Tag Archives: femme

GSWS-322-401 Queer and Feminist Film – Digital Video (LEE Kai Chun Katon)


Is there a concept of Femme Fatale in the East? Several Chinese interviewees were invited to express their views regarding this theoretical icon of feminism. In particular, a game of stage photos will be played in this documentary to test whether they think the female protagonists are femme fatale. Through this test, we will see what attributes a femme fatale should have in the Chinese mind.


GSWS-322-401 Queer and Feminist Film – Final Paper (LEE Kai Chun Katon)

The University of Pennsylvania
2012-2013 spring semester
Queer and Feminist Film Studies(GSWS 322-401)
Final Paper

Teacher: Dr. Cathy Hannabach
Student: Kai Chun, LEE


 The Construction of Femme Fatale
– Case Study of the film Femme Fatale (2002)


Before the World War II, as stated by Alfonso, history has either completely dismissed female contributions and participations in public sphere or relegated their involvement to scandalous supporting roles and services such as prostitutes (Alfonso, p.59). But women got more attention and power during and after the second-wave feminism. Femme fatale, a special kind of new women, was constructed by feminists as a theoretical icon, instance or figure at that time.

When second-wave feminist critics turned their attention to film and popular culture in the 1970s, Hanson describes that there was a vigorous sense of an important and political critical language being forged (Hanson, p.215). As the Hollywood studio system was considered to be a male-dominated mode of production churning out narratives that ideologically reproduced women’s cultural oppression, the primary and urgent project of the feminists was to evolve feminist interpretative strategies that could locate and interrogate women’s place in that cinema (Hanson, p.215). Thus, femme fatale was used as a means to react to this strong patriarchic filming system.

In this sense, femme fatale became significant to be scrutinized on how this female icon was used to fight against the male-dominated world. Thus, this paper aims at picking up one of the most representative and typical films with the theme of femme fatale as a case study to analyze and draw a conclusion upon how it constructed femme fatale to react to the male-dominated ideology in cinema.

The film to be studied in this paper is FEMME FATALE (2002), a French mystery film directed by Brian De Palma and performed by film stars Rebecca Romijn and Antonio Banderas. The reasons for choosing FEMME FATALE is multiple. Its storyline explicitly concerning the theme of femme fatale means an abundant source for studying the construction of femme fatale. Also, the director Brian De Palma is famous in producing thrilling films with the theme of femme fatale while the female main character Rebecca Romijn is renowned for her another femme fatale character, Mystique in X-MEN. Thus, this film, FEMME FATALE, simultaneously possesses the most abundant source, best director and sophisticated actors in constructing femme fatale. This paper therefore focuses on this film to study its construction of femme fatale.

Sexuality of Femme Fatale

Femme fatale is well-known in playing with her sexuality, especially against men to achieve her goal. Her goal is often associated with crimes, for example, killing men without compunction to confound societal stereotypes of women as passive selfless and material. As femme fatale is so attractive under the male gaze and often involves criminality, she, apart from her academic name “fatal women”, is also considered to be “dangerous women”, “seductive sinners” and “vicious vixens” (Campbell, pp.4-5)

In FEMME FATALE, the female protagonist, Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), was beautiful in the eyes of the men. With regards to her outlook, she wears attractive make-up and different kinds of beautiful dresses throughout the film. In the inaugural scene, she is even naked, lying on the bed (see picture 1).

Picture 1: Laure being naked lies on the bed.

Laure’s sexuality keeps changing throughout the story by performing various emotions. Sometimes she seems cunning, thinking a lot in her mind (see picture 2); sometimes she pretends to be pitiful, begging for men’s sympathy (see picture 3); sometimes she seems sinister and malicious with a wicked smile (see pictures 4 and 5).

Pictures 2 and 3: Sometimes Laure seems cunning, thinking a lot in her mind; sometimes she pretends to be pitiful, begging for men’s sympathy.

sexuality15 sexuality16
Pictures 4 and 5: sometimes she seems sinister and malicious with a wicked smile.

As femme fatale is a theoretical icon to react to the male-dominant world, she is depicted to be born out of the hero’s conflicting desires and it is she who wields power over men (Hayward, pp.90-91). For fooling with and controlling men, femme fatale equips herself with a stronger femininity. Gardiner suggests that it be “female masculinity” (Gardiner, pp.631-632). In contrast, men who are threatened by her “female masculinity” will become seemingly more vulnerable, especially unable to resist the lure of their feminine wiles.

In FEMME FATALE, Laure flirts with several men in different occasions to get control over them. The first man who she flirt with is the American Ambassador Bruce Watts (Peter Coyote). She pretends to lean against him accidentally (see picture 6). She, as an American, even pretends to be French who know nothing about America and talks to Watts that “America is a ‘countly’ ‘vely’ big, no?” with French accent (see picture 7). She intentionally talks without correct grammar and pronounce all the “R” sound as “L”. This makes her, considered to be French by Watts, seem more vulnerable in the American context. Thus, this is the reason why the American Ambassador is attracted by her and wants to protect her. In this way, as expected by Laure, Watts is falling into her trap.

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Pictures 6 and 7: She pretends to lean against him accidentally and be French who know nothing about America speaking English with French accent.

Not only does she become the threat to men’s masculinity, like Bruce Watts, she also gains the control over men. Consider the male protagonist, Bardo (Antonio Banderas) in the film. Laure uses her sexuality to attract him. He becomes particularly vulnerable and later totally under Laure’s control. In one of the scenes, Laure pretends to be not feeling well, and thus requiring taking a bath. However, she takes off her clothes in front of Bardo (see picture 8). In fact, she is intentionally seducing Bardo. This really arouses Bardo’s sexual desire. After having sex, Bardo is satisfied and trusts Laure because he starts to fall in love with her.

Picture 8: Laure takes off her clothes in front of Bardo to intentionally seduce him.

However, Laure is actually making use of him. She then pretends greatly suffering from asthma but she does not have enough medicine. As Bardo trusts her very much, he drives a car to the pharmacy to buy the inhaler for her. However, Laure leaves her underwear, a gun and bullets in the car which belongs to the American Ambassador. She then calls the police while Bardo is on his way to pharmacy, claiming that Bardo is a kidnapper. The police firmly believe Bardo kidnaps Laure, the American Ambassador’s wife, as the car belongs to the American Ambassador and it contains weapons and most importantly, Laure’s underwear.

We can see that Laure has used her sexuality to successfully set Bardo up. As Bardo is lured, he becomes so vulnerable that he cannot resist anything from Laure. The only path for him is to be under Laure’s control. This greatly shows the fatal power of femme fatale.

Especially in an extended twist ending, the entirety of the movie’s events is revealed to be a dream of Laure. But after Laure wakes up, everything seems the same as the dream. However, this time Laure chooses not to use another identity. She decides not to hide anymore. Seven years later, Laure and Veronica (Rie Rasmussen), who is revealed to have been Laure’s partner all along, chat about the success of their diamond caper. Black Tie (Eriq Ebouaney) and Racine (Édouard Montrouge) arrive seeking revenge because Laure double crossed them. However, they are killed by the same truck that killed Veronica in Laure’s dream. Bardo, witnessing all these events, introduces himself to Laure, swearing that he has met her before, with Laure replying “Only in my dreams” (see picture 9 and 10).

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Pictures 9 and 10: Bardo, witnessing all these events, introduces himself to Laure, swearing that he has met her before, with Laure replying “Only in my dreams”.

This ending, for one thing, shows the independence of Laure, portraying the strong femininity while fooling Bardo; and for another it suggests the success of femme fatale. In classic film noir, the femme fatale propelled the action, but her narrative options were numbered: she either died, reformed, or turned out not to be a femme fatale after all (Straayer, p.153). However, compared to the classic ending of femme fatale, that of FEMME FATALE tells us that the new femme fatale is not only limited to the aforementioned paths. In FEMME FATALE, Laure can fool with Bardo at last, choosing to get what she wants from the innermost part of her heart – freedom. This meticulously designed ending greatly shows the construction of the strong femininity of femme fatale.

Ambivalence and Ambiguity of Femme Fatale

Apart from playing with her sexuality, another major characteristic of femme fatale is her sense of ambivalence and ambiguity. Hanson suggests that ambivalent and ambiguous female characterizations recurred as film noir underwent a revival in the 1970s as well as the neo-noir in modern times (Hanson, p.222). To form the uncertainty of the film, Wallace Lee suggests that the homosexuality of femme fatale can increase the indeterminacy of sexuality (Lee, p.369) while Farrimond believes the bisexuality forming duplicity in the characterization of femme fatale makes her veiled and mysterious (Farrimond, pp.145-146).

Referring to the aforementioned sources, bisexuality is no exception in FEMME FATALE. Laure presents a sense of ambivalence and ambiguity by her bisexuality. Laure, as a femme fatale, chooses her partner whoever she wants. On the screen, Laure sometimes seemingly falls in love with the American Ambassador Watts, sometimes Bardo, but in the end Veronica. The audience will feel uncertain in Laure’s sexual orientation and may even ask whether Laure is straight or a lesbian. By forming this uncertainty, the sense of ambivalence and ambiguity is constructed and presented to the audience.

More importantly, the love triangles of the relationships among the characters in the film also construct ambivalence and ambiguity. With regards to love triangle, Hayward suggests that “Traditionally, the expectation would be that, in terms of camera focus, the femme fatale would occupy the apex of the triangle” (Hayward, p.93).

There is no exception for FEMME FATALE. Laure is always the apex of the love triangle. However, this is not exactly the traditional case. In FEMME FATALE, Laure not only involves in typically one love triangle, but two. At first, she is with the American Ambassador Watts but later she changes to be with Bardo. It seems to the Audience Laure is playing between these two men and does not have a plan to settle down on either of them. Meanwhile, another love triangle comes up at the latter part of the film. Laure seemingly loves both Veronica and Bardo. Patently, these two love triangles make their relationship more complicated and Laure more mysterious as she is playing with all her lovers for an unknown reason.

By using their complicated relationship and focusing Laure as the apex of the love triangles, the film focuses her as femme fatale and successfully constructs a great sense of ambivalence and ambiguity.


In construction of femme fatale, the film FEMME FATALE has adopted lots of specific techniques. In portraying the sexuality of femme fatale, the film first focuses on the outlook. It dresses up the femme fatale beautifully, increasing her attractiveness under the male gaze. Also, the sexuality of femme fatale is constructed by emotions. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, as a femme fatale, emotes different feelings through her facial expression, such as cunning, pity and evil. Apart from her facial expressions, her body language embodies her sexuality as well. Laure has seducing acts with the men like Watts and Bardo, which makes her more charming in the eyes of men. FEMME FATALE has constructed the sexuality by weakening the men. While comparing the male patronages with the femme fatale in the film, we can tell the men are much feminized. They become much more vulnerable under the strong feminism (or “female masculinity”). Consider Bardo and Watts in the film. They are both easy to be set up and under control. This relationship with men builds up the sexual power of femme fatale.

To portray the ambivalence and ambiguity of femme fatale, FEMME FATALE uses two techniques. The first one is to add bisexuality into the film. Being bisexual, like Laure, is certainly confusing to the audience in the context of the heterosexual and heteronormative world. Besides, this film adopts an atypical method of love triangles to construct the uncertainty of the film. Flirting with many men and women, Laure is unknown to the audience on who she will choose or what decision she will make. This really helps the construction of the ambivalence and ambiguity of femme fatale.

Thus, it can be concluded that the film – FEMME FATALE – successfully brings out the critical elements of femme fatale by means of the aforementioned 6 methods to construct the concept of femme fatale to react to the male-dominated ideology in cinema.


  • Film

1. De Palma, Brian, Femme Fatale (Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video 2002).

  • Book

1. Campbell, Nerida, Femme Fatale: the female criminal (Sydney: Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 2008).

  • Scholarly and peer-reviewed journals

1. Alfonso, Kristal L., “Femme Fatale 2010”, Air & Space Power Journal, Vol. 24 Issue 3 (Fall, 2010), pp.59-73.

2. Farrimond, Katherine, “‘Stay Still So We Can See Who You Are’: Anxiety and Bisexual Activity in the Contemporary Femme Fatale Film”, Journal of Bisexuality, Vol. 12 Issue 1 (Jan-Mar, 2012), pp.138-154.

3. Gardiner, Judith Kegan, “Female Masculinities”, Men & Masculinities, Vol. 11 Issue 5 (Aug, 2009), pp.622-633.

4. Hanson, Helen, “The Big Seduction: Feminist Film Criticism and the Femme Fatale”, in Helen Hanson and Catherine O’Rawe eds, The Femme Fatale: Images, Histories, Contexts (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp.214-228.

5. Hayward, Susan, “Diabolically Clever – Clouzot’s French Noir Les Diaboliques (1954)”, in Helen Hanson and Catherine O’Rawe eds, The Femme Fatale: Images, Histories, Contexts (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp.89-97.

6. Lee, Wallace, “Continuous Sex: The Editing of Homosexuality in Bound and Rope”, Screen 41.4 (2000), pp.369-387.

7. Straayer, Chris, “Femme Fatale or Lesbian Femme: Bound in Sexual Difference”, Women in Film Noir, 2nd ed., edited by E. Ann Kaplan (London: British Film Institute, 1998), pp.153-161.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I found myself in a dilemma.  I needed to complete a movie watching assignment for class, but I was suffering from a concussion and was highly sensitive to loud noises and bright flashing lights.  What was the sensible conclusion?  Obviously to watch G.I. Joe: Retaliation… with sunglasses and ear plugs, of course.

It looks calm, right?

I need to get that out of the way, because, let’s be real, under those circumstances any movie watching experience was going to be bad, and it should be known that I was justifiably sour.  However, I don’t want that to discount the exact level of terrible that this movie manages to attain.  Don’t see it.  Don’t.  You will miss nothing.  It’s bad.  It’s hyperviolent mindless drivel with a script that isn’t willing to laugh at itself.  Well, there is a pretty cool ninja battle about halfway through.  Otherwise, it’s just a lot of guns and explosions.

Every scene in this movie can be recreated with the toys to generally positive effect

But from my experience, I’m guessing that actually sounds really good to a lot of people.  Actually, I tried to see this movie three times.  Twice on Saturday and then I finally got in on Sunday, because it was sold out at literally every showing.  A fact which blew my mind until I remembered that Transformers 2 was one of the highest grossing films of 2009, and I quickly put together that I am obviously not the target audience for most Hollywood films.  Nor am I probably the audience for movie theaters in general.  I actually very rarely go to see movies and was pleased that I was finally able to use the free movie voucher that I received when a popcorn machine lit the theater on fire during the midnight premier of Avengers (which is an infinitely better movie than G.I. Joe, BTW).

Don’t you wish you were watching this movie instead? I wish I was watching this movie instead.

As I was entering the theater, I was shuffled by the concession stand where I could still see the burn marks on the popcorn machine that is apparently still being used.  I decided to get a small coke, which must actually be something like 20 oz., and then go find a seat in a place that seemed to be marginally quieter than anywhere else in the room.  I then watched as the room slowly filled up with mostly Black, mostly male, mostly young adult attendees, decked to the brim with popcorn and candy.  I don’t know if any of them were queer, but I would put money on none of them being femme queers, at the least.  You could almost smell the testosterone.  Well, I’m getting cynical again, but these are all pretty accurate descriptions, and they shouldn’t totally surprise.  The theater I went to is located in West Philadelphia, so that could describe a good chunk of the population at virtually anything… less so the distinctly masculine part, but I blame that entirely on explosions and action figures.  Incidentally, the area also has a history of gun violence, which actually prompted the theater to change its name at one point so that it would stop being associated with all of the shootings that happened inside of it.

I do also just want to put special emphasis on the candy and popcorn.  I understand that as a vegan, I have an unusual diet, but I really had no idea that people ate so much of that stuff.  There really was hardly anyone in the theatre without something from the concession stand outside, even I had a coke on my armrest.  Considering the movie costs ~$10 to begin with, adding on massively overpriced junk food makes every movie outing roughly $20 per person.  It becomes more and more clear to me why I pirate my movies most of the time.

In any case, when the movie started the crowd got… mostly quiet.  At different points in the film, mostly around significantly more violent or erotic scenes, people in the audience would shout out different things, from a satisfied, “oh shit!” after a bad guy got his comeuppance, to a painfully horny, “oh shit!” when we got a sensationally sexy shot of Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki).  In other news, I’d like to see Flint (DJ Cotrona) put into some of Lady Jaye’s or Jinx’s (Elodie Yung) battle positions for the Hawkeye Initiative.  They do an impractically good job of dismembering their enemies while still highlighting their digitally enhanced feminine curves.  Interestingly, the brief scene in which DJ Cotrona appears shirtless, presumably to show off the new, highly advanced and durable body armor known as his abdominals, was actually cut from the film.  Womp womp.  Luckily, there were no ladies in the audience to be disappointed about this, but I was positively livid, of course.

If the movie was just 90 minutes of shirtless DJ Cotrona standing around, it would be an infinitely better movie than what it is now


On the subject of ladies, let’s talk a little bit about femme fatales.  Actually, this move has very fatale femmes.  They kill, like, hundreds of people each.  Jinx is basically a fembot.  She lacks distinctive character traits beyond some sort of troped idea of what lady ninjas are supposed to be like (see Psylocke from the X-Men if you are looking for further character study into this phenomenon), and she has no really identifiable feminine traits other than boobs.  Lady Jaye is a little different, among the central trio of Joes, she is ostensibly the “smart” one, because in this universe one is considered to be of exceptional intelligence when they can deduce that something is wrong when the president decides to replace the nation’s military with the most high-profile terrorist organization on the planet.  Brilliant.  As the head of intelligence for the Joes, one would think that she might employ some of the typical femme fatale tricks of getting what she wants, but she’s also the team’s gun expert and spends the majority of her time emasculating the men around her with impossibly huge rifles.  The myriad scenes in which she is dressed provocatively are primarily for fanservice, and not to reveal any type of social truth about the objectification of women.

As Chris Straayer points out, “despite her sexualized image, economic ambitions supplanted her [the classic femme fatale’s] libido and violence displaced sexual pleasure.  The classic femme fatale was known for her trigger-happy killings, not her orgasms.”  Lord, that could not be more accurate for these women (well, technically, Jinx uses a sword, but whatever).  The problem here is that good femme fatales, well-written femme fatales, express these traits because they live in a world that is so overwhelmingly dominated by men that this type of sexuality-fueled homicide is the only way that they can reasonably exert similar power to the violent men around them.  In G.I. Joe, these women are violent for the sake of violence.  Additionally, classic femme fatales are punished, “her narrative options were numbered: she either died, reformed, or turned out not to be a femme fatale after all.”  Jaye and Jinx do none of these things and are actually commemorated as heroes.  And so it raises this question of, how femme are these women really?  The answer is very little.  They are either feminine in this kind of robotic male fantasy sense or feminine in the everything about them is a man except for the boobs way, neither of which are actually feminine.  They say the best woman is a man.  There are no women in this film.

Don’t let the pretty face fool you

When people talk about films like this, and characters like Lady Jaye, there is a strong tendency to refer to them as “strong female characters,” which implies a certain feminism to it all.  In response to that, another highly violent, but probably actually feminist film series The Millennium Series she be used to contrast.  However where in that series, violence is perpetrated against women and Lisbeth Salander is forced to enter the system of violence in order to become safe and happy in a world that is so fundamentally geared against her, in this series, there are highly graphic scenes of women committing violence against others for little point other than to further the objectives of their male superiors.  As Jack Halberstam points out, a strong female character is not all that it takes to really be a feminist character.  “The feminist component to the [Millennium] trilogy rests partly with the character of Salander and partly with the complex plotting which repeatedly links family violence to larger systems of political and economic violence and which implies that any resolution to the plot has to seek social justice by connecting the intimate and personal politics of the home to the public and transnational politics of the economy.”  G.I. Joe kind of maybe satisfies the first half of that in strong female characters, which we’re going to give credit to, because maybe you don’t agree with me that they shouldn’t really even be considered women.  It completely fails when it comes to the second point, though.  In the G.I. Joe world, women are equal, I suppose.  Certainly nobody is getting raped, and the concerns of women when Cobra takes over the world are hardly the first priority.  Everything is driven by men, for men, and the women in the film are expected to be equal in all aspects to their male counterparts, which is a very different thing than saying that the men should be equal to the women.  Unlike what you’re algebra teacher told you, in social justice, equality is not reflexive.  The answer to LITERALLY EVERY problem in G.I. Joe is more violence.  And it’s expected that women are just totally on board to be blowing shit up, because obviously they benefit from that as well, instead of maybe recognizing that violence disproportionately affects women and that contributing to a system like that actually makes things even worse for women and totally reinforces the patriarchy and all of its fucked up rape culturey politics.

But really, it’s G.I. Joe.  If you were expecting a feminist opus, you were not going to this movie.  Again, unsurprisingly, there were not a whole lot of women in the audience.

The general consensus after seeing the movie from the people exiting the theatre seemed to be that it was pretty good.  Plenty of teenage boys imitating the action sequences (or, at least the guns) and talk of cool explosions and ninjas.  The women in the audience seemed maybe less amused, but there was little distinctly negative opinion from anyone that was willing to vocalize it.  Mindless action wins out again, and the system perpetuates itself for more mindless action in the future.  America!


My other option was Tyler Perry’s Temptation, if you’re wondering why I chose G.I. Joe.

Halberstam, Jack.  “The Girl Who Played With Queer Utopia.” 2010. 2013. <http://bullybloggers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/the-girl-who-played-with-queer-utopia/&gt;.

Straayer, Chris.  “Femme Fatale or Lesbian Femme.” Women in Film Noir.  2nd Ed.  Ed. E. Ann Kaplan.  London: British Film Institute, 1998. 153-161.

Research Proposal


Currently, I have a very convoluted and entangled web of ideas that seems to become more complicated the more I do research. Mainly however, through this project proposal, I want to analyze the femme aesthetic and the idea of “passing” among mainstream and queer groups. Films such as Bound and Female to Femme presented the tensions that arise between the different forms of self-presentation between butch and femme women, both internally and externally. The LGBT community may often regard individuals that are able to pass by what is deemed as the mainstream heterosexual aesthetic as not being queer enough. Through their appearance as either more feminine or masculine subjects, the film presented the bodies of lesbian women in order to signify different things. The stocking-clad legs of Violet are framed in a much different way than is the body of Corky or even that of Joao in Madame Sata. These films in particular address the varying portrayals of femininity as well as femme-ness. Duggan and McHugh emphasize the fluidity that exists within the category of femme by emphasizing its fluidity, “a fundamental challenge to the category, the slot, the ideal of the feminine” (Duggan &McHugh 166). And at the same time, Female to Femme portrays the process and of the choices necessary to arrive to the label of femme. This is an identity that appeared to be carefully articulated and analyzed; performativity was present as women were aware of and reveled in being viewed. Yet what I still have questions about is the consideration and thought process that goes behind positioning oneself or identifying as a femme. Female bodies are always presented in terms of comparison to one another and this appears magnified in the positioning of femme and butch women. Huxley, Clarke, and Halliwell address the “negotiation of gender and sexual identity categories at the level of individual butch and femme identity narratives” as these two groups are often placed at different ends of the spectrum of lesbian gender performance.

Ellen Samuels address the subject of the passing femme in an extremely interesting way that also addresses the other topics we have mentioned in class in regards to disability and gender identity. She frames disability and the misidentification of gender identity of queer women as “person whose bodily appearance does not immediately signal one’s own sense of identity” (Samuels 323). According to theorists, the analogy that is created between queer and disability identity arises as a result of the difficulties in access to queer culture. We must not forget that at one point, homosexuality and queerness was considered a mental disorder. Samuels speaks about the privileges that arise from passing as non-disabled and being non-queer but also of the internal dissonance that exists.

Even though Bound uses Corky and Violet as juxtapositions of one another, the film argues that the butch is necessary for society to believe the truth and validity behind the identity of the femme. As an audience, we needed Violet to run off into the sunset with another woman in order to believe that she was truly a lesbian yet this question never arose in terms of Corky’s sexuality. Violet and Corky are presented in the film as complementing one another in terms that reflect heterosexual relationships. The femme(fatale) is not shown as an individual that is able to stand on its own but rather requires the butch/masculine aesthetic and identity in order to convince herself and others of being lesbian/queer. While butch subjects face the challenges of hyper-visibility within mainstream society, the femme body is subject to invisibility not only among heteronormative but also queer society. VanNewkirk however, sees a subversive power within being invisible, since they refute the myth that “sexuality is always concrete and permanent… femme sexuality, because of its occasional invisible state, has the potential to move between ideological positions in order to destabilize them.” Being femme thus goes beyond aesthetics as an identity that defies the structures put in place by homonormative and heteronomative societies.

My plan of action for this project will be to organize my thoughts so that a topic as broad as the femme aesthetic becomes more manageable. I will read more articles that expand on the experience of being femme as well as the notion of being able to pass. Additionally, I want to refine my research in order to decide whether I will limit my research to only apply to women that identify as femme or whether this will also be extended onto men, such as Joao from Madame Sata.

Research questions:

–       What are the considerations and thought process that go behind becoming femme?

–       Is there a specific criterion that must be met for a woman to be considered femme as opposed to butch?

–       What are the privileges and downfalls of individuals being able to “pass” within mainstream society?

–       Can the femme identity stand on its own without the butch.


Samuels, Ellen Jean.GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 9, Number 1-2, 2003, pp. 233-255

VanNewkirk, Robbin. “‘Gee, I Didn’t Get That Vibe from You’: Articulating My Own

Version of a Femme Lesbian Existence.” Journal of Lesbian Studies

Caroline J. Huxley, Victoria Clarke and Emma Halliwell ”It’s a Comparison Thing, Isn’t It?” : Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Accounts of How Partner Relationships Shape Their Feelings About Their Body and Appearance, Psychology of Women Quarterly 2011 35: 415



Female to Femme

Madame Sata


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