Nymphomaniac - an analysis of a misogynist

Mads L. Hermansen, Minoo Kristiansen Yaganeh, Sarah Mariane Qwarnstrom & Ioanna Georgiadi

Student thesis: Termpaper


We want to research how Lars von Trier presents his characters in his movie Nymphomaniac, in comparison to the stereotypical gender representation that is shown in movies. To do this, we have used the Male Gaze Theory and applied it to the film. We researched feminism and found that radical feminism was the most appropriate in terms of defining Joe and her portrayal of a woman who does not accommodate the typecast of being a stay-at-home wife, or a maternal figure. As Lars von Trier has both been described as a feminist and a misogynist, we wanted to find a conclusion to which label could be properly applied. Using film analysis, we examined some of the scenes we found to be most prominent, and then categorized the characters into man, anti-man, woman, anti-woman. Man and woman refers to characters that fit into the mold of the Male Gaze Theory; a protagonist man who controls the story, and the damsel in distress who plays no larger part than being beautiful. Anti-man and anti-woman thus refers to characters who differ from this mold. Most of the characters in Nymphomaniac, could be placed in one or more of this boxes. From here we applied the Gender Illusion theory, which was based on the concept that gender is not based on anatomy, but is fluid and determined by several different aspects. After understanding that Trier uses the female characters in his film to represent himself, we found that the Male Gaze Theory was moot, and needed to be replaced by another theory that could be easier applied to his Depression Theory. Combining the Gender Illusion theory and the Male Gaze theory, we created the Lars von Trier Gaze, and applied it to the film. This LVT Gaze better described the fluidity of the characters and we concluded that Trier was in fact not a misogynist, but a director who was interested in showing the hardships of his characters because of their gender.

EducationsBasic - International Bachelor Study Programme in Humanities, (Bachelor Programme) Basic
Publication date21 Dec 2015
SupervisorsRahel Leupin


  • Gender representation
  • Film theory
  • Gender fluidity
  • Lars von Trier