Skin gazing: Queer bodies in Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-3275
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3283



Psychoanalytic theorists argue that the creation of the ego is largely a product of how we perceive the surface of our skin. The horror genre literalizes these moments of skin gazing by centring the plot around the spectacle of cutting skin, where the victim’s body is opened up for the audience’s viewing pleasure. Pedro Almodóvar’s La piel que habito/The Skin I Live In (2011) inverts the classic horror trope of bodily cutting by showcasing a villain who gives his victim impenetrable skin as a way to pacify and torture him. Survival, therefore, depends on the victim’s ability to overcome the horror of living within another skin, even one that is differently gendered. Such transgender narratives bring to horror cinema a way to rethink Freudian and Lacanian concepts of the gaze that structure our affective responses to seeing bodies cut on-screen. In exchange, we might say that cinema brings to these transgender narratives a suturing technology that allows for a layering of bodies with time otherwise unattainable outside the medium of cinema. Instead of trying to separate out the self from the skin it inhabits, we must understand our identity as an interplay between different forms of embodiment.


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