I am a fan of film noir – I appreciate the unconventional stories, the grit, the humanness of those who are down but not out, the funeral rain that bad choices usher in, the sense that the dark is never far. Someone once said that film noir with its femme fatale characters, “puts women in their place” by insinuating that women bring madness, ruin, and destruction to man. This is an overbroad characterization. Do some women prove to be some men’s undoing? Do some people get off on manipulating others and controlling them? Yes, of course. So many of these films are warnings. They are the tales of doomed men, trapped by their choices, whom try to escape too late.
Another thing I appreciate about this genre is that men are not held captive by female sexuality. Frequently women are typecast in movies as holding all the cards in this regard, and here, they come in with guns blazing, and are not rewarded for it. Men are usually askance, suspicious, and distrustful of the femme fatale. Yet women have a tendency to view the femme fatale as a role model, because she has confidence, is visually attractive, and is free to ignore custom and rules in the large. Somehow they completely miss the point of the bad girl being poisonous and disruptive to social systems.
This leads to another point. Besides the lost souls who saturate their eyes in porn, who spends time looking at women, evaluating them, examining what they wear, keeping tabs on what colors or clothes they don? Other women. The makeup and the fashion industries exist not because of men but because of women. Women notice what other women are wearing. Women notice earrings and necklaces and shoes and belts. Men, except for those with an artistic bent, or those in love, do not notice such things. Thus, women compete with each other to show off to other women. It is easy to see how cattiness, gossip, and backbiting can fracture the sisterhood.
So film noir does not seek to oppress women; it does, however, warn women of the dangers of immorality, and nothing chaps some people more than being told of the inevitable consequences of sin. Women, especially seem to resent this. However, film noir generally shows what happens to Don Juans too. As usual, feminists miss that, because they are entirely focused on finding new causes of injury, even in movies from long ago.