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    V.I.P. Ariadne's Avatar
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    Default What is a Femme Fatale


    Amazon.com: Femme Fatale: How To
    World Dance New York - Femme Fatal

    (Disclaimer: I don't own this yet but it is on my shortlist for purchase because it just looks that cool.)



    In the "behind the scenes" video found on their facebook page here: Jeniviva's "Femme Fatale" DVD: The Gothic Belle, at 2:10 the question is posed "What makes someone a Femme Fatal." Jeniviva's answer is that she finds the idea of a deadly woman misogynistic due to the culture at the time. She asks the question what makes a woman deadly but lays the blame entirely on the culture and fails to answer her own question. Instead she says that a woman who was in touch with her sexuality and not afraid to ask for what she wanted was persecuted and then goes on to describe what she considers a modern Femme Fatal.

    As a student of history and culture I overreacted to her answer. My initial reaction was - [rant]Are we really so ignorant of history and culture that we don't know the difference between a "bluestocking" and a Femme Fatal! Independent women were certainly looked down upon by high society but they were always respectable! The Femme Fatal never was and there is a huge difference between a woman who is independent and has a mind of her own and one who drives men to kill or be killed to satisfy her! The difference between "I can live without you" and "you can't live without me!"[/rant]



    I'm a lot calmer now but I thought it might make an interesting discussion; what do others think of the Femme Fatale? What is she then and now?

  2. #2
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Femme fatal= la belle dame sans merci.

    We hear people refer to feminists as "men haters" but that term belongs to a woman who uses her allure to manipulate men without compassion or concern for anyone's well-being. I suppose we're off on a semantics exercise again because femme fatals are more often thought of as "man eaters."

    Frankly, being a femme fatal is over-rated. What good are a bunch of men who off themselves or end up in prison for offing someone else for love of you?
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

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    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    My ignorance is showing: I thought a femme fatale was a sort of stock character in old black and white crime dramas. The woman who all the detectives were hot for, but who really did kill her husband.

    ?

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    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    That, too.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

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    I don't get it; do some people think a successful and independent woman is a femme fatale?

    Technically, it's just French for "deadly woman", so you could say it applies to a woman that kills other women.

    As for "man haters", it can apply to men as well as women.

    Juno

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    V.I.P. Ariadne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juno View Post
    Technically, it's just French for "deadly woman", so you could say it applies to a woman that kills other women.
    If that was to their advantage, sure. Shanazel summed it up nicely:
    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    that term belongs to a woman who uses her allure to manipulate men without compassion or concern for anyone's well-being.
    "la belle dame sans merci"

    It's a french term so that should tell you everything you need to know about the implied sexuality if you are familiar with French sexual morals post "courtly love". The difference in France between the Femme Fatale and any other passionate woman was a willingness to use any tactic be it lying, assumed innocence, manipulation, or seduction to achieve their ends without care for what happens to anyone else. The Fatale part comes in that men who were ensnared by her would abandon family, friends, spouse, and children for the woman thus destroying their life. Rather then being the killer herself she was more likely to have enticed someone else to do it for her or to lead the man she ensnared to his death be it in a duel or in the commitment of some crime. The men she ensnared that did not die somehow would simply be discarded when their usefulness was over; usually after they had spent every penny they owned and racked up massive debts of course. The Femme Fatale is actually a rather romantic character in a dark, Gothic, and very French way.


    I hadn't thought about it Shanazel but the modern term would be a "man eater" wouldn't it?

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    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    Femme fatal= la belle dame sans merci.
    = the beautiful lady who never says thank you.

    Interesting thread, gotta go out, back later....

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    V.I.P. Ariadne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aniseteph View Post
    = the beautiful lady who never says thank you.

    Actually it's "The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy/Pity". It's the name of a poem by John Keats, an English poet in the early 19th century.

    Word History To the ancient Romans, the Latin word merces meant "price paid for something, wages, reward." The early Christians of Rome used the word in a slightly different way. For them it meant the spiritual reward one receives for doing a kindness in response to an unkindness. The word came into early French as mercit or merci with much the same meaning as was later passed on to our Modern English word mercy. But while mercy in English now has the meaning "kindness or pity shown to someone," the word merci in French has lost much of that meaning and is chiefly used today to mean "thank you."

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    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aniseteph View Post
    = the beautiful lady who never says thank you.

    Interesting thread, gotta go out, back later....
    Oh, Aniseteph, I adore you!

    A different but somewhat related entity is a leannan si or leannan sidhe, a woman of the faerie in Celtic lore. She is a muse to poets; alas the poet who loves her is so driven to create and to please her that it drives him to madness and eventually death.
    Last edited by Shanazel; 02-18-2011 at 08:11 AM.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  10. #10
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    ... a woman who was in touch with her sexuality and not afraid to ask for what she wanted was persecuted and then goes on to describe what she considers a modern Femme Fatal.
    Naah, doesn't sound right to me either. I agree with Ariadne's and Shanazel's definitions. It's a label that's more about the consequences to other people than what the femme in question has been up to. She could be a manipulative sexual vamp, someone making the best of her situation and feathering her nest when there's no one else to do it for her, an alluring woman who just attracts trouble and bad choices, or the innocent Celtic faerie who poets kill themselves over (gah! dontchajust hate it when that keeps happening? I know I do... ). And all stations in between.

    I disagree that it's because of being in touch with her own sexuality or not afraid to ask for what she wants. Her sexuality doesn't necessarily come into it, and being unafraid to ask for what you want... (excluding the bedroom sense), weren't the suffragettes asking for what they wanted? they weren't femmes fatales.

    It's a glamorous tag because it acknowledges a position of power, IMO.


    I must credit my sources:
    "He had 125 pounds of excess baggage. In the end we had to leave her behind. Lovely girl, known locally as La Belle Dame Sans Merci - the beautiful lady who never says thank you."
    Flanders & Swann, "By Air" from the album "At the Drop of Another Hat" 1963

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