Week 2: Tasker - Women in Film Noir

  • "If film noir is not a genre, it is nevertheless recognizable". suggesting that noir's representation of women is an important aspect of its recognizability.
  • Film noir as a filmic space that 'expresses' and 'challenges' patriarchal constructions of women. Said to have birthed out of the ambiguous roles of women in society after WWII
  • Janey Place - identifies that film noir is a male fantasy centered around their pov and desires, but that the vibrancy of the villainous female character are central to the frame and the visual style of the genre.
  • Janey Place- Noir is "one of the few periods of film in which women are active, not static symbols, are intelligent and powerful, if destructively so, and derive power, not weakness, from their sexuality".
  • Sylvia Harvey "These economic changes forced certain changes in the traditional organization of the family; and the underlying sense of horror and uncertainty in film noir may be seen, in part, as an indirect response to this forcible assault on traditional family structures and the traditional and conservative values which they embodied".
  • Example; Double Indemnity. In this movie, both the female and male characters desire sexual satisfaction outside marriage; showcases their active assault on the conventional values of family life. (what they can't truly get back because of the war).
  • femme fatale - considered to be a woman that appropriates authority, but can control her own power.
  • Femme fatale as not a subject of feminism, but attached to male fears about feminism.
  • Julie Grossman - "An overemphasis on the femme fatale has not only resulted in a misreading of many film noir movies, but has fed into cultural and critical obsessions with the bad, sexy woman, which inevitably become prescriptive and influence cultural discourse about female agency in counterproductive ways".
  • Neo-noir; a post-modern pastiche of noir that attaches a hypersexualized version of the femme fatale.
  • Kate Stables - "the postmodern fatal woman is a creature of excess and spectacle, like the films she decorates".
  • "Inscribing the noir woman's sexuality as transgressing heterosexual norms, these movies extend the logic of 1940's noir", by suggesting that the woman's amorality is a rejection of feminine codes of submissive behavior.
  • Yvonne Tasker states that neo-noir exploits the postmodern femme fatale as a marker of feminism, conflating their eroticized images of women where their desires are given expression and framed as socially destructive.
  • Noir women are seen as not conforming to conventional feminine codes, but they also express a dislocation in the shifting gender ideologies of the 1940's.
  • The noir woman is engaged in reputation management; her actions are framed by the need to appear a certain way.


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