Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hero Archetypes: the Femme Fatale

The direct translation of the term Femme Fatale is Dangerous or Deadly Woman. The key features of this type of character are a stunning beauty and sexuality coupled with the ability to use that beauty as a weapon. Initially every character who displayed these attributes was automatically a villainess. Over time as a way of keeping things interesting, femme fatales started being written as anti-heroines more and more often.

Because of the controling and secretive nature of these characters they are often able to seamlessly change from one moral allignment to the other with no problems. There was a line from a film which I cannot place which explains the essence of this archetype better than anything else I can think of. At one point when a character is asked what side of a conflict she's on she answers with one word... "Mine."

This archetype is basically what the whole Noir style of writing was based on, so there are countless numbers of these characters in film noir, television noir, and comics noir.

  • Elektra from Daredevil
  • Phyllis Dietrichson from Double Indemnity as well as countless other stars of film noir
  • Poison Ivy and Catwoman from Batman
  • Black Widow of the Avengers
  • Black Cat from Spider-Man
  • Eve, Jezebel, Delilah and countless Biblical women
  • Cleopatra
  • Morgan Le Fay from Tales of Camelot
  • Aphrodite
  • Just about every "Hammer girl" or "Bond Girl"