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The Revenge Narrative February 20, 2007

Posted by kelly in Female Power, stereotypes.
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I just wanted to quickly address the idea of the reveng narrative in female empowerment stories. Last semester I wrote a paper on female suicide bombers and found that despite evidence to the contrary, the actions of female suicide bombers were almost always attributed to revenge or other personal motivations, while male suicide bombers were usually said to have acted out of belief in a certain ideology or on behalf of their country/group. While this may have little to do with the films we have been studying, I think it’s interesting that any time a woman is empowered, it always has to do with something personal, and she is always acting out of emotions. In the case of Suzie, Neve Campbell’s character in “Wild Things,” despite her intelligence and desire to be wealthy and successful, her actions are attributed to her avenging the murder of her boyfriend. Once again, the idea that women are ruled by their emotions is enforced. A woman is only “evil” or powerful when she is acting upon her maternal instict to defend or avenge her loved ones, or perhaps even herself (in the case of “All Bad Girls Go to Hell”). Society refuses to believe that a woman can be as cold-blooded or calculated as a man for her own selfish reasons, there has to be an explanation within her supposed inherent nature as a caretaker and lover, not a fighter. Perhaps this is a tactic utilized to protect ideas of masculinity or male power. The revenge narrative essentially denies women the agency and responsibility men are given (or blamed for) in their crimes. I hope this makes sense!

Also (please excuse the pop culture reference):

I wanted to just suggest that you guys watch Justin Timberlake’s new video. It’s interesting because it depicts his girlfriend cheating on him (widely believed to be yet another portrayal of Britney Spears) and then the subsequent death (or perhaps murder) of her. These two events follow each other very closely and it seems that simply because the girlfriend is able to gain some power over him (using her sexuality and by cheating on him, with his best friend, which no doubt makes him seem less in control, she has gained power over two men and severed their male bond) she must die. She takes on the role of the femme fatale and in order to save his masculinity, Justin has to kill her so that he is not defeated by a woman. It kind of astounds me that there has been no real public outcry over how insane and ridiculous this video really is. I hope you’ll all take the time to watch it if you haven’t already seen it. I tried to embed it below…not sure if it worked…

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Comments»

1. rachaelg - February 20, 2007

It’s interesting that the lyrics of the song don’t match the music video… In the lyrics, “What goes around comes around” refers to someone cheating on her after she cheated on him, not her death after her infidelity:

“You spend your nights alone
And he never comes home
And every time you call him
All you get’s a busy tone
I heard you found out
That he’s doing to you
What you did to me
Ain’t that the way it goes”

I think the video makes it look like Justin didn’t mean to kill her. His behavior is sympathetic; he fell in love with a girl who was unfaithful and chased after her in his anger. He’s visibly upset when he realizes that she’s dead.

2. kellyeng - February 21, 2007

I definitely got that too, but it kind of creeped me out that he’s laughing in the song as she crashes. I also didn’t mean that he had to kill her literally, but that the director or the narrative itself had to kill her off.

3. mehass - February 22, 2007

The song and video are definitely interesting if you think about Justin as a star . . . that is, there’s been a lot of speculation that this song is really about Britney (implying of course that the cheating other man is KFed), and that whole story definitely adds to the appeal of the song/video, which consciously plays upon the tropes of the femme fatale/revenge narrative. For me, it seems as if it’s really more about our fascination with the decline of Britney (the “fallen star”) than the success of Justin. Even though both Justin and Britney started out as seemingly perfect poppy stars, Britney receives more scrutiny now . . . and even many women greet her downfall and his success with satisfaction.


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