Femme Fatales Essay

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The quintessential femme fatale of film noir uses her sexual attractiveness and ruthless cunning to manipulate men in order to gain power, independence, money, or all three at once. She rejects the conventional roles of devoted wife and loving mother that mainstream society prescribes for women, and in the end her transgression of social norms leads to her own | The femme fatale's destructive break for freedom in The Lady from Shanghai(1948) | destruction and the destruction of the men who are attracted to her. Film noir's portrayal of the femme fatale, therefore, would seem to support the existing social order — and particularly its rigidly defined gender roles — by building up the powerful, independent woman, only to punish her in the end.But a closer look at film noir suggests an opposite interpretation. Even when it depicts women as dangerous and worthy of destruction, film noir also shows that women are confined by the roles traditionally open to them — that their destructive struggle for independence is a response to the restrictions that men place on them. Moreover, these films view the entire world — not just independent women — as dangerous, corrupt, and irrational. They contain no prescription for how women should act and few balancing examples of happy marriages, and their images of conventional women are often bland to the point of parody. It is the image of the powerful, fearless, and independentfemme fatale that sticks in our minds when these movies end, perhaps because she — unlike powerful women in other Hollywood films of the '30s and '40s — remains true to her destructive nature and refuses to be converted or captured, even if it means that she must die.Out of the Past provides a classic example of film noir, especially in its portrayal of women. Kathie, the ultimatefemme fatale, propels the action toward disaster, first by trying to escape

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