Gaslight (1940)

In 1938 Patrick Hamilton wrote a play that would become so part of the zeitgeist that, the term ‘’gaslighting’’ directly originates from this work, and is used in clinical and mental health research papers.

The term refers to a form of psychological abuse that manifests itself when a purportrator uses techniques to question their own ability to make their own choices, their very sanity, by chipping away at their confidence, making them feel like their concerns are mere paranoia or an overactive imagination. It is insidious, cruel, and  often a slow, drip of abuse of trust that completely destroys a person’s self esteem and forces them to reply heavier on their abuser.

Once you learn to recognise the signs, examples of gaslighting are rife in modern society, from the media, politics, and of course in intimate relationships.          

Donald Trump’s election campaign was a masterclass in gaslighting; from the  constant drip feed of Hilary Clinton’s name used in a derogatory way, using xenophobia and racist stereotypes as a way to spread fear, hunkering down like King Canute against the tide of truths about his (let’s face it) vile character and exposure of his lies, using the voters deepest fears and prejudices against them, while deflecting any and all accusations of his inability to even run a business, never mind a country, and using it to his advantage by pretending to be  Joe Everyman.

He actually found a way to spin his constant stream of nonsensical lies into accusations of media bias against him, and unfortunately a LOT of people ate it up like dog’s eating  vomit.

Other examples of it include blaming African Americans for police racism, making you believe poor Mexican immigrants are to blame for the fact you aren’t rich, and trying to paint every Syrian refugee as a potential terrorist.

During the UK elections the voters were gaslighted with Murdoch owned press and Tory Besties BBC News constantly insinuating that Jeremy Corbyn was a terrorist sympathiser, giving him less airtime than the Conservatives, editing down footage of his speeches where he sounded very capable as a politician, and conveniently not reporting on the record crowds that were travelling from all over the country to see him. All the while May Bot and her hapless Tory spin doctors were actually arms dealing their way to being terrorist adjacent, drawing no crowds, and stealing policies from Satan himself; but the media and the millionaires that did not want a Prime Minister who wouldn’t kiss the ring, and let them keep their offshore tax havens, were definitely on the side of Conservatives.

The best thing to do to find truth in the sea of lies, is to read the same stories from different sources to see how they differ, use independent grassroots media, take the emotional words out of speeches and statements and see it’s real message, and pay attention to what the media is NOT saying; because trust me, the main guys talk themselves blue in the face without saying an AWFUL lot.

Ironically the big screen debut of Gaslight was a kind of a victim of the practice itself. It was sadly overshadowed by the star studded Ingrid Bergman version four years later;  as upon its release MGM studios tried to erase it’s very existence by attempting to destroy all evidence and negatives of its predecessor. Fortunately, the director Throrold Dickinson had the foresight to stash away his own copy, therefore allowing future generations to make their own minds up about who made the better adaption.

For the record, the 1940 version is the definite winner in my eyes. It has an atmosphere and immediacy that the Hollywood version is lacking, and though Bergman is always captivating, Diana Wynyard brings a haunted fragility that cannot be replicated, and in short, is spellbinding.

Darker, grittier, with less humour than the remake, the original Gaslight is a masterpiece in psychological horror, that the glamour of Hollywood can’t hold a flickering candle to.

However, that’s just my opinion. Go, watch both and make your own mind up, I would hate to be accused of manipulation …

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This entry was posted in 1940's horror, 40's horror, black and white horror, brit horror, British Horror, critique, fiction, film and media, Forties horror, horror, mental illness, opinion, pop culture, psychological horror, thriller, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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