The ancient archetype is rooted in man's innate fear of unbridled female sexuality and his reverence for the mysterious female reproductive system. Examples of the femme fatale exist in the folklore and mythology of every culture on earth, from the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah, to the Greek myth of the Sirens; beautiful, sweet sounding sea creatures who lured male sailors to their untimely deaths.
|Fellas, think twice before you let a woman grease your scalp.|
The femme fatale trope was popularized in America during the 1940's when Hollywood began to produce hundreds of hard boiled crime dramas, stylistically referred to as film noirs. Film noirs were literally dark pictures. The main characters were often cloaked in heavy, oppressive shadows and the lighting was dramatic. These films explored the dark side of human behavior, reflecting the growing pessimism of a post-war, post-Depression America.The story line often revolved around a femme fatale who seduced the male protagonist and lead him directly into harms way.
Within the patriarchal construct, the femme fetale is most often vilified, juxtaposed with a less intimidating, sweet and loyal woman, and maybe even reformed by film's end. Perhaps the message men are trying to send is that we women should not aspire be so cunning and evil... but don't be naive. There is a lot a girl can learn from the deadly woman.
The femme fatale knows how to seduce. She is alluring, even if with the help of a lush head of hair, a painted face and dazzling clothes. Her sexuality may be palpable, but her aims are never overt. Her desires lurk just below the surface, in a coy look, a double entendre, or even her low, raspy, post-coital voice. She makes her target come to her, and no matter what, she never allows him to feel he completely possesses her. She is like water in his hands. She is witty. She is smart and an absolute master of seductive one-upmanship. Watching a femme fatale on screen is pure cinematic magic, and a lesson in love for those girls who are willing to learn.
Below I've listed my personal top eleven (couldn't narrow to ten) favorite fatale performances, that I think every woman who wants to hone her skills should see. Some are classic film noir, others and neo-noir (coming after the classic period), and one is a romantic comedy that just so happens to feature one hell of a leading lady.
"You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. (She opens his door and pauses.) You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together - and blow."
I've written in the past Jacqueline Broyer is my sheroe. In the movie, Robin Givens plays marketing exec Jacqueline Broyer, who becomes boss to Marcus Graham, a successful play-boy, after a corporate take over. Graham, who is used to loving and leaving countless women, is dumb founded when Jacqueline doesn't immediately respond to his advances. She makes him sweat. He has to put in effort to seduce her and even when he thinks he's got her, she spurns him for trying to get too close. The comedy demonstrates how easily roles are reversed when a woman keeps her options open. Broyer is smart, witty, refined, gorgeous, and dressed to kill in every clip. In a movie filled with beautiful women (Halle Berry for heaven's sake) Givens steals the show.
Flyness and Funk(y femme fatales),