Catherine makes passionate love to a man tied by his wrists to his bedposts Just as they appear to climax together she draws an ice pick from the satin sheets and stabs her lover over and over as he screams thrashes and bleeds

Analysts observe that many violent women on-screen look like runway models: young, thin, large breasted, and bare skinned. Many feel that this pulls them from the realm of feminist activism and back into the uselessness of male fantasy. But must they be victims? Does Catherine Tramell—the sexy, rich, supersmart, fearless, enterprising woman in Basic Instinct—really not prevail, just because similar female characters die in this and other movies?30 Maybe violent women fail even when they succeed. But where, other than to the satisfaction of moralizing ("bad puppy") resentment, could such an argument lead? Judith Halberstam's essay in this volume argues that down Catherine's path of imagined violence lies a genuine victory.

Analysts also complain of women being drawn into the fetishism of male sexuality and thus never amounting to powerful images for women. For instance, Linda Mizejewski worries that the cop movie Blue Steel blunts its subversive force for women and sinks into a conventional male-fantasy world by reducing "the gun significations into the simpler terms of female desire, penis envy, and male fetish."31 That is, violent woman Megan "buys into the biological identification of gun as female phallus." Perhaps women who kill become phallic, and thus sexy, and thereby useless to feminism.

Other scholars decry the sexual vulnerability of female heroes (whose attractiveness or sexual assertiveness draws predatory male attention), as though survival of such attacks made them seem weak, and as though male heroes didn't face the same problems in a number of genres.32 Of course, male heroes of cop movies can also be sexy and sexually vulnerable. Recall those extended S/M scenes in cop movies in which ultrabutch men leer at, trade homoerotic "I'm-going-to-fuck-your-ass" lines with, and then beat the stuffing out of half-naked heroes; or enjoy sex with women while murderers stalk them down their halls toward their imperiled bedrooms.33 Does a woman's sexiness really make her less of a threat while she's beating a man senseless or shooting him dead? Jeffrey A. Brown's essay in this volume offers a rebuttal of the presumption that a female character's sexiness diminishes her toughness or the film's feminist potential. Wendy Arons's essay shows that female stars of martial arts movies are both sexy and empowered. Perhaps such images reconfigure what feminists have for years critiqued, namely the equation of sexiness and female subordination.

Too Emotional

Clarice feels her way through a room plunged into total darkness. A madman stalks her with his pistol raised for the kill. Breathing hard and obviously terrified, Clarice holds her own gun with shaking hands. Only when she hears the clack of his pistol cocking does she fire into the dark and blow him away.

Some fear that Hollywood films like The Silence of the Lambs undercut tough women by imbuing them with strong emotions, such as fear, maternal protec-

FIGURE 3. FBI Agent Clarice Starling moves from fear to violence in a heartbeat in The Silence of the Lambs.

tiveness, or ambivalence about killing. In her book surveying popular culture, Tough Girls, Sherrie Inness argues that signs of weakness among violent women in movies sap their subversive potential: "This emphasis implies that all tough women are not as tough as they appear and therefore pose no significant threat to male hegemony." 34 Carol M. Dole's essay in this volume provides examples of the facts that violent women can be small, devote themselves as much to childcare as to combat, lose their weapons as soon as they use them, and still disturb old ideas about women's incompetence or passivity. But are we so suspicious that Hollywood must be putting something over on us that we'll have to reject such violent women as not "really" tough? Films like Lethal Weapon reveal that emotional expressiveness and sexual attractiveness are common among heroes rather than distinguishing traits of female characters per se. Mel Gibson has certainly made a career of playing men so volatile they seem ready to pop their screws.35 What may seem feminine at first glance often turns out to mark toughness and heroism in general.

Too Co-opted

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