Study Guide

Pan's Labyrinth Gender

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VIDAL: My son, how is he?

FERREIRO: For the moment, there's no reason to be alarmed.

VIDAL: Very good.

FERREIRO: Captain, your wife should not have traveled at such a late stage of pregnancy.

VIDAL: Is that your opinion?

FERREIRO: My professional opinion, yes. VIDAL: A son should be born where his father is. That is all.

FERREIRO: One more thing, Captain. What makes you so sure the baby is a male?

VIDAL: Ha, don't f*** with me.

Vidal cares a lot about his own legacy and the legacy of his father. He doesn't just want a son—he needs a son to carry on his name. There is no other option for his child but to be male. Luckily baby Vidal gets it right, but in the end it turns out to not matter so much for his father.

CARMEN: Ofelia, your father is giving a dinner party tonight. Look what I've made you. [She shows Ofelia a beautiful green silk dress.] Do you like it? What I wouldn't have given to have a dress as fine as this when I was little. And look at these shoes. Do you like them?

OFELIA: Yes, they are very pretty.

Come on Ofelia: you could try to feign delight a little better than that. She's a girl so she's supposed to be happy about having a new dress. Carmen also wants her to look pretty for Vidal—pretty much all Vidal expects out of women is that they be decorative.

Ofelia removes her dress and enters into the old, decrepit fig tree, crawling through its muddy roots.

The fig tree (which has an opening at its base and curves in two directions at it's top) mirrors the horns of the Faun and serves as a fallopian image. Ofelia's journey into it symbolizes her journey back into the womb of her mother, into the fantasy world and away from the scary land of adulthood.

[Ofelia opens the Book of Crossroads in the bathroom. Instead of reading about the second task a red shape begins to form on the page. Soon the magic ink begins to bleed, covering all of it in a bright blood red. Ofelia closes the book in horror and finds her mother bleeding in her room.]

This is the most blatant combination of fallopian imagery and imagery of the Faun's horns. The world of feminine physiological maturation is closely tied to Ofelia's fantasy world, and it's fair to say it's not always a pretty sight.

CARMEN: Don't worry, your mother will get better soon, you'll see. Having a baby is complicated.

OFELIA: Then I'll never have one.

A journey into adulthood for Ofelia means bearing children…which is something she finds frightening. And reasonably so: Carmen's pregnancy isn't an easy one and it will eventually cost her life.

VIDAL: You can go, Garcès.

GARCES: You're sure, Captain?

VIDAL: For God's sake, she's only a woman.

MERCEDES: That's what you've always thought. That's why I was able to get away with it. I was invisible to you.

VIDAL: Damn. You've found my weakness: pride.

Even after Mercedes reveals Vidal's own mistakes to him, he still doesn't respect her power…at least not until she has a knife in his mouth. Vidal obviously doesn't respect the women around him. In his arrogance, he dismisses them and doesn't account for their willpower or intelligence.

VIDAL [to Ferreiro]: Listen to me: if you have to choose, save the baby. That boy will bear my name and my father's name too.

Vidal isn't concerned about his child as a human being: what he cares about is his family legacy. If his baby was a girl she wouldn't be able to carry on his name and he would surely have a preference for saving his wife and having another chance at a son.

[When Ofelia enters the throne room of the Underground Realm, we see the floor is patterned with vesica piscis, or the shape created by the intersection of two circles. The colors of the Underground realm are very red and golden.]

Just in case you think we're reading a bit much into the feminine imagery here, del Toro himself says he, "deliberately designed the idea of the fantasy world to be extremely uterine. We used a fallopian palette of colors: we used crimsons and golds, and everything in the fantasy world is very rounded while everything in the real world is cold and straight." (Source)

Straight from the director himself.

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