Freud Meets Netflix: Unraveling “House of Usher”

3 min read
Gerardo Manzano / Pexels

Source: Gerardo Manzano / Pexels

After settling in for a viewing of Netflix’s latest take on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, I found myself abuzz with excitement, not only from the sheer enjoyment of the show but from the myriad of psychological angles begging to be analyzed.

As a psychologist, I was immediately drawn to the psychoanalytic undertones that this modern adaptation so artfully spun into its narrative fabric. Without divulging any spoilers for those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the show’s atmospheric tension, let’s say that it serves as an exquisite canvas for a psychological dissection.

The show cleverly navigates the murky waters of the subconscious, giving a nod to the Freudian depths beneath our actions and interactions. The Usher estate, with its almost palpable sense of the uncanny, is the perfect setting for such an exploration.

It’s more than just a grandiose background; it’s a character within itself, laden with Freudian symbolism that echoes the sentiment, “You may think you are unknown to me, but I am a mirror to your soul.”

Roderick Usher’s unraveling psyche is a testament to the power of repressed thoughts and forbidden memories, similar to the crumbling walls of his family home. Madeline’s unexpected return from what was believed to be her final resting place can be seen as a direct representation of the “return of the repressed.”

The Freudian theory leaps off the screen as her presence embodies the resurgence of long-suppressed desires and memories.

The intertwined fates of Roderick and Madeline, highlighted by the show’s creators, bring to mind the duality and the haunting nature of the doppelgänger—a concept that’s always fun to unpack, especially in a classroom setting. It strips down the characters’ defenses, exposing their core, much like a clinical analysis peels back the layers of a patient’s story to reveal the inner workings of their personality.

This Netflix recreation allows viewers to witness the embodiment of Freud’s death drive, which posits that humans harbor a subconscious wish for self-destruction. It’s a narrative choice that ties a neat bow around the concept, making it accessible to those unfamiliar with psychoanalytic theory and rich with nuance for those who are.

Are you intrigued by the intersection of psychology with Poe’s gothic tale? Delve deeper into the psychology of the Usher family in my other post.

For a scholarly yet accessible examination of psychoanalytic film critique, Charles Drazin’s Freud’s Worst Nightmare: Cinema and Psychoanalysis is an invaluable resource. It articulates the subtle relationship between storytelling and Freudian concepts, providing a framework to appreciate the psychological layers in this and so many other shows available to stream.

And now, as the credits roll and the echoes of the Usher’s demise fade, we step back into the light, our minds a little richer for the dark journey taken. We’ve navigated the haunted corridors of the unconscious, dodged the spectral shadows of the repressed, and peeked into the mirrors of the self that show more than our reflections.

Ultimately, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is not just a tale of terror but a masterclass in the human condition taught by the silent, stone-faced professor that is the house itself. So, before you switch off the lights, take a moment to listen—perhaps the walls have one last secret to share.

After all, in the world of Poe and psychology, the final twist is that there’s always another layer to unmask.

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