unsettling at best. The decadent and the dandy, as well as his wellspring of counterpart stereotypes, most notable among them the femmefatale , complicate what is essential in nature; as Franz Meier writes, “Contradictory as these stereotypes may seem, they all converge in a deviant, unproductive attitude
* In this paper the terms enchantment, charming, and femmefatale are used approximately interchangeably with the words gu 蠱, mei 媚, and nühuo 女祸, respectively. Both gu and mei are more extensively discussed in the main text of this paper. The term nühuo refers to calamities more
Lucrezia Borgia was a real Renaissance femme fatale. She was an Italian Renaissance duchess, beautiful, wise, powerful, and a patron of the arts. However, she also personified the other side of Renaissance in incest, orgies, poisonings, and intrigues, whether in questions of politics or love. Many historians wanted to portray Lucrezia as a political pawn in the hands of her famous father, Pope Alexander VI, but she was beyond that. She was a wise, determined woman who used her beauty and political power as a means to satisfy her personal and political cravings. She enjoyed rare freedom for a woman in the Renaissance period, having been married several times, entertaining lovers, exchanging love letters with poets, and living openly and freely a life for which any other woman living then would be hanged. She proved Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’ as an essential drive in her life; she loved passionately and wasn’t afraid to make brave political moves. The Borgia family was not interesting only to historians, but also to philosophers like Machiavelli and writers like Alexander Dumas and Victor Hugo as well as the poet Lord Byron. How did Lucrezia Borgia succeed in enjoying so much freedom? Why was she portrayed as a whore, infamous murderess, evil character, while she was doing exactly what other powerful Renaissance men were doing, but they kept their reputation as brave shrewd political leaders or just manipulators? This chapter will explore whether Lucrezia Borgia was born with an evil character and her power enlarged her inner evil, or whether Nietzsche was right, that the primal drive in humans is ‘will to power’, which corrupts our true nature. This exploration makes us wonder if we would be able to do what Lucrezia did in her time, in her position, in her situation.
Villains and villainy have succeeded in drawing the attention of the reader or audience as much as heroes and their heroic deeds throughout the history of literature and film. They are among the most crucial characters thanks to their functions of not only making heroes’ existence possible but also bringing excitement to the whole story. Although our reactions towards villain characters have most of the time been hostile by wanting their punishment or even their death, we can often find such villains who make us believe that the whole story would be less exciting without them. The femme fatale is among that kind of villains because she charms us with her beauty and locks us up inside the story exactly in the same way as she entraps the man victim of her love. This famous villainous woman who is an expert in capturing the attention of everyone wherever she goes will arouse interest one more time in this chapter divided into two main parts. In the first part, the concern will be to retrace the steps of the femme fatale in the Bible looking at women figures such as Lilith and Salome together with their incarnations in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Body’s Beauty and Oscar Wilde’s Salome in order to portray the image of the femme fatale in detail. In the second part, my aim will be to compare and contrast James Mallahan Cain’s Double Indemnity with Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler together with their movie versions to question if the femme fatale is cruel for the love of maliciousness or not with the help of the portrait that we attained in the first part. I will draw the conclusion that it is the patriarchal structure of the 19th century society that frames her to be villainous.
The ‘Femme Fatale’ has long been a trope of espionage fiction, film noir and thrillers and can be seen throughout the 20th century as a dangerous figure sent to entrap men into revealing secrets through pillow talk. The femme fatale has her roots in history, Mata Hari becoming a blueprint and short hand in espionage studies for a dangerous and potentially evil woman. The femme is also an example of the classification of women as ‘whore’, classifying women by their sexuality and ambition. The femme fits into an established classification for women in popular fiction: Angel-Whore. However, is the femme fatale really the evil figure that she is often presented as? Is the moral criticism of female agents who use sexuality to their advantage primarily related to whether those agents are ‘ours’ or ‘theirs’? This chapter looks at the figure of the femme fatale through the lens of popular culture and espionage history to examine the fact/fiction relationship of the femme fatale and whether she is only evil if she works for the other side. The chapter examines some key real-life female figures that were portrayed as ‘femmes’ by the media and how these factual elements have been incorporated into fiction. It also discusses the importance of costume, changing morals and nationality when looking at the femme fatale and whether these play a part in determining whether she is evil or simply a patriot. It will also discuss the lesser known ‘homme fatal’ figures or ‘Romeos’, used during the Cold War by the Stasi and others to entrap women and discuss the differences between these two figures and the role gender plays in determining evil. Lastly it will discuss the eventual fate of the fictional femme: can she be redeemed or can she only end up dead?
The Pandora myth lies at the very heart of our cultural self-definition. The phrase ‘Pandora’s box’ is commonly used to denote any form of multiple/uncontrolled disaster, continually reinscribing, at least at the unconscious level, the idea of femininity - and of female sexuality in particular - as alluring and desirable, but also dangerous, irrational, uncontrolled and chaotic, the source of all the world’s ills. Of the myriad of textual and artistic manifestations of Pandora since her inception, those that portray her as femme fatale have received the most attention; the fact that Pandora’s box also offers positive potential in the form of hope, has largely been neglected. This paper reports on a study that re-examines the received reading of the Pandora myth, to propose an idea of Pandora that is much more complex and multi-faceted than her traditional casting as early femme fatale. Drawing on Julia Kristeva’s notion of intertextuality and Judith Butler’s concept of identity and gender as performatively constructed, multiple and even ‘contradictory’, it interrogates a cluster of interconnected twentieth century works drawn mainly from the cinema, all of which feature a Pandora figure who challenges the derogatory stereotype perpetuated by conventional interpretations of the myth. The study, by incorporating the positive possibilities offered by the hope in Pandora’s box, demonstrates that Pandora cannot be dismissed merely as a harbinger of unmitigated disaster; rather, Pandora’s ‘chaos’, through exceeding her traditional framing as femme fatale, acts as a cathartic, transformative force, a source of energy with the potential for both good and evil. I argue that thus, Pandora’s box does not necessarily signify death and destruction, but can also act as a creative, life-affirming force that can be productive, generative and even redemptive.
Catherine Tramell - the iconic heroine of Basic Instinct and its sequel, Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction - is the last great femme fatale of the twentieth century. Rich, blonde, elegant, smart, attractive and cultivated, she has almost all the aspects of this archetype: she seduces and manipulates men (and eventually kills them) and she is bisexual. Nevertheless, she is a postmodern femme fatale, so she is not punished at the end of the film, and she can keep manipulating people, having sex with men, and (eventually) killing them. Catherine Tramell, however, is also a successful writer of crime fiction. The skills she gained from her double degree in Literature and Psychology help her to write, mostly because she uses her femme fatale experiences for her books. She does not wait for ideas to fall onto her desk: she manipulates reality and does not hesitate to willingly kill people in order to inspire herself. She searches for crimes, since she cannot live (or write) without them. That is what makes her a fascinating character: the combination of the writer and the femme fatale in the same woman. The result of this unique mixture affects not only the level of the character, but also the plot of the movie. All of these consequences will be explained in this paper, focusing on two aspects. Firstly, the way in which Catherine Tramell can be considered a postmodern version of the classical archetype of the villain femme fatale; and, second, how this combination of spider woman and crime fiction writer creates an original and brilliant thriller such as Basic Instinct.
Georges Bizet’s operas highlight two character types: the femme fatale and the sentimental heroine. This chapter will primarily analyse Bizet’s most famous opera Carmen. Carmen is a beautiful, elusive and daring gypsy who seduces the soldier Don José. Her opposing female character, Micaëla, is a young, naïve and trusting girl who is also in love with Don José. Carmen represents the femme fatale. She is the exotic woman; independent, confident and uses her sexuality to her advantage. In contrast, Micaëla represents the sentimental heroine. She is the ideal nineteenthcentury woman: pure, modest and innocent. These two characters are extremely different in their language, music and physicality. This research explores a brief history of these two character types, how Bizet presented them in Carmen and how a nineteenth century audience viewed them. The chapter further explores performance theory and models of character analysis based on the teachings of established acting schools including Stanislavski and Chekhov. Since opera is a form of dramatic theatre, character analysis is essential for any singer approaching an operatic role. The key for understanding an operatic character is to consider them in their complete form – text, music and action. The interpretive role of the singer is to present what the composer and librettist have written by using their voice and body to express the internal thoughts of the character externally. The outcome of this research is a model of analysis for Carmen and Micaëla that provides performers and researchers with greater insights into these types of roles.