Femme Fatales & Damsels in Distress

I recognized her face and knew I didn’t know her. The slender, actress/model in the gym locker room without make-up and with messy hair still had that “she’s a model” look. It’s not unusual to spot celebrities in my neighborhood. Sometimes it’s the A-list folks, with big names from movies, music, art, TV and theater. But lately I’ve been noticing more and more of these strange but familiar faces.

I wasn’t sure where I’d seen her, but I knew she played damsels in distress. She had a look of fragility about her. I was certain she didn’t play an edgy detective, a demanding executive, a super cool doctor or a criminal mastermind. Not knowing what part she’d played was making me a bit crazy. I thought she might have been in an off-Broadway play I’d seen last year and I decided to look at a few Playbills stacked on my bookcase. I didn’t have to, because later that day, when I was flipping through TV channels, I found her — playing a damsel in distress in a rerun of BONES.

I laughed.

And then I started to ponder the “look” that leads to casting an actress as a beautiful but devious femme fatale — a stock character of noir fiction. Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” and Marlene Dietrich “Witness for the Prosecution” certainly had the combination of beauty and evil intentions that made them as iconic as Lady Macbeth. Being scary and intimidating is a powerful thing on stage and on screen. There’s a wonderful menace in a good femme fatale in a novel — she leaps off the page. Perhaps the beautiful actress at my gym can summon a hidden darkness and play a credible woman of mystery?



  1. Would love it is there were more femme fatales, but as long as men continue to write more of the female characters, I’m sure damsel in distress will continue to reign supreme 😉

    • Candy Korman

      Of course most of the famous femme fatales are the fantasies of men, too. We just need more strong women writers, writing strong women characters and the men will follow along… Umm… the way they follow a femme fatale.