Femme Fatale
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The most relevant and obvious depiction of the "femme fatale" archetype relevant to our discussion.


The femme fatale character archetype is a representation of a woman that embodies an intertwined mix of sexuality and danger. She is viewed with intrigue by the other characters in the work of art because of her mysteriousness; her secret, motivation, essence and where she comes from makes her an unreadable character. Conventionally the femme fatale, in critical terms is both unknowable and an index of unknowability, always representing more than can be articulated. This sense of mystery lends to the femme fatale’s seductive quality, often times linking her with temptation. There is often a link between the male gaze, and the seductive qualities of a femme fatale. Similarly, femme fatales are synonymous with unbridled female sexuality and feminine independence. In early manifestation of femme fatales, male characters attempt to control these women, with poor results. The end result of being tempted by a femme fatale is either physically of morally hazardous to the man that she has attracted.

The First Femme Fatale
Eve’s temptation of Adam in the third chapter of Genesis is often viewed as the foundation for the femme fatale. Adam is tempted in to participating in a divinely forbidden act in order to gain illicit knowledge, eventually leading to his death, and death for the rest of man-kind.

Carmen As A Femme Fatale
Carmen is a mysterious gypsy who seduces, torments, and eventually leaves her lovers after they have become enamored with her. As a gypsy she lives by her own moral code, one which is apart from popular cultures sense of morality. In both Merimee and Bizet’s Carmen, she leads Don Jose into a life of crime, and morally corrupts him. Eventually this exotic femme fatale leads Don Jose through fickleness and infidelity, which not only leads to his moral destruction, but also his physical destruction.

Femme Fatales in Films
The mysterious aspect of femme fatales lends to the popular use of them as characters in film noirs. In these movies, the femme fatale helps emphasize themes of mystery, darkness, motivation and revelation.
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In film noir, the femme fatale is the recurring portrayal of women. Unlike the stereotypical characterizations of the mother, the wife, and the virgin in films, the femme fatale is defined as a seductress, who has sacrificed any chance of fitting into societies conventional place for women. The virgin wants to marry the prince, the wife wants to please her husband and the mother will do anything for her children. But the femme fatale does not rely on the decisions or requests of men in order to determine the course of her life. She smokes, drinks, hangs around in dimly lit, seedy rooms, and will eventually manipulate the emotions of the male protagonist until he no longer an resources for her to squeeze from him.

UC Berkeley's fantastic history of "the deadly woman"






Pop Culture References
The velvet underground’s debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico features a track titled “Femme Fatale” which is about a woman who seduces a man, and presumably uses them and then leaves them. In the song, Lou Reed warns that the next person to be seduced by her will be the 37th person she has lured in.

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A Reconstruction of the Femme Fatale
Vladamir Nabakov's Lolita constructs with pedantic complexities each character. So to simply label Dalores Hayes (Lolita or Lo) as a femme fatale character would be a gross over simplification. However it is interesting the way Nabakov allows H.H. through his obsessions to create an imagined reality where an eleven year old girl could fill this role. It is a testament to Nabakov's extreme skill and craft that he is able to accomplish such a task with out being labeled as a “pervert” (or at least with out only being labeled as a pervert). He is by no means subtle in this construction in a particularly vivid moment of lust H.H. says, “she had painted her lips and was holding in her hollowed hands a beautiful, banal, Eden-red apple. She was not shod, however, for church.” (Nabakov, 58). The eden-like innocence of childhood strongly contrasts with the image of the “first temptress” holding in her hand the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. H.H's obsessions can only see her as the first femme fatale, and for a moment she is almost painted as such in the readers mind. H.H.'s words projected through the imagination recalls an image as coy and tantalizing as Carmen. Nabakov even goes as far as to make H.H sing to her “O my Carmen, my little Carmen!” (Nabakov, 60) only reiterating her role as the fem fatal in even more obvious terms. The reader is continually forced to reming themselves H.H is describing his love for an eleven year old girl, and the disgust of the situation is turned inward. This is the most important achievment in Nabakov's rcconstruction of the image of the classic femme fatale. He devilishly coaxes the reader into questioning their own feelings of lust, to reflect with possibly a moment of apprehension of non-typical reservation the sanity of our own obsessions. Our society and its culture (especially American media) lusts with out hesitation; we are hardly ever asked to stop and question this image of the femme fetale that has been readapted through out culture for the most visceral purposes. Lolita the eleven year old fem fatal beautifully and disturbingly turns our voyeurism inward.

Sources:
1. Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Lolita. New York: Random House, 1991. Print.

References
1. Dawson, Dawn P., ed. Encyclopedia of Literary Characters. Passadena: Salem, 1963. Print.



2. Grossman, Julie. Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-up. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.

3. Hanson, Helen, and Catherine O'Rawe, eds. The Femme Fatale: Images, Histories, Contexts. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmmillan, 2010. Print.