The femme fatale in the aftermath: The older female antagonist in the Hunger Games and Divergent film franchises.
Authors: Van Raalte, C.
Editors: Santos, M.
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars
Place of Publication: Newcastle
The success of The Hunger Games (Gary Ross 2012) has given rise to what might be termed a new sub-genre of dystopian cinema designed to appeal particularly to young female audience. The four films in the Hunger Games franchise, Divergent (Neil Burger 2014) and its two sequels to date feature young warrior heroines whose prowess as fighters exceeds that of their male peers and whose humanity and wisdom exceeds that of their elders. The most recent features of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams 2015) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards 2016) would appear to have hitched a ride on the same post-feminist band-wagon. For these films are all suffused with a post-feminist sensibility. Their heroines do not concern themselves with gender politics, living in a world where equality of opportunity seems at first glance to be a given. This state of affairs is embodied by an extended cast (particularly in the Hunger Games films) that includes a relatively high quota of other women in a range of roles - in sharp contrast with the situation of the action heroines of earlier decades, who often found themselves surrounded almost exclusively by men. The focus of this chapter will be on these other women, specifically the mature women who are directly pitted against the films’ young heroines. I will argue that in the treatment of these characters the films articulate much older discourses, both feminist and patriarchal, around the roles and ‘nature’ of women. In particular I will explore the ways in which these representations draw on the enduring yet mutable figure of the femme fatale to create a new breed of dystopian antagonists.
The subject of persistent critical debate and a potent cultural myth, the femme fatale is at the same time ‘a symbol of fears about absolute female power (Grossman 2009:5) and a ‘manifestation of endlessly unfulfilled desire.’ (Hanson and O’Rawe 2010:7). Removed from her native film noir, she provides a cinematic shorthand for both positive and negative conceptions of femininity but above all articulates the terrifying otherness of woman. I would suggest that characters of Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) in the third and fourth Hunger Games films, and of both Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and Evelyn (Naomi Watts) in the Divergent series (in common with Delacourt (Jodie Foster) in Blomkamp’s 2013 blockbuster Elysium) represent the return of a fear that has been repressed in the youthful persons of their post-feminist heroines.