sinecine ISSN: 1309-5838

The Ghosts of Female Gothic


This article explores the representation of woman as a ghost or at least a ghostly figure in two films, What Lies Beneath (Robert Zemeckis, 2000) and La Cara Oculta (The Hidden Face, Andres Baiz, 2011), both of which, it is argued, are situated in the female Gothic tradition. Ghosts and haunting, i.e., activity associated with ghosts, are widely used metaphors in female Gothic works of art, a sub-genre of Gothic that addresses the themes of gender oppression and domestic entrapment, both of which are emblematic of women’s experience in a patriarchy. This article argues that What Lies Beneath and The Hidden Face depict the haunting of a woman by another woman who is either dead or, if still alive, dead to the world, in ways that articulate feminist concerns and draw attention to gender oppression. While What Lies Beneath makes use of a ghost to address female victimization and male violence against women, The Hidden Face deals with the “ghosting,” or erasure, of women within patriarchal, phallocentric power structures that negate her existence. In both films, the figure of the ghostly woman serves to highlight the ways in which women are oppressed, victimized, disempowered –  in short, rendered ghostly – in phallocentric, patriarchal culture.

Keywords: Female Gothic, ghost, haunting, patriarchy, gender oppression, Symbolic order.