FeminismMedia SkepticismParanormal

The Evil Demon Seductress

Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency has a very good analysis of The Evil Demon Seductress trope often portrayed in movies and TV shows. Check it out!

(Video and transcript after the jump)

Transcript
A trope is a common pattern in a story or a recognizable attribute in a character that conveys information to the audience. A trope becomes a cliche when it’s overused. Sadly, some of these tropes often perpetuate offensive stereotypes.

Does this remind you of a woman? How about this one? Or that one? Ya me neither…. but somehow these insects have become the inspiration for a whole trope of sexy female characters.

The Evil Demon Seductress is a supernatural creature usually a demon, robot, alien, vampire most often disguised as a sexy human female. She uses her sexuality and sexual wiles to manipulate, seduce, and kill and often eat poor, hapless men by luring them into her evil web.

One example of this trope shows up in the form of a Deceptacon in Transformers 2, where Isabel Lucas plays an alien robot disguised as a sexy college co-ed sent to kill poor Sam.

CLIP Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Sam “I can explain”

Then who can forget back in 1995 when Natasha Henstridge starred in the horror film Species playing the sexy half human/half alien hybrid created by the U.S. government. When the alien hybrid escapes into the real world she see that women have babies and therefore she wants one too.

CLIP Species (1995)
Alien “Listen, I want a baby”
Man, “WHAT!? Excuse me?”

So she uses her sexual wiles to lure men in and her alien strength to kill them.

And in the Batman universe Poison Ivy is another example of the Evil Demon Seductress.

CLIP Batman Arkham Asylum Video Game (2009)
Poison Ivy “That feels so much better.”
Poison Ivy “And now we’ll grow together”

And this trope even makes a couple of appearances in Buffy the Vampire Slayer first when Xander is seduced by his sexy teacher who is really happens to be a giant preying mantis.

CLIP Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Teacher’s Pet (1997)
Man “I think it’s eenie, meenie, miney…”

And then again in the last season when performer Ashanti seduces Xander.

CLIP Buffy the Vampire Slayer – First Date (2003)
Xander “It can’t just keep happening that demon women find me attractive, there’s gotta be a reason”
Demon “You just seem like a nice guy, that’s all, and I wanted to get to know you.”
Xander “And kill me?”
Demon “Sure”

It might also be worth mentioning at this point that one of the roots of this trope is based on a misconception that dates back to 1886 with a scientist name Leland Ossian Howard. Howard made the claim that the female praying mantis cannibalizes the heads of her sexual partner after mating, well… turns out, this isn’t exactly true. New scientific research that found the vast majority of female Praying Mantis species do not in fact kill their mate.

So back to this trope, the amount of times that this character appears in speculative fiction is kind of astounding, the list goes on and on and on.

In Star Trek’s First Contact we have the Borg Queen trying to seduce Data.
Keanu Reeves is taken advantage of by the Brides of Dracula.
And then some years later in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilles meets these three sisters.
In the science fiction show Farscape there’s the villain Grayza with her enchanting body sweat.
There are the evil mermaids in Pirates of the Caribbean 4.
And Mystique in X-Men often fulfills this trope.
In the opening scene of Battlestar Galactica we meet a human looking cylon woman who seduces and kills a man.
Men in Black 2 stars a shapeshifting alien who disguises herself as a Victoria Secret model
And Megan Fox as a man eating demon in Jennifer’s Body.

Alright, we get the idea, it’s everywhere and you’ll notice that there’s variations of this trope between mermaids, and sirens and vampires and their expressions of supernatural evil seductress varies but the basic characteristics remain the same, they’re using their sexuality as a weapon. This trope is closely connected to its counterparts: The Vamp, The Black Widow, The Femme Fatale which are human women using their sexuality to manipulate men. Here I’m only focusing on supernatural creatures but you can see how insidious this trope has become in popular culture.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what this means, we have a whole collection of supernatural creatures using their sexuality to manipulate and control men in order to fulfill some nefarious plan of doom. You’ll notice that these supernatural creatures are not necessarily enjoying or exploring their sexuality, they’re not even really being genuinely sexual, they are just using it to manipulate and trick men. So we see over and over again female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress who are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling, that these demon women always have ulterior motives, and that there sexuality is dangerous and they’ll probably bite your head off.

The harmful misogynist myth that this tropes reinforces is that women primarily use their so-called sexual power as a way to manipulate, trick and control men. This fallacy is widespread and pervasive and some men even claim that women hold more power in society purely based on this absurd myth. Thank you Hollywood for encouraging and promoting sexist thinking.

So what do Hollywood, male viewers (and even female viewers to a lesser extent) get out of the Evil Demon Seductress trope? Well, Hollywood is in the business of selling the status quo they use these characters to appeal to a male demographic. When an Evil Demon Seductress is on screen men get to objectify her while having these sexist preconceived notions reconfirmed that women are in fact manipulative and deceitful. And there is a danger of real world women internalizing this sexist myth. Instead of believing that our sexuality is something to be explored and celebrated we are repeatedly told that it is our only form of social power.

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.

I’ll leave you with a clip of Alicia Silverstone in one of the worst movies ever made… saying something kinda cool.

CLIP Batman & Robin (1997)
Batgirl “Using feminine wiles to get what you want, trading on your looks? Read a book sister, that passive aggressive number went out long ago, chicks like you give women a bad name”

Music – Maneater by Hall & Oates
“Ooooh here she comes, watch out boy she’ll chew you up, oooh here she comes she’s a maneater.

Image credit: here

Previous post

Draw Muhammad Day!

Next post

Teen Skepchick's Reality Checks 5.23

Lauren

Lauren

Lauren is a Maths and Physics student from somewhere in the southern hemisphere. She has an affinity for reality, and you can find her on twitter @lolrj, or Google+.

6 Comments

  1. May 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm —

    Thanks for bringing up a really important point in this post regarding women using their sexuality to accomplish an ulterior motive. While in this case the ulterior motive is to kill men, in real life it is often to earn money (as in the case of escorts, prostitutes, and strippers), or to gain popularity (whether among men or women). It is so sad to see girls my age (early twenties) and women in real life and in pop culture being portrayed as using sex as a “power,” all the while being untrue to their genuine sexuality and true sexual exploration and sexual freedom. Thanks for making note of this in your post!

    • May 27, 2011 at 12:36 am —

      Ooop– just to be clear this was not my work. The post is a transcript of the original videoblog by Anita Sarkeesian.

      You say: “While in this case the ulterior motive is to kill men, in real life it is often to earn money (as in the case of escorts, prostitutes, and strippers), or to gain popularity (whether among men or women).”

      I find this to be a little problematic. There are a lot of reasons why a woman might go into sex or sex-related work, and money obviously plays a big part in it, but this should not be considered necessarily an “ulterior motive”, I do not think. Sometimes, you just have to pay the bills. I think that by saying that women that do these kinds of work have ulterior motives is almost playing into the trope that this vblog is warning against.

      Although maybe that is not what you meant? Or did you mean that women in those kinds of work have internalised this trope? I am not really sure.

      I do not think I have explained myself expecially well, hopefully you understand what I am driving at?

  2. May 27, 2011 at 1:21 am —

    “…and money obviously plays a big part in it, but this should not be considered necessarily an “ulterior motive”, I do not think. Sometimes, you just have to pay the bills.” Just having to pay the bills is also earning money.

    Anyway, I think a better way to phrase what I meant is not ulterior motive, but rather using sex as a “tool” or “power” to get something or get to something else. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not implying that sex or sex-related workers are some kind of unworthy, “slutty” women to be disrespected. I know that they choose what they choose for whatever reason, and I don’t think of them as lesser people or devalue them for that. Plus, they have the freedom to do whatever they want with their bodies.

    I do, however, think that maybe when women use sex in this way, and not as a form of expressing genuine sexual curiosity, exploration, or love, it defeats the purpose of the feminist movement’s efforts towards encouraging women to embrace sex and sexual pleasure for themselves, rather than as a pleasureless means* to get something else, or strictly as a pleasureless performance or form of entertainment for others (specifically men).

    *a few examples of what I mean by a pleasureless means: prostitutes who have many customers every day and feel sore or are in pain because of the amount of sex, or pornographic actresses posing and arching their backs during a shoot who feel uncomfortable and sore after doing so for hours. Also, continuously undergoing painful treatments like waxing the entire body to appear sexy for the customer or audience.

    I need to see if there are any studies out there revealing how much sexual pleasure prostitutes, pornographic actresses, and strippers get out of their work, but I doubt that it is a lot. Sure, they might get pleasure out of knowing that they are sexually desired by whoever their customer or audience is, but I doubt that the majority of them end their days feeling genuinely sexually satisfied for themselves.

    • May 29, 2011 at 4:47 am —

      “Don’t get me wrong — I’m not implying that sex or sex-related workers are some kind of unworthy, “slutty” women to be disrespected”

      Even “slutty” women shouldn’t be disrespected 😉

      I do not have very well-developed opinions in this area, but when you say:

      “… it defeats the purpose of the feminist movement’s efforts towards encouraging women to embrace sex and sexual pleasure for themselves, rather than as a pleasureless means* to get something else, or strictly as a pleasureless performance or form of entertainment for others (specifically men).”

      I very much agree with this, but with the clause that we can’t heap the entirety of the blame on “women who use sex in this way” rather than the men who continue to objectify women such that their services are still required, and the wider social reasons that women might need to get into this work (financial). And yea all of those examples of pleasureless means: they suck. A lot.

      “I need to see if there are any studies out there revealing how much sexual pleasure prostitutes, pornographic actresses, and strippers get out of their work, but I doubt that it is a lot”

      I guess I would be interested in this too, although I wouldn’t speculate as to the result. Obviously each woman’s experiences will differ. Um, and I don’t really think that there should be a knee-jerk reaction to “rescue” women from prostitution: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/09/16/questioning-the-benefits-of-rescue-from-prostitution/

      And don’t apologise for it being too long, I appreciate your comments very much, they make me think to refine my own opinions.

  3. May 27, 2011 at 1:22 am —

    Also, sorry for making that so long!

  4. May 30, 2011 at 9:25 pm —

    Sorry, bad wording again on my part! I was not trying to imply that women who are sexually promiscuous (socially labeled as “sluts”) should be disrespected, rather I was trying to clarify that I think they should not be disrespected.

    Also, thanks for the link. It was definitely thought-provoking. I appreciate your comments and perspective!

Leave a reply