Femme Fatale Archetype

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Every now and then the art world is struck by a wave of change that leaves a strong impression, which can last for a long time. Visual arts saw the rise of impressionism and cubism, surrealism and realism took literature to an opposite direction, and film has evolved over the years through cultural and artistic development such as expressionism, auteurism and film noir (House, p.61). The 1940s and post World War II gave rise to a new style of American film, these films appeared pessimistic and dark in mood, theme, and subject. The world created within these films were portrayed as corrupt, hopeless, lacked human sympathy, and “a world where women with a past and men with no future spent eternal nights in one-room walk-ups surrounded by the…show more content…
The most common archetype seen in noir is the femme fatale. The femme fatale becomes a distinct part of film at the end of World War II as well as a threat to transgress the patriarchy (Grossman, p.4). The origins of the femme fatale comes from "the historical need to reconstruct an economy based on a division of labor by which men control the means of production and women remain within the family, in other words, the need to reconstruct a failing patriarchal order" (Jancovich, 2011, p.100). Furthermore, Jancovich claims that the femme fatale was created as an effort to encourage women to revert back to their womanly duties and to quit their jobs that they took on while the men were overseas. He calls them a “demonization of the independent working-woman” ( 2011, p.105). Grossman states that the character of a femme fatale is repeatedly depicted as an antagonist or a dangerous woman, which causes the audience to not side with her or feels any sympathy towards because the patriarchy is structured in a way where man is supposed to have all the power and women cannot (p.4). Most femme fatale become either power hungry or tainted, which leads them to be…show more content…
Beckman describes femme fatale as having an enigmatic relation between visibility and truth. She is never quite what she seems to be even though she is highly visible. She is attractive and threatening at the same time. An alluring secret that needs to be revealed (p25). Beckman states that she often alternates between active and passive (26). They use their sexuality to control and manipulate the man into doing her bidding, often these tasks are immoral acts that will benefit her, however, it would bring eventual destruction for the man. The femme fatales is often brought to justice and punished by the protagonist, ultimately she gets destroyed. Beckman adds that “the dangerous woman is almost always punished for her threat to masculinity and male power. The strong, independent, and sexually provocative femme fatale is typically subdued toward the end of the film noir, through her death, her abandonment, or her "rescue" from moral decline by a man. If it is correct that a certain Hollywood realism tends to confirm a patriarchal status quo through coordinating the gradual unmasking of the sexual power of the woman with the "epistemological drive of the narrative," then this tradition of narrative continuity itself must be of interest” (p 26-27). Often films would have another female character that acted as her idealistic double - the pure, virtuous woman with good
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