Women in film noir have traditionally been the subject
of misreading by their male protagonists as well as film viewers and critics
who perpetuate and institutionalize this misreading.
Male protagonists project their fears and desires onto
women, superimposing the traits of the “femme fatale” onto them. This obsessive
ideation with women influences viewer habits and extends into popular scholar
writing, further cementing these perceptions.
The psychosocial representative of the female
narrative is overlooked and the complexity and psychological depth of these
women are unacknowledged. This reduces them from three-dimensional characters into
seemingly narrow, hypersexualized and stereotypical figure.
Yet, Grossman believes otherwise
that the rigidity of the “femme fatale” is questionable. Even if a femme
fatale is easily identifiable for her dangerous sexuality which serves a threat
to gender conventions, they are more often distinguished for their
unconventionality, desire to challenge social order or other traits.
movies do challenge the enforcement of gender boundaries by presenting women as
varied and complex. It is the modeling of heroic females as the only valid
feminist representation that causes us to fail to examine the stresses and
tensions surrounding other representations that help us decipher the more complex
forms of gender bias and oppression.
Additionally, the rigidity in the way feminist
perspectives are conceived discourages open discussions and sensitivity to the
portrayal of the female experience. This blurred association of women in noir
deters us from understanding the role of the femme fatale and how or why it has
Also, interpreting the film’s message solely on the
conclusion compounded by the tendency to assume a straightforwardness to a
doubtful male narrative leads a negative construction of the “femme fatale”
rather than a dynamic tool of critique. The cultural difficulty in responding
to realistically complex and divided portraits of ambitious women is also
another factor that leads us to impose restrictive categories on them.