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By Stevie Simkin (auth.)

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Extra info for Cultural Constructions of the Femme Fatale: From Pandora’s Box to Amanda Knox

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As evidence, he cited the fact that her physiology made it possible for her to ‘practice deceit’ when compared to a man, contrasting the male requirement to ‘achieve an erection in order to perform the sex act’ with the female body, where ‘lack of orgasm does not prevent her ability to participate’ in sexual activity (1950, pp. 9–10). The debate about the so-called ‘double standard’ in relation to male and female sexual behaviour and sexuality in general is a familiar one, although some readers might be surprised to learn that its historical roots run very deep.

The scholarly attention focused on her in this era, particularly from critics working within a range of feminist critical-theoretical positions, has arguably been even more intense than it has been in studies of the noir film genre. Jennifer Hedgecock (2008) considers the place of the femme fatale in Victorian literature and Bram Dijkstra (1988) looks at both literary and visual arts; both find her to be a signifier of patriarchal anxieties about the rise of the ‘new woman’ and of wider social and political change.

She starred in 39 films in four years, almost all of them variations on the vamp theme, including the title roles in films of Carmen (1915), Cleopatra (1917) and Salome (1918) (Sully 2010, p. 53). In the years preceding the draconian censorship of the Production Code – the crackdown came in July 1934 – the femme fatale was one of several powerful female personae that dominated the screen. A number of female stars took on Bara’s mantle, including Ruth Chatterton, Hedy Lamarr and, most famously, Greta Garbo; the latter would eventually go on strike against MGM chiefly, according to the actor-writer-director Mauritz Stiller advocating her case, because of ‘the number of vamp roles which she had been forced to play and which, she keenly feels, are outside her sphere’ (cited in LaSalle 2000, p.

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