THE ROLE OF THE FEMME FATALE IN 21ST CENTURY CINEMA
The femme fatale archetype has been used extensively for years in cinema and is significantly associated with film noir (Place 1978). The femme fatale is described as a woman of danger and seduction whose ambitions place her in opposition to her male counterpart, so she must be reminded of her place in society (Place 1978, Smith 2017, Grossman 2007). This is usually shown by either forcing the femme fatale to forgo her ambitions and conform to the role society expects of her, or she is killed because she refuses to conform (Smith 2017). In recent cinema, noir or even neo-noir films are a rarity as the mixing of genre in films becomes increasingly popular as Durgnat (1974) and Shrader (1972) argue that noir is a style rather than a genre. Modern neo-noir films are often paired with a more dominant genre like Drive (Refn, 2011) which is a neo-noir film paired with the narrative and archetypes familiar with a western. Due to this there have been arguments as to whether or not modern female characters can be discussed as femme fatales or if there are better terms to describe them (Farrimond 2017 and Grossman 2007). The terminology used in this dissertation will be provided by scholarship and expanded upon using analysis. Multiple definitions of the femme fatale will be presented from numerous scholars to provide context to the arguments made in this project. The terms ‘detective figure’, ‘anti-hero’ and ‘hardboiled female character’ (Smith 2017 and Grossman 2007) will be mentioned and it will be ascertained whether or not these terms could be used to describe modern female characters. In this dissertation I seek to explore the role of the femme fatale in 21st century cinema using relevant scholarship alongside the films Gone Girl (Fincher, 2014) and A Simple Favour (Feig, 2018). The questions this dissertation poses are: Is the term ‘femme fatale’ the best way to describe lead female characters in 21st century Hollywood cinema? Are these lead female characters marked by increasing complexity? The characters of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) and Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) will be explored in order to answer these questions, however supporting characters will also be paid attention to. Gone Girl and A Simple Favour will be analysed as noir films using both iconography and narrative structure in order to provide further context to the arguments made.