femme fatale

In watching the films assigned to us in class i find myself looking constantly at women who are portrayed as the source of trouble in our leading protagonists lives. Even though the women are downplayed in a large way by the heroic man, their roles serve of grave importance but not in a pleasant light most of the time. In movies such as The Lady From Shanghai we see how the beautiful Rosalie uses her charm to “force” Michael to stay with her, eventually we see that she did this for her own benefit and seemed to have no regard for his life. In Double Indemnity we see how Phyllis also uses her looks in order to “force” a man into doing as she pleases. In movies like these and in others that we have seen such as Detour and D.O.A. we see how woman are placed into roles that are completely opposite of the damsel in distress and instead are women with no emotions who seem to just be interested in money and material goods. Although i believe a damsel in distress isn’t the best way to portray a woman, it seems equally offensive to see these heartless women representing women. It confuses me that women in the end of these films were seen as the bad ones because they “brought the leading man down with their seductions and deceit” when it is obvious that no man can be FORCED into doing anything, none of these women threatened to kill these men if they didn’t make out with them, it was the mans own fault for choosing to chase these women. I believe it all comes down to choice just as Adam could have chosen not to bite the apple Eve gave to him so could these men have chosen not to listen to these women, for falling for these women and getting themselves into a whole mess of trouble i think they should be seen as fools and not be shown sympathy. I believe Julie Grossman sums it up perfectly when she states that these movies serve to portray women as these dangerous being that should be TAMED by institutions (which means by MEN), and this doesn’t come as a shock considering that these films were made by men. Although i dont think directors of movies did this intentionally, i believe it does reflect the times in which they lived in where women were either seen as innocent creatures that needed a mans guidance in order to have a happy life, or they were seen as these “femme fatale” characters who were way out of control and needed to be stopped by the all knowing man.

3 thoughts on “femme fatale

  1. I’m starting to notice that the female characters fall into the category of either femme fatale or angel. It annoys me because being all good or all bad is unrealistic. We are all complex beings and should be displayed as such. These women almost seem one-dimensional, forcing me not to take their characters too seriously. The movies showed women of that time how to behave and how not to behave. The angels were praised, but the femme fatales were shunned. Innocence and nurture were just some of the qualities that men wanted the ideal woman to have. The fact that the femme fatales usually die at some point during the movie shows that deviating from what society thinks is acceptable for women can only lead to a bad ending. I’m glad we moved away from the “damsel in distress” routine but I also hope we can now move past the idea that woman is the downfall of man.

  2. I got a different interpretation from watching the various femme fatales in films. To me, they were very courageous and daring. Maybe they could have served as inspiration to women at the time to try new things? To break into the male-dominated society? It sounds optimistic and the view that femme fatales were just trying to imitate men is probably more plausible but it is just a view that I’m offering. For examples in the film, DOA, when I saw Marla Rakubian take out her pistol and point it at Frank Bigelow, I thought she was courageous. I thought that it was pretty cool that women weren’t portrayed as damsels in distress.

  3. although i do agree that the idea of the “angel like” woman is not an idea a woman wants to be compared to all the time, i think that the idea that if a woman is not angels then she is this corrupt and immoral being who just thinks in terms of greed and sex is also not a view that should be shown in movies. especially because all these women who didnt fit the angel mold, were throughout the films punished until they either 1.turned into angels (gilda) or 2. were killed (the lady from shaghai)

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