Alexander Sebastian: The De-masculinized Nazi
In Notorious, Hitchcock spoofs Nazis and fascism through a homosocial/homophobic lens. The film’s central antagonist, Alex Sebastian, teeters between having power and being powerless.
On one hand, Alex is organizing a German criminal cabal that plans to reignite Nazi World Domination through weapons of mass destruction. Contrarily, Alex is never presented as the dangerous war criminal that we know him to be. He is de-masculinized by almost every character he interacts with. Alicia threatens his sexual authority by having an obvious romantic interest in Devlin. Paul Prescott also threatens Alex by spying on him and potentially stripping him of his wealth and freedom. Alex’s mother, Madame Sebastian, smothers him and treats him like a pampered child; she threatens his masculinity more than any other character.
The scene where Alex learns the truth about Alicia in the wine cellar is a crucial turning point for his character. After noticing the wine stains on the drain and the shards from the broken bottle, he feels his phallus is going to be stripped from him. This is why he poisons Alicia slowly: to preserve his masculine image with keeping his “wife”, while also castrating her. Some men who lack authority, sexual or otherwise, seek to regain their status as a “man” by committing acts of violence. Alex was going to compensate for his lack of masculinity by conspiring with the other Nazis to build an atomic bomb, causing global catastrophe.