par Andrin, Muriel
Référence 1st Global Conference: Evil, Women and the Feminine(1: Juin 2009: Budapest), Evil, Women and the Feminine,,
Publication Publié, 2009
Publication dans des actes
Résumé : In the 1940s, Hollywood Melodramas proposed a new kind of heroine, far from any stereotyped and sacrificing representation of the genre: the heroine of the evil melodrama (1940-1953). Represented in emblematic films like, amongst others, Leave Her to Heaven (John Stahl, 1945) with Gene Tierney, The Letter (William Wyler, 1941) and Beyond the Forest (King Vidor, 1949) both with Bette Davis or The Strange Woman (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1946) with Hedy Lamarr, the evil heroine (a woman who cheats, lies, commits abortion, pushes men to suicide or even kills them) was one way of crystallizing the fears of a society which, after defeating the war enemy on and off-screen, turned against ‘the enemy inside’. These characters were shown as social counter-examples, yet, their path did not lead to the usual moralistic punishment that one might expect; the justice of men seems insufficient to restrain and master them. The argument presented in this paper (and in my PhD thesis published by Peter Lang in 2005) is that these characters are hybrids, depending both on a realistic representational system and on an intricate integration of mythical elements (bringing forth what anthropologist and historian Jean-Pierre Vernant calls the ‘legendary imagination’) that transforms them into mythical characters. Reinforcing the evil nature of the characters but also allowing a new kind of narrative structuring, one of the most determining mythical influence, next to Lilith, Eva or Pandora, is to be found in the Medusa narration. Through their association with the ‘lethal look’ but also other significant elements of the mythical narration (like the use of the shield, or the beheading), feminine characters of the evil melodramas became hybrid monsters. First seducing their prey through a fascination process (very similar to the sirens’ way of seducing sailors), the evil melodramatic women then induce what French theorist Jean Clair called a ‘medusation’ process that simultaneously still fascinates and repulses whoever face them, revealing the true evil nature of the heroines. Linked to the Burkean idea of the delight, the ‘medusation’ appears as a visual and narrative breakthrough. But it is also built on recurring mythical elements that appear throughout the narration (implicit dialogues and shots that refer to pictorial representations of the myth). This paper proposes to analyze the traces left by the Medusa myth in this specific cinematographic sub-genre and their moral implications in the films in which they appear. But it also wants to put forward the filmic specificities of this Medusa influence since the ‘medusation’ is used on a narrative level but also works on the filmic spectator throughout the paradoxical combination of fascination/repulsion engendered by the star and the evil nature of the character she embodies.