, Blue Velvet was and still is one of the greatest movies of all times; its controversial plot and supposedly sadomasochism notwithstanding.

Work Cited

Chion, Michael. British Film Institute: Blue Velvet-A Two-Part Search for the Films Deleted Scenes. New York, NY: London Press, 2007. Print.

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