Hey everyone, Flobo here!
Today I want to talk to you about the most sensational, interesting, and often replicated character archetype you see in books, TV and the movies. That’s right, The FEMME FATALE. I’ll spare you the outright definition, but rather I would like to talk to you about it’s popularity. Why do we love the mischievous, sexually-aware, dangerous character type so much?
I have a confession to make. I am a Film School Graduate. I know, I know, “Do you want fries with that?” Buuuuut, I remember in particular my first semester in film school, I took a class that celebrated short film. No, I’m serious, the class was called “Short Film Form”. Anyway, after watching a film noir short film and coupling that with clips from the film “Double Indemnity” we had a discussion about who was the most usually the most dynamic character in those types of films? Sure, the grizzled hardboiled cop or private eye gets all the love (and most of the screentime) but it’s usually the female character who manipulates our hero down the path of the story.
Let me stop here. This may come to a shock to you but most fiction writers are men. Usually middle-aged men of European descent. Usually (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) their protagonists (also known as the “hero” of the piece) usually reflects the author’s sensibilities. If you allow me to speculate, I hypothesize that if a fictional world and the characters within were created by a man, that everything that comes and upsets that world such as sex and other vices tend to be introduced by female characters…You know, the foreign stuff.
Now, please don’t click away as I am no misogynist. I also realize there are “male fatales” out there, (The “Twilight” book series comes to mind), but I’m going with the majority here.
So what do we got? We have a clever woman (who shares characteristics from other tropes such as “The Madam” , and “The Enchantress”) who through her beauty and wits usually send our normally male hero off into a mess of plot complications. This isn’t reserved for just crime films. Check out this for example:
I don’t care what anybody says, the Dreamworks animated film “Shark Tale” is one of my favorite animated flicks that got lost in the shuffle as it came out the same year as “Finding Nemo”. Sidenote: I’m not a fan of many Pixar films, but that’s another post for another time.
So the story goes that Oscar (played by Will Smith) has dreams of making it “big” and living on the hill. He’s a nobody and the movie goes through great lengths to establish that. But, after a comedy of errors, Oscar gets pegged “The Sharkslayer” a sole fish with the power to kill sharks that get in his way. This is obviously a lie, and Oscar really wants to end the charade before it gets out of hand but then:
The “gold digger” Lola (I’m serious, she even appears to her own song, “Gold Digger“) latches onto Oscar because he is now big time. This throws a wrench into an ever increasing lie, and Oscar scrambles to fix everything before the lie gets out of hand.Sure I’m going over crucial plot details (Watch the movie!!) but it’s the introduction of Lola that really intrigued me. When Oscar was a nobody he didn’t have much, and like most people in that predicament wouldn’t mind going back to not having much. However when he gets tangled with Lola, our Will-Smith voiced fish actually feels that someone actually desires him for once.
And there lies the rub.
Desire. There’s that word again. The stakes for the story automatically get raised when Oscar risks not only being outed as a fraud, but also being back to being alone. Of course in this movie (and countless others) there’s a “good girl” archetype (This time played by Angie, voiced by Renée Zellweger) there to pick up the broken pieces. You could make the argument that Oscar character didn’t deserve a good girl to fall back on, but I personally cut the film some slack because it’s a movie for kids.
Even so, there’s a lot to learn from it.
Until next time,