Swallowed up by the best of fashion, an army of henchmen and all the wealth of the country, she is a real eye-catcher with her glamorous on-screen entry. His bewitching blood-red smirk and sultry stroll exudes dominance and one look is deadly enough for the humble. She’s the femme fatale we all know and love or hate in the movies.
The femme fatale trope has made its way to the United States dark movie and flourished in the 1940s and 1950s in crime and horror sagas as a female antihero portrayed as every man’s weakness – she neutralizes every valiant with her haunting aura. Notably, these archetypes come from mythology and folklore, including enchantresses like Circe, Medusa and Medea, the Biblical Eve and Jezebel and even the Hindus Mohini and Vishakanyas. Legendary actors like Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner and Lizabeth Scott were among the most famous vampires of the dark movie time. However, in real life, no one embodies her better than the lovely Marilyn Monroe, whose mysterious yet charming demeanor has made her the sexiest woman in the world.
Entertainment giant Walt Disney Studios is renowned for its devastating, seductive and transgressive female anti-heroes; Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella and the Evil Queen are as much a part of our childhood as their protagonist counterparts. Disney’s upcoming live-action feature film Cruel (due out in India in August) is a prequel to 101 Dalmatians franchise. Set in the midst of London’s underground punk revolution in the 1970s, it reveals the transformation of the willful and mischievous student Estella into the evil puppy-murdering Cruella played by Emma Stone.
While Cruella’s narrative arc is liberating for the image of female antagonists, much like that of Maleficent, the femme fatale stereotype is more problematic than it appears at first glance. On the one hand, these voracious women represent strength, dominance, power and, most importantly, independence. On the flip side, however, the trope was primarily written to show male insufficiency. Post-feminist activists argue that the femme fatale character is written more as a cathartic experience for the male gaze than to show female emancipation. Jessica Rabbit, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson in Marvel Cinematic Universe) and Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone in Primary instinct) are just a few modern examples originally written to embody super-sexualized female power. Scarlett O’Hara (played by Vivienne Leigh in Blown away by the wind, 1939), Gilda Mundson (played by Rita Hayworth in Gilda, 1946) and Cora Smith (played by Lana Turner in the 1946 film The postman always rings twice) were some of the characters whose free portrayal of sexuality made her one of the most popular pin-ups of WWII, which contradicts the sexual freedom granted to them by their writers.
It has long been known that women in power are often taken as sex objects by men, but so are those without authority. On the other hand, breaking free from the taboos behind female sexuality is not easy, unlike male sexuality. While the hypersexualized image has remained faithful to the characters of Jessica Rabbit and Black Widow, the new “femme fatales” are described as more arrogant and less sexual. from disney Cruel and Maleficent fall into this category. Cruella may be evil and murderous, but her revenge struggle and self-built empire barely depends on men. The only vampy thing about her is her canine fur craving, glowing demeanor, and impenetrable sense of pride. Fittingly, Cruella’s latest avatar describes himself as “brilliant … bad … and a little crazy.” ”
Watch Disney Cruella on Disney + Hotstar August 27. Watch the trailer below.