As defined on TVTropes.org,
“Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom… you know it when you see it.”
Last year, Feminist Frequency did a video about The Evil Demon Seductress trope.
Now I often feel that Feminist Frequency is too quick to tear down portrayals of women in the media and does little to support positive traits or characteristics of the same portrayals of the same character, and this time was no different. She mentions Buffy as using the trope of the sexy, killer woman not once – but twice! Buffy had 144 episodes that explored a range of villains and issues, and is often thought to have been one of the more feminist-friendly shows on television.
To deride it for portraying two of their evil female creatures as both sexy and deadly is not only offensive, but it is a single minded criticism without thought of context. There was also, in Buffy, many attractive men that seduced women in order to betray or kill them, and it was multi-layered in its portrayal of gender, gender roles, and individuals.
Dracula, Spike and Angel often seduced and killed women, and Sweet seduced everyone in the town in order to dance them to their demise. In fact, Dracula seduced Buffy in the same episode that was criticized for the three vampire women seducing Giles, which was a light adaptation of the book of the same name. If this trope is offensive to women, then surely the male equivalent of the Trope must be considered offensive to men.
They also mention Battlestar Galactica as negatively demonstrating this trope in the first episode of the miniseries, when Six walks in seductively and then kills the human ambassador.
I understand the point of the criticism. I don’t believe that Buffy or Battlestar Galactica couldn’t have been improved upon, or that I couldn’t find faults in either, but how many things can you truly claim to be perfect, entertaining, and completely socially aware? To pick apart and look at seemingly offensive tropes while ignoring the context of the show is short sighted and discouraging for those that seek to have strong and interesting characters.
Are women never allowed to demonstrate that they are both sexy and monstrous? Are we not allowed to show women who use their sexuality as a dangerous weapon? Is the femme fatale bad for women?
I really don’t feel it is, and speaking with other women, they delight in these powerful, sensual, sexual women who can hold a person enthralled in their physical prowess while at the same time working towards their own goals with murderous intents. Women feel they are strong and enjoyable characters, rather that weakening and putting down females.
Sexy, murderous men are increasingly popular with women, especially those that are now mature women. Sexy men who come in and seduce women, holding them enthralled while they work towards murderous intents? Vampires in fiction, particularly in romantic novels are targeted at women and often following the same ‘trope’ of the evil demon seductress (were the word seductress not so gendered, that is).
Perhaps it’s simply that people of all genders enjoy the idea of being so sexually enthralled and enraptured by someone’s charms that we lose our abilities (and guilt!) about not being able to resist. There is a delightful fantasy in lacking all control over yourself and succumbing to passion. Consequences be damned.
Or perhaps, overall, we just love the idea of the sexual, sexy bad person.
I’ll end with my own thoughts on Anita Sarkeesian’s final words in the above video:
“Hollywood writers, I don’t have a problem with you occasionally making some of your villains female, but you’ve gotta stop writing women who’s primary weapon is her sexuality.”
To that, I say, Hollywood writers, thank you for making female villains. Thank you for showing some diversity in your films by not always having male villains. Some feminists may accept the ‘occasional’ female villain if she meets a set of arbitrary criteria, but I say give our Hollywood villains equality!