Re: RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled Dames, hmmm

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 15 Jul 2001

Fred posted a books review which held the following:

"He assembles such an arsenal of examples--including more than 150 recent films--that it seems undeniable: Women are embracing a new model in which autonomy and aggression are valorized."

Leaving aside the whole issue of whether or not you can read the beliefs and behaviors of audience ("women are embracing") into the films they are offered and may even see, I'd be interested in seeing that list. Still, women of that description were a staple of film noir. They have now crossed over beyond that single genre and have even sometimes become the main character instead of the path to the hero's destruction (not that they don't still lead men to destruction).

However, with very few exceptions, these women do not triumph. For every Bridget Cross (from Last Seduction) there are several characters like Demi Moore's in Disclosure, who are crucified for trying to act like men.

I have come to see these women as inoculation. After acknowledging that women have acquired some power in society (often by supernatural or mutant reasons), these movies and books try to stuff the women back into the same gender relations. Even with their powers, these women usually get into trouble because they are led by their emotions. Also, it's amazing how many of these women who kick ass need the direction of men, require a father figure (like Charlie, or a real father in the case of Lara Croft) to give them direction. And aren't most of these films created by men?

So does this also apply to current hardboiled and noir books? Actually, that seems to be a major subtext of female PI books, trying to find a balance between traditional male and female traits and behaviors.


ps -- this reminds me of a great line I just heard in the preview of David Mamet's next movie, Heist. Delivered by Gene Hackman, "She could talk her way out of a sunburn."

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