Final Project Proposal

Andrea Treus

Final Project Proposal 


-Is being a femme fatale a crime? Do the physical characteristics of the femme fatale further criminalize her character?

-How do the queer undertones imply to be a crime in films? How obvious does their queerness have to be to the audience? For example, in Rope their relationship was never explicitly stated. On the other hand, in Bound there were scenes of their sexual encounters.

-How critical is the role of a femme fatale in a film? How is she significant to the social construction of women today?  For example, the fact that she is almost always in a relationship, financially dependent and a supporting character.


            In my final paper, I would like to discuss the role of the femme fatale in neo-noir films and analyze the perceptions audiences make about her. In order to analyze these perceptions, it is important to consider her physical appearance and the role that she plays in relation to other characters. They are often in some type of relationship with a male, but not necessarily married. A significant aspect to examine is the nature of their relationship.

            I also intend to incorporate the fact that a femme fatale’s sexuality can be considered a crime in neo-noir films. It is not explicitly presented as a crime but the implications around the sexuality can make it seem as though it is. Her sexuality can be interpreted in two ways. One way would be her physical features such as the way she dresses and her demeanor. Her clothing is always associated with darkness and is tight and revealing. According to societal constructs, proper women do not wear colors like black and red. These colors are worn by women who are meant to seduce men and cause damage. Everything about a femme fatale is supposed to portray sex appeal. Another way her sexuality is interpreted is through her physical and explicit attractions to a certain gender.  In ‘Stay Still So We Can See Who You Are’: Anxiety and Bisexual Activity in the Contemporary Femme Fatale Film, Farrimond explores how femme fatale characters, who seduce women as well as men, are characters who are sexy and deadly. She also examines the identity of the character who seduces both males and females. As seen in Bound, Violet’s sexual orientation and intentions are questioned by Corky because of the fact that she is a femme fatale. Why is a femme fatale’s sexuality always in question and why does she have to be constrained to a specific identity?

            I will be concentrating on three main films, Bound, Rope and Psycho. I chose to analyze Rope because of the fact that the two main characters are in a relationship yet the audience never witnesses it. The visible crime to the audience is the murder of their former classmate but the implicit crime can be interpreted as their queerness. Why isn’t their relationship ever physically presented in the film, even though there are implications? I chose Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, because it tells a story of a secretary who embezzled money from her employer for her divorced boyfriend. This film demonstrates how the femme fatale is always financially dependent of a male and in order to become independent, she needs to commit a crime. Alfred Hitchcock is a director who is well known for neo-noir films and I believe that this film is a useful example of the use of a femme fatale. Finally, I will be using Bound to analyze the Intersectionality of both themes, femme fatale and the non-explicit crime. Corky and Violet’s intentions of theft and their relationship demonstrate how the main point of the film is not the violence but rather their sexuality. I am not sure if I would like to include a modern film that uses the femme fatale as one of the main characters but I will keep looking for one that might be useful for this specific topic.

            For my video, I would like to put together clips from each movie that demonstrate the implicit crime whether it is interactions between the characters or statements said by other characters. I would also like to include images of femme fatales and how they have developed over time, from the 1940s to the present.



Forouzan, E. and Cooke, D. J. (2005), Figuring out la femme fatale: conceptual and

assessment issues concerning psychopathy in females, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 23: 765–778

Katherine Farrimond (2012) ‘Stay Still So We Can See Who You Are’: Anxiety and

Bisexual Activity in the Contemporary Femme Fatale Film, Journal of Bisexuality, 12:1, 138-154

Hales, Barbara (1996), Women as Sexual Criminal: Weimar Constructions of the

Criminal Femme Fatale, Women in the German Yearbook, 12: 101-121

Straayer, Chris (1998), Femme Fatale or Lesbian Femme: Bound in Sexual Difference

            Women in Film Noir, London British Film Institute, 2: 153-161

Wallace, Lee (2000), Continuous sex: the editing of homosexuality in Bound and

            Rope, Screen 414, 369-387


One thought on “Final Project Proposal

  1. channabach

    The questions you’re asking here about the relation between sexual/gender construction and criminalization are great, and will make for an interesting analysis.

    The combination of Bound, Rope, and Psycho will work well, but you’ll need to account for the differences between classic noir films (Rope, Psycho) and neo-noir films (Bound). These are produced in different historical periods and, as Lee Wallace and Chris Straayer point out, their gender and sexual politics are quite different (think of the role of feminism, among others). Also, there isn’t a classic femme fatale character in Rope, there is no “deadly woman” (the women are rather tame, forgettable, and superfluous to the plot, all of which is the opposite of the femme fatale). Are you planning to argue that one of the men characters functions as a femme fatale? If so, that’s a fine argument to make, but you’ll need to explain how this operates and how that character fits the classic model of the femme fatale and/or modifies those conventions.

    Some resources you may find useful: Kara Keeling’s The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense*, E. Ann Kaplan’s Women in Film Noir*, Robert Corber’s Cold War Femme**, Richard Dyer’s “Queer Noir”**, and Richard Dyer’s “Resistance Through Charisma: Rita Hayworth & Gilda”**.

    * titles = books I own that you can borrow if you want
    ** titles = posted to Readings page (scroll down to bottom)

    Looking forward to seeing where this takes you.

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