The Birds

Just what caused the birds to ferociously, perpetually attack humans in Bodega Bay? This question is perhaps the main takeaway from the experience of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). There are, naturally, several distinct interpretations, from a metaphorical representation of the romance central to the plot to a psychoanalytic breakdown of the Oedipus complex. But in the context of Green Media studies, we cannot overlook an ecological interpretation. The theme of ‘animal retribution’ is central to this interpretation. In one scene, we see people hiding inside a restaurant from the birds’ attacks, casually ordering whole chickens, and a present scientist declaring that such aggressive behavior is not biologically possible. Those nudges prominently establish the environmental theme, but it is perhaps Hitchcock’s trailer that removes any doubt about the film’s ecological implications, a doubt formulated from the very observation that a cause to the attack is left unexplored (Soles 2014, 530-531).

Hitchcock’s film owes much in this regard to the original novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, which has been read as a work of eco-fiction to promote environmental awareness (Lachazette 2021). Yet it is the terrifying spectacle of Hitchcock’s iteration which will remain an iconic reference point for the prospect of ecological apocalypse.