Why Is the Femme Fatale?

Considering the Four Faces of ‘Lady Noir’

by G. Christopher Williams

15 July 2010

The strength of Lady Noir is its commitment to allowing the dangerous qualities of women to emerge through simple situations and simple images.
cover art

Lady Noir

(New Grounds)
US: 14 May 2010

Lady Noir is a four part flash collaboration between artists that include Zappawadda, Denzel-Crocker, Kieran-S, and RedHarvest.  Each piece provides a glimpse of the face of a kind of mythological figure, Lady Noir.  Mythological in the sense that “Lady Noir” is not really a singular character but an idea that each artist is given the opportunity to riff on, much like the stories of gods and heroes might contradict and differ from one another based on the poet’s choice of how to sing their tales.  In taking this approach, the collection becomes a way of considering the variations on the universal concept of the femme fatale within the noir genre.

Almost all of the art style here is fairly minimal, only two of the four pieces contain dialogue, but all of the segments make good use of music to convey their vision of Lady Noir.  The storytelling is especially minimalistic but surprisingly rich in the way that each of the four artists confronts the femme fatale as an archetypical character.  The strength of Lady Noir is this commitment to allowing the dangerous quality of women to emerge through simple situations and simple images.

The second piece by Denzel-Crocker seems the most out of place in the collection as the “fatal woman” becomes a destroyer in the most obviously feral and brutal ways.  While clearly a femme fatale, this version of Lady Noir seems the least recognizably “noir”.  She could be some kind of neo-noir version of the femme fatale but that is only assuming that characters like Kill Bill’s Bride or Rose McGowan’s character from Planet Terror represent some revision of the dangerous noir woman.  I’m not sure that I would classify them as such.  Thus, this segment, while well illustrated and scored, left me a little cold.

Kieran-S’s third part seems more clearly an old school kind of noir, featuring a tough guy protagonist and some mob-influenced antagonists.  This section is the funniest with some really clever bits of hard bitten dialogue and an eye to parodying traditional hard boiled situations.  It is fun, well paced, and smartly written.

However, it is the first and fourth parts by Zappawadda and Red Harvest respectively that seem most aware of the traditional sense of how the femme fatale is typically presented in noir and why.  The two versions of Lady Noir in these tales are both women that serve as traps for the “do gooder” men in their tales.  In RedHarvest’s final segment, the lure of the femme fatale’s beauty is featured as the terrifying feature of such a woman.  My personal favorite Lady Noir is Zappawadda’s though, which features the appearance of fragility as the femme fatale’s greatest weapon.  In both cases, these two artists seem to really grasp how this character type is ironically spun out of traditional and stereotypical understandings of women as objects both beautiful and weak that need to be possessed and protected.  Of course, the irony lies in the notion that this desire to possess and protect are the most potent weapon in the feminine arsenal and the reason that they should be feared.

Fans of noir or anyone interested in the femme fatale will find the five or six minutes that these flash animations run is time well spent.  They are well crafted, surprisingly clever, and thoughtful expressions of a very old tradition in storytelling.

Lady Noir is available for viewing at New Grounds.

Lady Noir


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