I’m not sure that I would claim to like Wild Things – I have a huge problem with media that depicts false allegations of sexual violence, and the plot was just too damn twisty for me. Yet, I was interested in the ways in which the film depicted ways of looking, particularly around the idea of the camera being able to tell some sort of truth.
These three screenshots were taken from the start of the film, when Kelly is testifying about the sexual violence she has suffered at the hands of Mr Lombardo. We, the viewers are looking at Kelly through the camera, watching her perform her testimony – but we do not know at this point that this is a performance. Instead, we believe that her testimony, mediated through the camera’s gaze, is the truth. We do not see it’s construction, how it is fabricated due to her masterful performance, and manipulation of the gaze.
These screenshots, arguably taken at the film’s most titillating point, show another gaze, that of Ray Duquette’s. Spying on Kelly and Suzie ostensibly to uncover their deception, he does not stop filming them once they become intimate, to the point that this footage is replayed within the police station, despite the fact that it has no bearing on the case. The reiteration of this footage reinforces the male gaze, women’s bodies as objects of desire, both for men (Duquette) and for women (Suzie and Kelly). Is this a performance again? Perhaps. Although it’s not made obvious that Kelly and Suzie are aware of Duquette’s presence, it is a possibility that both Kelly and Suzie are performing their desire for one another, in order to continue with their schemes. In considering both Duquette and the audience, there’s a performance of scopophilia; we cannot look away, we love watching too much.
Coming at the end of the film, this shot of Mr. Lombardo with Kelly is offered as blackmail by Suzie, and ultimately seems to be the impetus for the scheme. It seems like this is the only honest look of the film, taken in a moment of desire, without knowledge. It is this honesty, lacking in performance, that is the ultimate downfall of Kelly and Mr Lombardo. Deceit is the only way that things work in the universe of Wild Things, and the ways of looking within the film reinforce and reinscribe this paradigm. Interestingly, unlike the other gazes within the film, this one, a photograph, is static, and not composed of movable images that can be endlessly replayed. In Wild Things at least, it seems the photograph cannot lie.