David Finchers Use Of Ideology In Se7en Research Paper

David Fincher’s Se7en is an American thriller/horror film directed in 1995. The film follows the investigation of two detectives Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) through the series of murderers based on the seven deadly sins found in the Christian Bible. A puzzle film is designed so that every piece functions toward the overall plot of the film; everything falls into place. Through the graphic scenes of these murders, Se7en’s central idea focuses on the artful killing of John Doe’s master plan to force society to evaluate and shift its ideology.

Ideology is the relationship between the real and the imaginary. It is through ideology that individuals formulate their understanding of themselves and the world around them. Louis Althusser asserts, “(1) there is no practice except by and in an ideology; (2) there is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects… Ideology interpolates individuals as subjects” (20). According to this idea, living within ideology is inevitable, and the ideological social structure is what dictates our beliefs and behaviors. We become subjects within the social structure that work to replicate it.

Because we are unable to exist outside of ideology, it is within our nature to try to remove ourselves from it or change its trajectory. David Fincher’s Se7en highlights the inevitability of existing within American ideology, and the desire to remove ourselves from it. Because of immense interdependence of the individual and social structure, it is important to consider the influence of the social structure on the individual as well as the influence of the individual on social structure. What are the roles of Mills, Tracy, and John Doe within the ideological structure of the movie?

Is it truly possible or them to remove themselves from the self-perpetuating ideological structure? By looking at Louis Althusser’s theory of the apparatuses of ideology, Laura Mulvey’s the male gaze, and Robin Wood’s social repression in the final scene of Se7en, we will be better able to understand the paradox of ideology between the individual and social structure through which their roles are constructed. Additionally, this paper will aim to discuss the repression that force them to act upon these roles regardless of whether they are followers or rebels, good or evil, man or woman; they stay in the circuit of capitalist societies.

No matter what they do, they always fall right back into the slots of the constructed order. According to Althusser, ideology is “a representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (15). He asserts that every individuals, bourgeoisie and proletariat alike, are “agent of production, exploitation and repression, [… ] must in one way or another be ‘steeped in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously” (Althusser, 6). In other words, all human are always already subjects in the system and act following by its rules.

Society’s structure is maintained by the individuals who function within two apparatuses: the Ideological State Apparatus (ISAS – families, schools, churches, etc. ) and the Repressive State Apparatus (RSAS – State, government, police, courts, and army). The structure of ideology is closely related to that of Marxism in that it emphasizes the struggle between the working class and the ruling class where one is ultimately controlled by the other, and, therefore, perpetuates the social order (Althusser, 9).

“It [repression] is psychoanalytic theory that has provided[… the most effective means of examining the way n which that ideology is transmitted and perpetuated, centrally through the institutionalization of the patriarchal nuclear family. The battle for liberation, the battle against oppression (whether economic, legal or ideological), gains enormous extra significance through the addition of that term “patriarchal”, since patriarchy long precedes and far exceeds what we call capitalism” (Wood, 196). In every society, especially capitalist societies, repression and revolution is natural, as Wood says, it is “universal, necessary and inescapable” (197).

By examining the characters John Doe and Detective Mills, we are better able o understand the function of RSAS and ISAS as they relate to our original question of the paradox of influence of ideology. Regardless of the movie, the story, or the character, every component is built within ideology. The main character, Detective Mills, first looks at himself in the mirror giving himself the gaze, the visual presentation of self, of the “I”, the ego for “It is the birth of the long love affair/despair between image and self-image which has found such intensity of expression in film and such joyous recognition in the cinema audience” (Mulvey, 840).

Because Mills has gained his ego from the gaze of dentification and the environment that surrounds him, Se7en narrative becomes his, for we, as audience, follow his view, his guidance till the end of the maze. Mulvey describes, “The cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further, developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect. The conventions of mainstream film focus attention on the human form. Scale, space, stories are all anthropomorphic.

Here, curiosity and the wish to look intermingle with a fascination with likeness and recognition: the human face, the human body, the relationship between the human form and its urroundings, the visible presence of the person in the world” (840). By reviewing the mise-en-sene of the scenes with Detective Mills, it is evident that his character embodies this concept. Throughout the film, all the scenes with Mills have three-point lighting and he wears light colored clothes to depict him as heroic and pure-hearted.

Additionally, the camera typically views him from a lower angle up, in cinematic term, the hero shot. This supports Mulvey’s theory of the two gazes: camera and spectators gaze; therefore, it develops the protagonist hero in Se7en to gain audiences’ empathy. “As the pectator identifies with the main male protagonist, he projects his look on to that of his like, his screen surrogate, so that the power of the male protagonist as he controls events coincides with the active power of the erotic look, both giving a satisfying sense of omnipotence.

A male movie star’s glamorous characteristics are thus not those of erotic object of the gaze, but those of the more perfect, more complete, more powerful ideal ego conceived in the original moment of recognition in front of the mirror” (Mulvey, 842). It is through our role and self- concept that we function in society. Depending on these roles, we are allocated into either the working or ruling class; we function as either an RSA or ISA in order to maintain society’s structure. Repressive State Apparatuses provide a means for maintaining the social structure through the dominance of the ruling class.

As a faithful member of the RSA, Detective Mills believes that he is able to rise above the evil he works against. By fighting against the corruption, he tries to separate himself from the ideological social structure. Ironically, the more Detective Mills tries to remove himself, the more connected he ecomes with the social order because Doe’s murders do not stop. In the final scene of the film, Doe forces Mills to confront the reality of the social structure by enlisting him as a part of his overall plan for social change. As Doe and Mills are standing in the field, Detective Somerset runs to intercept a speeding truck driving down the road.

The delivery drive gives Somerset the package with Mills’ wife’s head in it which reveals to Somerset the final two sins in Doe’s plan. As Detective Somerset races back to try to put a stop to this plan, Doe is antagonizing Mills nd alluding to what Somerset would soon disclose. When Somerset returns, Mills finally figures out that Doe has indeed decapitated his wife as he alluded, and is met with the ultimate decision of whether to end Doe’s plan, or play into it as he is intended by murdering Doe for his envy and, therefore, becoming wrath.

In the end, Mills is unable to overcome evil as a member of the RSA, and succumbs to the reality of his world by shooting Doe, and being arrested. Similarly, John Doe seeks to change the world and prove the immorality of the status quo. By murdering the people who embody the seven deadly sins, Doe elieves he is forcing society to examine the depravity or society in order to change the current ideology. “What escapes repression has to be dealt with by oppression” (Wood, 198). He goes on to clarify his action: “I’m setting the example.

And what I’ve done is going to be puzzled over, and studied, and followed … forever”. By killing individuals who embody the seven deadly sins, John aims to cleanse to world of immorality by bluntly confronting society with his perception of reality. In doing this, it will force us to examine the compliancy of society for tolerating such behavior. As Steve Macek argues, Se7en stakes out a profoundly ambiguous stance toward Doe’s murders and towards his justification for them.

What Doe does is clearly monstrous, but the depiction of the metropolis as a vast den of iniquity implies that at least some of his violence is an appropriate response to the monstrousness of his social environment” (87). Unlike Detective Mills, Doe recognizes that he is “not special” and that he must function within the current ideology in order to change the structure. John Doe’s intention to break current ideology through his murders, but his plan and his death did not change the social structure.