Two or three things I know about her: Violent Women in Contemporary Cinema by Janice Loreck

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[Extract] There’s a moment in Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992) when Dr. Beth Garner tries to warn her on-again off-again lover, Detective Nick Curran, of the danger posed by his prime suspect in a homicide investigation: the infinitely alluring and devious Catherine Trammel. Flustered that Nick cannot see himself as the pawn in Catherine’s manipulations, Garner exclaims: “She’s evil! She’s brilliant!” As over-the-top as this declaration is (we’d expect nothing less from Verhoeven, after all), it is true that Western cinema and culture is endlessly fascinated by the figure of the femme fatale. That the so-called fairer sex may turn villainous unsettles persistent gender expectations, effectively creating a “problem” that must be solved. Defying the prescribed norms of passivity and maternal instincts, the femme fatale is both captivating and Other. She’s evil, she’s brilliant, often she’s sexy, and she’s almost always an enigma.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSenses of Cinema
Issue number81
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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