The Femme Fatale on Screen
Authors: Van Raalte, C.
Editors: Ross, K., Bachmann, I., Cardo, V., Moorti, S. and Scarcelli, C.M.
This introduction to the femme fatale, as a cinematic and critical phenomenon, will explore the ways in which feminist film criticism has read and re‐read this figure, and the ways in which both the figure itself and the critical readings it has engendered, have articulated ideas of gender, sexuality, and power. The cinematic femme fatale is associated primarily with the film noir of the 1940s–1950s, in which context she is commonly read as articulating male anxieties about the position of women following World War II, and as symptomatic of deeper anxieties around female sexuality and agency. At the same time critics have recognized in her a potential for resistance and an expression of female empowerment notwithstanding the often tragic consequences of her ambitions. In the decades that have followed, the figure of the femme fatale has proved an object of endless fascination for filmmakers, audiences, and critics alike. Although most notably revived in neo‐noir, she is also to be found diverse cultural contexts and genres, each time articulating a slightly different set of values and generating a slightly different set of critical debates