Hommes Fatals: Masculine Destructiveness in Alfred Hitchcock´s Rebecca (1940) and Sam Taylor-Johnson´s Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Barrenetxea Guerekiz, Ane
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Femmes fatales have been and are still nowadays represented and labelled as inherently or innately evil figures who, by means of their beauty, lure and seduce men in order to deliberately destroy them. Female deadly figures were treated even in ancient times and in the Bible; even nowadays, after the film noir genre catapulted femmes fatales to fame, different representations of these characters can be seen on screen. Nevertheless, this present dissertation attempts to analyse and debate the possible existence of a male counterpart to these historically dangerous creatures, that is to say, the homme fatal. More precisely, two hommes fatals instances will be the object of this study: Maxim de Winter in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) and Christian Grey in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey (2015). I contend that these two characters share five common features, most of which contribute to the romanticisation of their ‘fatality’. Destructiveness appears to be essential when describing their behaviour towards their carefully selected victims, but also towards themselves. Their destructive attitudes, however, seem to be recreations of what the hommes fatals experienced in previous encounters with one or more femmes fatales. Said experiences maim Maxim’s and Christian’s emotional and mental dimensions to the point that they simply cannot stop themselves and have to engage in the same abusive behavioural patterns, as their impulses become compulsions. Both characters tend to choose a very specific type of woman as their victim, who is then subjected to different forms of control by the hommes fatals. The final stage of the gradual process of manipulation is to rip up the victim´s very identity. These respected, affluent men find a perfect alibi in their social status: they go unpunished and no one ever suspects their ‘fatality’. Finally, the role of consensual victims played by Mrs. De Winter and Anastasia Steele, in love with their tormentors, is vital to understand the obvious romanticisation of these particular version of hommes fatals. I conclude by arguing that the homme fatal´s behaviour is glamorised as it participates of the patriarchal discourse which believes these types of men are appealing to women.