The femme fatale is one of the most elusive characters in novels and cinema. We all know what the femme fatale represents and does in general ways.
I always liked the idea of a femme fatale. The sexy, usually European woman who was more cunning than you thought she was, seducing the protagonist using sexuality as a weapon. Speaking of which, how many times have you heard of that notion? Sexuality as a weapon. Oh, it exists; we remember the Femme Bots in Austin Powers who had machine gun boobs. And maybe some are aware of Doris Wishman’s Grade Z classics “Deadly Weapons” and “Double Agent 73″ where extremely well endowed actress Chesty Morgan killed the bad guys by practically suffocating them with her bust. Calm down Russ Meyer! Sexuality as a weapon is the perfect excuse to display nudity in movies. When we see this nudity (and even today’s PG-13 nudity, usually a partial shot of an ass or breast), it’s either in reckless gratuity or accompanied with an excuse by the director or producer: “The film’s sex and nudity is for artistic reasons! OR ”The film’s sex and nudity is meant to display how the female characters use sexuality as a weapon!” Come on, we all know that these days sexuality and nudity in movies is about as artistic as a cheap coloring book, but we still want to pull out our crayons don’t we?
As for sexuality as a weapon, well, most directors and producers should know that the target audience doesn’t care about the artistic intention – they WANT TO SEE IT! Needless to say, the target audience we are talking about here are of course, The Guys, The Dudes, The Males. We eagerly pay our $8.50 to see the latest magnum opus that’s Rated R for Strong Sexuality. That’s regardless of what the sexuality entails, whether it’s a scene where our hero on the make accidentally opened his curtains at the wrong (or should I say right) time to see the girl next door changing, or a sequence where a character is watching Pay-Per-View after 1 a.m. Remember Mr. or Mrs. Director/Producer, sexuality or nudity in films sometimes can only be taken at face value (how the hell else would you literally take it anyway?) If there’s a message or symbolic logic behind it, then that’s interesting, but remember when the good ol’ MPAA rates it R for Strong Sexuality, the aforementioned audience may lose sight of it or will just not care.
Now, as for some other audience members, hey, sexuality portrayed in a certain sense other than just titillation is fascinating. I remember watching a TV show on modern sexuality one time and the episode was about sex in horror movies. The intellectuals, critics, writers, whatever were making observations about how sex fits into horror movies. Well, yes, it sells tickets, but according to their opinions, in horror flicks, sex is seen as a horrible thing. It’s deadly. The killer knocks off the couple having sex (see any Friday the 13th or Scream) for moralistic reasons to show that sex kills. But morals? Okay, aside from killing being a major and societal moral wrong, I guess horror movie killers have their own morals as well. But wait a minute, sometimes in horror movies, the girl is just taking a shower. Do killers have something against personal hygiene? I don’t know if they read too much into it, but maybe the filmmakers did intend that. Message to fans of “Friday The 13th”: Remember in “Part 2,” when the ever attractive Amy Steel stripped down to just her underwear, avoided any sex, and ended up becoming the heroine and the only survivor? Observant! Horror films aren’t only intended for cheap scares, they are morality plays and cautionary tales about sex. Listen all you Christian groups! Do not ban these movies; they are on your side!
The problem with symbolic morals in that sense is that some people didn’t notice or even care for that notion of sexual morality in those movies. They saw sex, they were happy. So the question is, do observations and insights about sexuality belong in modern movies when some of us just want to see some boobies? Hollywood movies are one thing. Independent, foreign or art house films are another.
I know of the foreign or art film where the nudity is essential, and is the appropriate place for “artful sexuality,” but a lot of people have complete ignorance of it. I guess it leads us to Freud, “Sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar.”
But hey, as long as sexuality is used as a distraction in some movies, there can be hope. The American Pie series made us laugh about sex and how silly it is. But it still drew the huge crowd of us kids wanting to see Nadia, as she was like the Kim Cattrall of “Porky’s.” However, it was a win-win situation. Nudity was seen, but the morals of sex and growing up were still presented. I like that notion. Let’s have both. I still have some coming of age to do.
Posted on September 23, 2003 in Features by Andrew Lapointe
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- FEMME FATALE
- NO LACK OF FEMME FATALES IN BURBANK THIS WEEKEND
- THE RAINMAKER
- HEATHER ASHLEY: SURVIVING THE HOLLYWOOD JUNGLE
- ONLINE SURVEY SAYS MOVIEGOERS PREFER NO NUDITY
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