The Contemporary Femme Fatale: Gender, Genre and American Cinema, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Contemporary Femme Fatale

Gender, Genre and American Cinema, 1st Edition

By Katherine Farrimond


192 pages

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pub: 2017-07-13
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The femme fatale occupies a precarious yet highly visible space in contemporary cinema. From sci-fi alien women to teenage bad girls, filmmakers continue to draw on the notion of the sexy deadly woman in ways which traverse boundaries of genre and narrative. This book charts the articulations of the femme fatale in American cinema of the past twenty years, and contends that, despite her problematic relationship with feminism, she offers a vital means for reading the connections between mainstream cinema and representations of female agency. The films discussed raise questions about the limits and potential of positioning women who meet highly normative standards of beauty as powerful icons of female agency. They point towards the constant shifting between patriarchal appropriation and feminist recuperation that inevitably accompanies such representations within mainstream media contexts.


"Farrimond’s careful attention to the nuances of contemporary film noir draws a portrait of the problems and potential of the femme fatale today that is sure to be of interest to scholars and fans of noir films more generally. Bringing together gender studies, film studies and visual culture, she takes up the fascination of the femme fatale in all its ambivalent complexity to paint a compelling portrait of why this figure continues to fascination and provoke today. " -Alanna Thain, Department of English, McGill University, Canada

"This book offers an important discussion of the femme fatale and postfeminist models of female empowerment in contemporary American film." -Lisa Funnell, University of Oklahoma, USA

"This is a well-argued, convincing study […] with a reading of the femme fatale that demonstrates her capacity to pose vital and complex questions about the representation of women's agency, sexuality and desire in the current cultural landscape." --Fiona Handyside, LSE Review of Books Blog

Table of Contents


Part I: Retro

1.The Femme Fatale Who Wasn’t There: Retro Noir’s Glamorous Ghosts

2. Dead Girls on Film: Retro Noir and the Corpse of the Femme Fatale

Part II: Girls

3. Bad Girls Don’t Cry?: Desire, Punishment, and Girls in Crisis

4. Getting Away with It: Postfeminism and the Victorious Girl

Part III: Bisexuality

5. Bisexual Detection: Visibility, Epistemology and Contamination

6.Bisexual Fragmentation: Failures of Representation

Part IV: Monstrosity

7. Bodies of Evidence: Possession, Science, and the Separation of Power

8.Bodies without Origins: Beyond the Myth of the Original Woman


About the Author

Katherine Farrimond is Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. Her research focuses on the intersections of the body, sexuality and gender in contemporary popular film and television. She has published work on the femme fatale, genre, nostalgia and virginity.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Film Studies

This series is our home for innovative research in the field of film studies. It includes monographs and targeted edited collections that provide new insights into this important and evolving subject area.


To submit a proposal for this series, please contact:
Suzanne Richardson, Commissioning Editor for Media, Cultural and Communication Studies
[email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies