Rosemary Meza-DesPlas: The Dangerous Seduction of Women with Guns
By Berette Macaulay
From Farrah Fawcett, the sex symbol of Charlie’s Angels, to Demi Moore’s comeback as a fallen angel in the movie remake sequel, to Uma Thurman in the revenge fantasy Kill Bill, to Angelina Jolie as the consummate torch bearer of sex and beauty in several films, Hollywood has provided us with the femme fatale archetype.
The genetic make-up of this woman is almost always thin, white, and dressed in scantily clad wear. She is portrayed either as a criminal, psychologically unstable, or as an infantilized crime-fighting prodigy of a male master guru. She is anomalous, solitary, or ostracized, and thus ultimately vulnerable. She is emotionally unavailable and difficult to love, but irresistibly mysterious. An aberration of the ‘natural’ female, love is her downfall and is therefore avoided, or at least elusive. She is unbreakable by everyone except the hyper-alpha-male who invariably swoops in to disarm her with his aggressive, dominating charm and good looks. Cathartically through her, we accept violence from him. She is the killer we condone, and one we want to see bedded.
This is a quantifiably popular genre of entertainment, but why? Does this image purport the true potential of women to be their own heroes if only they’d pack more heat?
One common thread with them all is the connection of sex and gun violence. Another is dysfunction. Rarely do we see the archetypal femme in healthy relationships, caring for families in safe communities where, after all the heroics, all ends well. Usually, someone dies. Often, it is the woman — whether she is the hero or the dispensable accessory to one.
These tropes permeate our films, television shows, comic books, magazines, photography, and videos games. With all of this to bear, Texas-based mixed-media and social activist artist Rosemary Meza-DesPlas is asking us to consider the potential harm that may be caused by such a widely disseminated visual paradox.