Monday, July 13, 2009
A Feminist Slasher for the Moron Trade
By Eric Jessen 7/12/09
Why did I react with so much hostility to Fatal Attraction? Why did I want to call Glenn Close as Alex Forest a psycho bi---? Why was I taking cheap shots at her frizzy hair? Something about Fatal Attraction had me repulsed by Alex and feeling connected to Michael Douglas' character Dan Gallagher. Well, Alex did boil a bunny. But wait, I “wanted her dead” before that. I wanted her dead when she was initially disturbing Dan's humble home: the beautiful and subservient wife, the happy child and the golden retriever. Am I afraid of the strong independent Alex? Okay, I'm not that guy, but I do see what this movie is getting at. This is a feminist anthem, or so it seems. I thought the “strong woman” theme wasn't in the dialogue but I was wrong. It's there.
Let's examine this carefully, scene by scene. We begin to get a sense of the feminism theme when Dan and Alex have dinner. Alex first asks Dan, “Where's your wife?” Dan is shocked. He can't believe Alex is putting their inevitable one night stand into perspective. She's intentionally ruining his fun. He can no longer pretend the soon-to-be affair was only in the throes of passion. Now he feels guilty as if he's already cheated. Alex, taunting Dan, calls him a “naughty boy.” Then Dan eases his own guilt by responding, “I don't think having dinner with somebody is a crime.” Alex replies, “Not yet,” reestablishing her control and thus making Dan feel guilty again. Dan tells Alex, “I definitely think it's going to be up to you,” taking the guilt and blame off himself.
Dan and Alex have their one night stand. Alex attempts suicide, not very “in control,” but she's human, and Dan tries to ignore her. Alex confronts Dan with strength and reason. It's fascinating to see Dan squirm. He completely loses his composure when Alex threatens his lifestyle (the humble home). Alex says, “You've had your fun, now you just want a quiet life,” and Dan replies, “You need a shrink.” Then Dan finds out Alex is pregnant. He assumes she'll have an abortion but when she says she's going to keep the baby and says, “I was hoping you would want to be a part of it,” Dan mumbles, “This is crazy. This is Insane.” Later Alex proclaims with a sense of righteousness and entitlement, “I'm not going to stop until you face up to your responsibilities...I'm not going to be ignored....Don't you ever pity me you smug bastard.” Dan cowers and says, “You're sick,” and Alex defiantly responds, “Why? Because I won't allow you to treat me like some slut you can just bang a couple times and then throw in the garbage. I'm going to be the mother of your child. I want a little respect.”
When I step back and think about Alex and Dan up to this point it occurs to me: Alex is not a psycho, she's feeling unstable and vulnerable after her suicide attempt but she's not unreasonable. Dan is just a coward. He's trying to take the responsibility off of himself and pretend Alex is vindictive and everything is her fault. He's pathetic.
But wait, is this a feminist masterpiece? No. We've only examined the first half. After Dan and Alex's two confrontations everything changes. Alex does becomes a psycho bi---. What else can you call a person who vandalizes cars, threatens via cassette tape, boils bunnies, kidnaps children, and tries to knife Dan and his wife? Fatal Attraction reneged on its strong independent women theme of the beginning. The second half can only be described as a tawdry slasher story. (By the way, the fact that Dan's wife is the one who ends up killing Alex is a nice touch but the damage had already been done.)
In the first half, Fatal Attraction was hinting at something very intriguing. Alex is a strong independent women who seeks respect and Dan treats her like she is a psycho bi--- because she threatens his conventional lifestyle. But when Alex becomes the psycho bi--- she only feeds into the male audience's ignorant fears. Making Fatal Attraction nothing but a feminist slasher for the moron trade.