Ladies who lunch: Man-eating femmes fatales in contemporary visual culture

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“Ladies who lunch: Man-eating femmes fatales in contemporary visual culture”, Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, June 2015.

Abstract

This article explores the legacy of the Sirens in contemporary visual culture, considering the persistent theme of women who, like these mythical beings, would bewitch and then devour men. It considers the significant and highly visible problem of representations of femininity, focusing on how the connection between women and cannibalism reflects the common trope of the danger inherent within the female body. The various, and often interwoven, responses of allure, fear and revulsion provoked by such a display of female power emerge in the works that will be closely focused on here: John Longstaff’s painting The Sirens (1891), the film Teeth (2007) by Lichtenstein, the Queens Of The Stone Age music video Sick, Sick, Sick (2007), and the characters Poison Ivy from DC comics (1966–) and Mileena from the video game franchise Mortal Kombat (1993–). Though other examples will be discussed, these texts are noteworthy not simply for the images that they offer but, perhaps more so, for their place within popular culture. Unlike the arguably limited reach of fine art, these texts are widely engaged with and so disseminate these ideas about women to a broad audience. The dangers inherent within the female body manifest in these media in numerous ways, envisioned variously – and often simultaneously – as abject, erotic, maternal, monstrous, natural and, ultimately, unknowable.

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