Before you get your fists caught up, David Fincher is first and foremost a great filmmaker. Okay, now we are on the same page, I want to essentially deconstruct Fincher’s comment that “people are perverts”, which equally means that the spectator is a pervert when they engage with cinema. And the reason for Fincher being a pervert himself is because to direct the audience, the filmmaker must act as spectator, deciding exactly how perverted they want the audience’s experience to be, and therefore manipulating them. In other words, you can’t lure the pervert (the audience) without understanding how to seduce them (the film).
But what does Fincher really mean? I don’t believe it is a throwaway comment, he claims to have based his entire career on this notion of the pervert. A filmmaker has to have the conviction that an audience will want to sit through what they create, as a writer for his reader, and a painter for the onlooker, and so on. Why would an audience wish to sit in a dark room and have the floodgates opened into another psyche if they weren’t fascinated or even a slight bit curious about other people? We go to experience the upheaval, to be entertained by the pain of somebody else, and in doing so, project and release many of our own problems into this fantasy space. It may even leave us feeling cleansed, but only for so long. A pervert seeks this pleasure in which they will not become the obstacle, and not have to face the consequences for their actions, thus leaving their conscience unmarked. A pervert wants this, to go lengths at revealing the disturbing elements of nature’s truth, turning life upside-down without paying for the ramifications. Fincher’s cinema does a great deal in favour of stretching this viewpoint – Seven and Fight Club implode the pervert’s fantasy; truth is a very dark subject matter.
A pervert is not only a Peeping Tom, but somebody who wishes deeply to satisfy their own desires. We all carry this element of ego, but the cinema exploits it in an almost dangerous fashion. It is a pure ego formulation, our ego drive is solely at work when we view a film, there is no concern of the Id or Superego (no need for survival or ethitcal/moral regulations – when using the Freudian conception of the terms). So when Fincher stated that “people are perverts” – he means that, quite literally, as the very reason why people go to the cinema and enjoy watching his films – he know very well that you’re a pervert for liking it!
David Fincher himself must be a voyeur par excellence!
To learn more about cinema spectatorship and Lacanian theory on the gaze, the voyeur, and so on, I recommend the following text by Todd McGowan, The Real Gaze. It is delicious.
In good spirits, here is an illuminating video essay on Fincher’s works: