La Femme Fatale, a film character created to "bind" women and who ended up releasing her feminism

The femme fatale It has always been much more than a woman. It exists from the beginning of the story, but it was the cinema that revealed it. It is an icon, a representation of sexual desire, sensuality and even the power that emanates from seduction. The femme fatale Is it irresistible and dangerous but also feminist? It was recreated in the 40's black cinema with the intention of reminding the woman what her "place" was in the world. The femme fatale She was evil because she was free, and therein lay her danger.

Where is the femme fatale born?

The term fatal woman is, according to the SAR, applicable to a seductive woman who exerts an irresistible and dangerous attraction on men. In ancient times we talked about this kind of beautiful and dangerous characters. Eve in Christianity that induced Adam to bite the apple, or the sirens in Greek mythology that attracted sailors with its voice and its beauty to the reefs, for example.

Elisabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra"

The culture has been full of fatal women. Carmen at the opera, the painting Redhead woman with green eyes from Munch or Ana Karenina from Tolstoy are some of the examples. But in history they have also existed characters like Cleopatra or Mata Hari, who perfectly embody in the definition of femme fatale. Beautiful, dangerous and irresistible.

John Tones of Espinof explains how the beginnings in the cinema of this archetype were. "The femme fatale It doesn't come from nothing. Already in the twenties (with pre-war moral relaxation) and thirty (before the implementation of the Hays code), there are very interesting precedents of the figure of the flapper, which in the cinema embodied as nobody Louise Brooks in films like Pandora's box or course, Betty Boop and her not-so-innocent cartoons. And there are, of course, the silent film vamps, women who used their appeal to drag men down.

Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in "The Fierce of My Girl"

“In the thirties there is another curious precedent: screwball comedies. These crazy comedies that popularized mostly Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in classics like The beast of my girl or New Moon, directed by Howard Hawks, they presented independent women, little in need of male consent and that literally drove men crazy.”

But it was after World War II, when he began to take on a more prominent role in black film films. The why? The woman during the war took over jobs away from home that until then were male, in factories for example.

He was no longer the typical housewife who waits for his family taking care of the roast while a cake cools on the windowsill. They had been self-sufficient and now that the soldiers were returning, they had to return home. This example not only occurred in the US, in the Netflix series Bletchley's circle, we can see that fight in England after the Second World War.

Hence it will be used, according to Gian Piero Brunetta in his book World Film History, as a method to warn men that they should take care of women like this, and women that the behaviors of the femme fatale they are punished, because in black movies they are not usually the ones who win in the end.

According to Ángel Carrión in the cultural magazine Mito, "the archetype of the femme fatale It is an expression of the male fear of female domination through its attractiveness and sexuality, the fear of being reduced to a figure, as beautiful as evil, that absorbs and destroys it completely. "

How is the femme fatale that created Hollywood?

Joan Bennett in the movie "Scarlet street"

From Hollywood it was intended that the figure of the femme fatale outside a demonization of female behaviors that escaped the traditional idea of ​​women. And the best way to do it was to cover them with real evil as in the postman Always calls two times, where an adulterous woman is willing to kill to get what she wants.

But the fatal women were not only tremendously beautiful and sensual. Regardless of your evil or not, they were inspiringly independent, intelligent and determined. Bold, brave and free. Free to enjoy your sexuality and ambition.

The femme fatale break taboos and it is not only a cinematographic character that cheats, kills or steals, but an intelligent woman who uses the weapons at her disposal (her sexuality, her beauty and even her false love), to achieve a purpose that, yes, can end up in destruction.

Rita Hayworth in "The Lady of Shanghai"

When the femme fatale became a feminist

What Hollywood did not know is that the shot was going to go through the butt. They created it to show women that women's "sins" end up being paid, and looking for them to embrace the kind of life the woman led before the war.

Lana Turner in "The Postman Always Calls Twice"

But that ambitious character, sometimes a liar and vindictive, was also free. La femme fatale decided to be the owner and mistress of her own sexuality, of her desires and of her body. They moved away from the place that socially belonged to the woman and moved away from the idea of ​​a housewife lover to cling to her own destiny, independent of that traditional and corseted life of the woman of the time.

They were not tied to an almost forced motherhood at the time. Fatal women decided on motherhood, and refused to take it as the only way to be happy, revealing how it had not been seen so far in Hollywood.

Jane Russell in "The Outlaw"

They were dangerous, yes, but also bold, brave and determined. Selfish, as the man had been in the movies for years, and dangerous, because the character of femme fatale It is as beautiful as it is intelligent. He smokes like a man, and hides his intentions behind the smoke of a cigarette that until then had been a man's thing. Drink whiskey and decide what to wear. If they had organized, they would have caused a revolution.

And in a way they did it. The women stopped seeing themselves only as home accessories and such was the impact of this new woman released that 1946, the US lived more 610,000 divorces, as Inés Alberdi points out in his book History and sociology of divorce in Spain. Chance or awakening feminist? No doubt the woman discovered that she not only had a place in the kitchen, but that they were powerful and could decide.

The most iconic femme fatale in the history of black cinema

Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster in Los Asesinos

Since Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon in 1941 until Margot Robbie playing Annie in Terminal in 2017. There are many women who have embodied the femme fatale and many that have become part of the history of cinema, such as Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946) or in Shanghai lady (1947), Lana Turner in the postman Always calls two times (1946), Jane Russell in The outlaw (1943), Joan Bennett in Scarlet street (1945) or Ava gardner in The murderers (1946).

Before them, European actresses like Marlene Dietrich, in The blue angel and "they are a precedent of the femme fatales, devastating with the sexual conventions of the time", as John Tones of Espinof explains to us

Sharon stone in Basic Instinct (1992), is another of the women who played a femme fatale. After the boom they lived in the 40s, it was during the 80s and 90s when this character reappeared, more evil and with more sexual energy than before. The writer Catherine Tramell and her mythical cross leg during a police interrogation is an example of how the femme fatale He uses his sexuality as a weapon to achieve his purposes.

Kathleen Turner in Fire in the body (1981), or Demi moore in Bullying (1994) are two more examples of this type of character.

Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in "Fire in the body"

Though the femme fatale It is not a real portrait of the feminist womanIt was a revelation for the traditional American woman who saw other forms of life in the character. An example that served to awaken that hunger for freedom and break taboos that enveloped women in a time when they should be mothers and wives, but longed to say.

Why the femme fatale of black cinema owns her life and feels complete by herself, without needing a husband and children to order pancakes on Sunday mornings.

Photo | Scarlett Street, The Lady of Shanghai, Pixabay

World History of Cinema I: United States I: 1

Today in amazon for € 33.25