What is a Femme Fatale

Ariadne

Well-known member

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]



:lol: 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?
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
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? ;)
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
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.

?
 

Juno

New member
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
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
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:
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?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
= the beautiful lady who never says thank you. ;)
:lol: :lol: :lol:
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."
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
= the beautiful lady who never says thank you. ;)

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

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.
 
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Aniseteph

New member
... 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... ;) :rolleyes:). 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​
 

Juno

New member
I was just thinking that the inappropriate use of Femme Fatale as a general term for any independent, seductive female sounds like something propagated by insecure men. So, Jeniviva is probably just using the term used by males around her. However, a strong, independent woman should do a better job of getting the terminology right.

If I was a woman, I would find it a bit offensive to be referred to as a Femme Fatale just for being independent or seductive.
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I was just thinking that the inappropriate use of Femme Fatale as a general term for any independent, seductive female sounds like something propagated by insecure men. So, Jeniviva is probably just using the term used by males around her.
Not a chance, in fact she is owning the name.

Ah... I wish I could just embed that section of the video but I would rather respect their copyright sooo... in Jeniviva's own words... forgive my attempt at transcription but I think I have it right.
"For me the Femme Fatale, the modern day Femme Fatale, is a women who again is; in touch with her sensuality, umm, who is not afraid to ask for what she wants, who lives her life as free as she chooses without apology, and someone who enjoys her body. I mean I came to know about the Femme Fatal through bellydance and through bellydance I got in touch with the divine feminine within us. It was just ah, something that was innate in all women we just needed to remember it. And once I remembered it I started looking in history in, other dancers; Ruth St. Denis, umm, actresses; Theda Bara was a huge inspiration, umm, Anita Berber, Louise Brooks, these wild women, bad gals if you will, they provoked people they made major changes with the choices and the roles they took on in, you know, their boldness. For us to do that today it definitely makes you a little bit dangerous but it's kind of empowering so, we're taking the term and flipping it on it's head."​

That is why I was also wondering what people thought of the modern Femme Fatal, what it meant to them?
 

Aniseteph

New member
These days IMO it is mostly used in a tongue-in-cheek way, or to play dressing up.

I'm trying to think of anyone famous who you could seriously apply it to... :think:
 

Za Linda

New member
Femme Fatale makes me think of:

1) Judith befriending the warlord Holophernes, with the aid of alcohol, then beheading him as he slept, effectively preventing the imminent invasion and slaughter of her country. As the story goes, she was a beautiful widow, who turned down all suitors. (Wikipedia link)

2) the elegant archetype in old movies, who feigns innocence while kicking the smoking gun under the nearest counterpane. (But are her 'prints on the gun? Or is she protecting someone?)

In essence, a beautiful woman performs a dirty deed unexpectedly, perhaps using her wily charms to achieve this. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the dirty deed depends on who it inconveniences, and wily charms might be social skills by another name. Perhaps she is really a heroine.

Who does this sort of thing these days?:)

Perhaps we are all Femme Fatales on rare occasions...but it depends on who is reporting on the action.
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I don't think we have any really good Femme Fetales in film these days. Maybe it's because the "vamp" doesn't mean what it used to, a vampire that drained the life out of others. It used to be a stigma and now being a vamp is something some women publicly aspire to. Maybe the lack of roles is because if someone did make a proper Femme Fatale character they would be accused of misogyny. Whatever the reason it's a real pity.


In essence, a beautiful woman performs a dirty deed unexpectedly, perhaps using her wily charms to achieve this. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the dirty deed depends on who it inconveniences, and wily charms might be social skills by another name. Perhaps she is really a heroine.
In some literature sometimes she is an anti-hero, the conniving woman who for the first time falls honestly in love and is willing to do anything, even change, for other person; the female counterpart to the heartless rouge changed by the love of a good woman. If they do whatever it is out of unselfish motives though doesn't that by definition mean they are not "sans merci", not really a Femme Fatale? Mind you mistaken motives and character are an excellent plot device.
 

Reen.Blom

New member
Apart from other description, I see it it as an 'inaccessible' woman, too expensive, too demanding, too beautiful, too whatever, requiring to sacrifice everything if need be.

Now, what EXACTLY is dvd about? Creating such image on stage? A diva-vamp image?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
Product Description
Jeniviva shows you step-by-step how to create three fantasy looks: The Victorian Vampire Femme Fatale, the Flapper Vamp, and the Gothic Lolita. She demonstrates meticulously every stage of makeup application, from base to decorative accents, teaches you methods of color, texture, and tools selection; offers tutorials on hair styling, and shares ideas for costuming and accessorizing your look on a budget, often using items you can already find in your own closet.

Though I understand there has been some objections to her version of the Gothic Lolita as the traditional Gothic Lolita comes from Japan and is coy or innocent rather then sexy.

Either way as someone who loves gaslamp fantasy I have GOT to have this. The tutorial on finger waves would suck me in even without the Victorian Gothic look.
 

Belly Love

New member
I always had the idea in my head that a Femme Fatal was a beautiful woman who could get away with anything, including murder, just because she's so beautiful.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
If a man did the equivalent of what a femme fatale is, he would be considered a very successful man who is confident enough and dashing enough to go after what he wants. He would also be called a hero.

Double standard in my experience.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I dunno. A guy who uses his beauty and charisma to get away with anything and leave bodies in the path while doing it is at best a jerk and at worst a sociopath, same as a woman doing the same.
 
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