Feminism and Film Noir

“Feminism and the Film Noir” (Privilege of Legends)

One of the depressing aspects of the study of women in art works is the repetition of the same structures, showing the strong hold of patriarchy.

In the cinema world leading up to the 40‘s this was indeed no exception. Women’s roles were often overshadowed by their male protagonist counterparts on screen, and subsequently their paycheques reflected this. With the emergence of the film noir however, a clear shift was being witnessed involving the role of women in society.

In the 40’s, the striking significance of noir lay in it’s distinguished and at times powerful roles of it’s female characters… (who) challenge the world view at the time and throw the conventional patriarchal system on it’s head. With women central to the pulp of the framework of the film noir, they were no longer safely placed in the submissive roles of their subsidiary predecessors. Moreover, through the prowess and sexuality of the femme fatale, noir also successfully exposed the vulnerability of the men in it’s world… read more.

“Feminism and Film Noir” (Bust)

Today, what society considers “sexy” has a not-so-subtle meaning. Many viewers only consider an actress “sexy” if she’s a sex symbol, or has appeared in several billboards, magazines, advertisements, movies, etc. When I watched Bacall in The Big Sleep as a young teen, I didn’t consider her “sexy.” But then, I caught on. Bacall played deep-toned, husky, and masculine characters onscreen that gave her a fearful, dangerous appeal. This in turn made her “sexy.” Her sex appeal wasn’t measured by her looks, but by her power, her tough attitude, her confidence, and her adult sexuality. Women in film noir represent a strong female mystery — a mystery about what it means to be a woman… read more.

“Feminism and the Figure Fembot” (Simple Complexities)

The Fembot and the Femme Fatale are two artistic archetypes that clearly share much in common. Yet, there is another female archetype that arose from the film noir cinema… woman as the virgin, the mother, the innocent, the redeemer. This ‘redeemer’ figure is the alter ego of the Femme Fatale. Rather than a dynamic, aggressive, sexual woman, the Redeemer is usually flat, passive, and almost entirely cut off from her own sexuality, unless she is given the natural ‘privilege’ of motherhood. She gives love and understanding (or at least forgiveness), asks very little in return (just that he come back to her) and is generally visually passive and static. The Femme Fatale shares no characteristics with her narrative foil, except for perhaps the appearance of passivity. This is one of the main ways the Femme Fatale first misleads the male lead. She appears to need assistance, to be merely at the center of events beyond her control. By the film’s climax however it is clear to the male lead that she was never the wilting flower he had been lead to believe her to be. It is he who is made passive… read more.