#NewsBytesExplainer: Exploring the presence of femme fatale in cinema—features, examples
Femme fatales in movies are best described as villainous, evil female characters who "lure" men and have an ulterior motive up their sleeve. These women are characterized by wearing large amounts of makeup, donning beautiful attires, and "bringing disaster" upon the men they are involved with. Widely used in films worldwide, they are sometimes also known as "vamps." Let's decode their features and examples.
How does one define a femme fatale?
Per Britannica, "A femme fatale is a seductive/beautiful woman who brings disaster to anyone with whom she becomes romantically involved. The femme fatale is an archetype that appears throughout history in mythology, art, and literature and became a principal character in the hard-boiled detective novels and classic film noir of the 20th century." Originally a French word, it means "lethal or deadly woman."
They drive the plot ahead, add to the film
A femme fatale may not exist in every film, but they were essential figures in several movies in the 20th century and helped in driving the plot ahead. They are also credited with expanding the scope of what women characters can do, as they have their own plot lines and do not simply serve as a romantic interest for the "hero" in the film.
Multifaceted, complex, layered women fulfill the role
Per Britannica, "She is a stock character who embodies many negative tropes about women, but she is also multifaceted and complex. Her intelligence is as essential to the archetype as her beauty. It is her conniving and ambition that often drives plots." At times, they can also be seen "preying on the male hero's weaknesses and leading him astray and into danger."
Some pioneering examples of femme fatale in Hollywood
One of the earliest examples of a femme fatale is Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1941). She is a cold, calculative woman and lures an insurance agent into killing her husband. Other prominent Hollywood examples include Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Ava Gardner in The Killers (1946), and Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946) and The Lady from Shanghai (1947).
Bollywood has featured femme fatale characters for a long time
Bollywood has not been untouched by some impressive femme fatale characters over the years! Some of the most popular examples are Bindu (Kati Patang, Do Raaste, Zanjeer), Tabu (Andhadhun), Kajol (Gupt), Urmila Matondkar (Kaun), Katrina Kaif (Race), Priyanka Chopra (7 Khoon Maaf), Bipasha Basu (Raaz 3), Vidya Balan (Ishqiya), Mahie Gill (Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster), and Konkona Sen Sharma (Ek Thi Daayan), among others.