The Beast Without: Red Dragon, The Cleft Lip, and the Politics of Recognition

The film Red Dragon features a serial killer whose cleft lip is the primary factor motivating his murderous behaviour. Although the film initially capitalizes upon the tradition of linking cleft lip and palate with homicidal psychopathy, however, it does so through a keen awareness of the politics of identity formation, and so has the effect of ultimately shifting the locus of monstrosity away from the cleft lip, and toward those social systems of representation that would constitute the cleft lip and palate as such. With particular attention to the image of the mirror, this paper is concerned with offering a psychoanalytic reading of the film, through the Lacanian concept of the mirror stage, in order to demonstrate certain ways in which Red Dragon subtly deconstructs the filmic tradition that has thus far, failed to do justice to the cleft lip and palate as a social issue.

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