Out of the Past
The (Not-So) Good Girls of Film Noir College
Common in film noir are the binary oppositions between characters’ personalities and the visually mesmerizing images which often explode on-screen before the eyes of the audience. The high key lighting of a beautiful countryside, the low key lighting of a large city, a face half consumed by shadows, or a woman clad in all white with a soft angelic glow can tell one just as much as an entire scene of dialogue. But some of the most discussed and debated elements of film noir concern the roles of opposition between the femme fatales and the good girls. At the surface, the femme fatale would appear to be a figure of pure malevolence—lying, cheating, and killing her way to the top in pursuit of a position of wealth and power. But upon closer inspection, one can see that the femme fatale’s actions are often prompted by a painful past, an unhealthy relationship with an abusive lover, or a multitude of other reasons. Just as the femme fatales cannot be labeled as purely evil, the good girls who stand opposite them on-screen cannot be labeled as entirely innocent either. In contrast to the domination of the femme fatales it is often easy to over-look much smaller acts of deceit, but many of noir’s good girls are much more complex than...
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