First thing read the following articles from Ms. Sex & the city ( http://msmagazine.com/blog/ )
1- November, Single Living: The Growing Popularity of Women who are Changing our Attitudes and Our Lives
2- 2012 – Winter, Singled Out: Why is the media obsessed with the marriage rate of black women?
3- 2011, Fighting Racism, One Swimsuit at a Time
4- 2011, Why Aren’t We Protesting Miss America?
Film Noir is a genre rooted in German expressionism of the 20’s and 30’s
James Naremore (film theorist) argues that film noir is often easier to identify than it is to define.
Film noir cuts across many genres- westerns, detective, melodramas. Film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style, point-of-view, or tone of a film. Film Noir literally means black film in French.
Classic Film Noir developed during and after WWII – taking advantage of the post-war ambience (remember this is during the time of the TV set when film is now being replaced by families gathering around the TV for entertainment) It is during this time especially that we see many genres of films being offered- the industry struggling to regain its moviegoers and revenue. We see a time of conflicting messages given to women. We see, as we discussed, a post-war effort to reconstruct family life after WWII and images of June Cleaver, we see Playboy just on the rise, women as sex objects (but not sexual); we have the pin-up image and the Monroe figure: dumb blonde-a woman who is able to straddle the Madonna-Whore dichotomy using her sexuality but shown not smart enough to be a threat- and ultimately powerless. The main message given this time period is for women to be virgins. We see noir continue throughout the decades and take on many forms cuts across many genres.
During the 1980’s a lot of noir films begin to appear once again. The 1980’s are seen as a backlash against women, a conservative time critiquing the progressive gains (women’s movement, gay rights, civil rights, etc.) made in the 60’s and 70’s. In fact, Susan Faludi’s book during this time becomes extremely popular: Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. So these images of women in a noir are not out place. We see a rise in the representations of the femme fatale in very popular films of the 80’s such as Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, Black Widow, Disclosure
I would like to look briefly at one of the popular noirs of the 80’s, Fatal Attraction starring Glenn Close and Michal Douglas.
But first let’s take a look at the constructions of noir.
The moods of film noir: Darkness, melancholy, corruption, paranoia, guilt, suspicion
Visually film noir is marked by disorienting visual schemes, cigarette smoke, low-key lighting, dark and gloomy settings. They are usually shot in grays, blacks and whites. They show shadows, dark rainy nights, dimly lit settings. Major story line usually takes place in the evenings- usually in big cities.
The characters of film noir:
The protagonist: The protagonist in film noir falls victim to the femme fatale. Unable to resist her sexuality he comes under her spell and will do anything… often a murder occurs. Being unable to resist the femme fatale either he will be ultimately destroyed or he must destroy her….
As Janey Place argues, film noir is a male fantasy- women are defined in terms of their sexuality and derive power through the use of their sexuality- but at what cost?
Let’s look at the construction of women in film noir.
The females in classic film noir were either one of two types (or archetypes) –
1) The classical dutiful women- reliable, trustworthy and loving women; the women as redeemer who does not have access to her sexuality. The dutiful good woman embraces the stereotypical role of women so commonly seen.
2) The femme fatale– the dark lady who is mysterious, gorgeous, unloving, predatory, manipulative and desperate. She is erotic and lethal. She is a woman who gains power through her sexuality, which ultimately leads to her destruction and/or those around her. The femme fatale harbors a threat that is not completely manageable but is ultimately destroyed.
The femme fatale represents an attack on ideas of traditional womanhood and proper roles of women in terms of their sexuality. She is a threat to the nuclear family.
The story starts focused around the traditional nuclear family As one film reviewer stated this film was “a throwback to the nuclear family of the 50’s were the father is the breadwinner, adored wife as homemaker”
We see the family constructed as the following:
Father- Dan- corporate lawyer, owns an apartment in Manhattan, is obsessed with his career (and himself). Is complacent about his life and has an affair that almost completely drives the family apart.
Mother- Beth- who is the homemaker, the caretaker, who spends quality time with her daughter and family, attends all her husbands work functions and helps entertain friends, does not complain about his long hours spent on the job; and as one reviewer stated “Beth is shown primping in black lace before Dan in the mirror; her body is a home to Dan not an adventure”. Throughout the film her sexuality is always “controlled;” any time something is about to occur between the two of them sexually they are interrupted- either the daughter comes into bed with them, the phone rings or someone comes to the door
Then we see the femme fatale Alex.
As stated in NO PLACE FOR A WOMAN : THE FAMILY IN FILM NOIR “In stark contrast to the visual and narrative representation of the family home is that of the femme fatale herself. She exudes a unique sexuality, which she uses to define herself and manipulate men in order to gain power. Her body, her clothing, her words, her actions, and her ability to hold the camera’s gaze create a highly charged sexual image that defies attempts by the men in her life and by the film itself to control her or return her to her “proper sphere” as a woman.”
Alex- the femme fatale- is aggressive, independent, career hungry and goes by a traditionally male name
Throughout the film she dresses in dark black, lycra and leather and also has what many critics called “Medusa locks” to reinforce her image as a lethal woman. Alex is the complete opposite of Beth. She is portrayed as uncontrollable, seductive and attacking traditional family values and notions of femininity/motherhood.
As feminist film theorists have argued, these visual cues helps to reinforce the threat the femme fatale places not on the family, but also the home. She challenges the safety, security relationship and love. She is the antithesis of marriage and the family and is a threat to married women and the social construction of femininity.
While Beth is away visiting family with her daughter, Dan is drawn in by the femme fatale. After an affair and spending a weekend together, Alex becomes obsessed with him. In an attempt to further seduce him she takes extreme measures. After Beth learns of this affair and what has happened she retreats to their new home in the country. Again we see a comparison with the “dangerous” life of sex and the city verses the country and a “safe” patriarchal family life.
Good women live in the suburbs (or country) with their families, spend all their time with their family and children, maintaining wholesomeness; purity. Bad women live in the city, they are lonely, sexually aggressive and seductive. They are a threat to the good woman, the home and the patriarchal family.
The dominant image of the femme fatale is one of defiance against the traditional family and a woman’s place in society. But as feminist film theorists have argued her demise also speaks to the idea of a woman who tries to live outside these prescribed boundaries and what the ultimate price is for them- the inability to survive.
And even though it is Dan that has the affair, responsibility somewhat shifts from him. He ends up with a forgiving wife and a rebuilt family. As one critic states: “Instead of a man’s violation of trust against his wife and family it turns into focus on the sexual autonomy of the independent woman. And because of her actions it shifts moral blame from Dan to Alex.”
Third, watch the following clip
1- Fatal Attraction (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfcRCA5T65Q )
Fourth, read this article (http://people.southwestern.edu/~bednarb/media-culture/articles/sherwin.pdf )
Fifth, read these two articles about Vanessa Williams:
2- Women of color (http://academic.udayton.edu/race/05intersection/Gender/gender04.htm )
After finishing reading and watching the provided materials, you will write two parts:
PART1:Think of this part as a discussion board, which should include opinions, read the following (posted by the professor) then write a post (300-400 words) answering the questions.
We have been looking at the representations of how sex and the city is defined for women. These images in the popular media have been and still are largely white washed. For this post please discuss how “sex & the city” (by this I am not referring to the TV show) is defined for women of color?
I have posted readings on the Miss America scandal involving the first black Miss America, Vanessa Williams. As you read in the PBS transcript a lot of people thought this was no coincidence. They argued many women have posed nude in this industry (beauty, modeling, acting) to try and get a career started, however some felt they looked for her pictures because she was black. Please use examples from the current popular culture that illustrate how women of color are portrayed in regards to sexuality. I used an example of black women but you are welcome to use examples from other racial or ethnic groups. Please be specific in your examples trying not to replicate what others have already posted.
PART2:In this part, you will read a post written by one of the students (Brianna Wilks), then you reply to the post (200-300 words) with some interactions such as stating that you agree or disagree with what they wrote.
Historically, women have often been represented as pure and nonsexual beings in most forms of media. In many ways a woman can be sexualized and objectified to please the male gaze, but in order to do so, she must break the innocent “virgin Mary” female stereotype and embark into the sexual object, or become the “slut”. However, I would argue black women and women of color have come to exist in a different way in Western media: women of color are often portrayed as ever-sexual, or in other words, always sexually available. Though it can be argued that women of color are held to a higher standard in terms of slut-shaming and sexualization because of a racist culture, like Vanessa Williams having her Miss America title removed because of nude photos when the same may not have occurred for white women, however I argue this is because the sexualization of black women is viewed negatively only when it is in an extremely white context, for example, Vanessa Williams and her Miss America photo scandal, or Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.
First of all, black, latina, and asian women are all often fetishized in a way that white women are not. Being dark-skinned is viewed as being “exotic” or “spicy” in many Western cultures, and this is desirable. Additionally, many black women and WOC do not conform to traditional European beauty standards, meaning the “Virgin Mary” expectation becomes even more incomparable, and the woman of color is further sexualized. Lastly, it is undeniable that in many ways, men are positioned above women in society, and women of color are even further marginalized in this structure; this power dynamic lowering women of color even below other women also functions to allow the sexualization of women of color. In this racist and sexist double standard, women of color are exotic and not expected to uphold the asexual or virgin expectations, but rather just the opposite, and they are therefore much easier to sexualize. This does not apply, though, if the woman is for some reason being viewed in an incredibly whitewashed context, such as a Miss America pageant, or while performing at the Super Bowl halftime show with Justin Timberlake. Both Vanessa WIlliams’ scandal in the ‘80s and Janet Jackson’s scandal in 2004 echoed with outrage over such sexual behavior- that a black woman would show her body, the outrage. I argue that both of these scandals are similar, and fit with the typical usually-sexualized view of women of color in American media.
Formatting:In this paper, do not have some space for the name, course, or professor’s name. You do not need to have a topic for each part. Also, make sure to have in-text citation. You could follow the attached file called formatting for an example.
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