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The fatal attraction of victimising women Female villains don't need tragic backstories

Glenn Close: 'Nobody would say: well, why did that happen?' Credit: Fatal Attraction /via IMDB

Glenn Close: 'Nobody would say: well, why did that happen?' Credit: Fatal Attraction /via IMDB


May 3, 2023   6 mins

The erotomaniacal villainess of Fatal Attraction is something of a cipher. Only once in the 1987 film do we see Alex Forrest alone. Really alone, that is — not stalking Michael Douglas’s Dan Gallagher at a distance, or obsessively calling his home. She’s slumped on the floor wearing nothing but an oversized t-shirt, listening to Madame Butterfly, methodically turning a light on and off, as if she’s in a fugue. Her character is like the living embodiment of a failed Bechdel test: Alex’s obsession with Dan so defines her that outside its boundaries, she hardly even exists. Who is Alex? Where did she come from? What does she do when she’s not breaking into her married boyfriend’s house and boiling his daughter’s pet rabbit alive?

The original Fatal Attraction was uninterested in these questions, but the new reboot — an eponymous TV series — evidently thinks they’re important. Starring Lizzie Caplan as Alex, and Joshua Jackson as Dan, Fatal Attraction 2023 subverts its predecessor simply by being curious about its villain. Although the first two episodes reproduce both the plot and perspective of the original — Dan sparks a connection with Alex and then impulsively has an affair with her while his wife and daughter are out of town — the show then flips the script in episode three, depicting all these events again, but from Alex’s perspective. In the parlance of the contemporary culturati, it centres her.

Perhaps this was inevitable. We live in a moment in which every bad girl seems destined for a sad origin story. What began as a call for strong, complex female characters has evolved over the years into a conviction that lady villains in particular deserve better — and that their misdeeds must stem not from a deep-seated character deficiency, but from that oh-so-trendy contemporary explanation for everything: trauma. This is how Cruella deVille’s aspirations of dalmatian genocide become the product of a childhood tragedy, while Maleficent — a powerful woman whose name literally means destruction — is reimagined as a misunderstood victim of the patriarchy.

Whether these reimaginings truly improve the story in question is debatable; I, for one, found Maleficent much more intriguing when she was not a sympathetic figure shaped by suffering, but rather a deranged etiquette obsessive, incensed by nothing more or less than her exclusion from an infant’s birthday party. But there has always been a certain cohort of cultural critics who, under the auspices of feminism, take umbrage at such characterisations — who interpret the existence of a bad female character as veiled commentary on the state of women at large. When Fatal Attraction was first released in 1987, the LA Times review lambasted it for being “hateful” — “a clear attack on women’s sexuality, the independent woman and the career woman”.

Of course, in 1987, this wasn’t necessarily an erroneous assumption. The “career woman”, financially autonomous and sexually independent, was a controversial figure in a country consumed by panic over the prospect of ladies working outside of the home. The central concern surrounding the career woman was less that she would eat married men alive than that she would emasculate her own husband by out-earning him — but still, she made people nervous. If men in the Eighties were frightened of encountering a character like Alex Forrest, they had to be even more worried that their wives might look at her — with her successful career, cool New York City loft apartment, and penchant for acrobatic sex — and find her at least a little bit relatable, even aspirational.

The notion that Alex had a tragic backstory of her own, one that might render her more complex, if not outright sympathetic, was in fact nascent during the filming of the original Fatal Attraction — at least in the mind of the woman who played her. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Glenn Close recalled consulting psychiatrists to understand Alex’s motivations:

“There’s no way for the audience to know what her past was. It’s only hinted at when she looks at him giving the bunny to his daughter and then throws up in the bushes. Nobody would say: well why did that happen? Whereas I asked that and the psychiatrist said if she was molested at an early age, and what she was made to do made her gag and throw up, then that’s her trigger.”

Whether psychiatrists were using this word in this way in the late Eighties, the notion of the trigger is, itself, very now. It also conveniently subsumes any sense of control over a character’s decision-making under a slick veneer of therapy-speak. To envision yourself being set off in the manner of a loaded weapon is a different sort of objectification from the one feminist critics so often excoriate, but objectification nonetheless. A gun, after all, can’t fire itself.

There are signs that the new Fatal Attraction has taken to heart the criticisms of Close and others — and not just when it comes to the portrayal of Alex. The most famous thing about the 1987 film is its ending — in which Alex is shot dead by Dan’s wife after she attacks the couple in their home; but almost as well-known is the fact that this scene was re-shot at the last minute: in the original script, Alex slits her own throat and frames Dan for her murder. Close reportedly hated the new ending, as did several critics who found it tawdry and out of keeping with Alex’s character — and the new Fatal Attraction seems to have jettisoned it in favour of the original. The series features a dual timeline: one depicts the circa 2010 seduction. Another takes place in the present day, where Dan has just been released from prison, having been convicted of murdering Alex.

But rather than a win for the original film’s critics, the new Fatal Attraction may be sending them a cautionary message: be careful what you wish for. In this iteration, Alex does indeed have more depth. We see how her fear of abandonment — the “I hate you, don’t leave me” mindset that is characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder — both poisons her relationships with other people and makes her a fierce, competent advocate for victims of violent crime. At one point, she provides a somewhat brutal reality check to a man who’s being defrauded by his grandson but is hesitant to press charges: “You get to decide if you want to be with the people that hurt you, or alone. But it has to be one or the other, because those are the choices that you have.” One gets the sense that she’s speaking from experience, that as a victim is how Alex moves through and perceives the world herself. She is vulnerable and manipulative, tormented and tormentor. But while seeing the world through her eyes is riveting, it is also deeply unsettling.

As it turns out, to see the fullness of a person does not necessarily make that person good; sometimes, it only makes them more terrifying. Yes, we all contain the capacity for evil. Yes, some people are motivated to do terrible things not because they’re sadistic monsters but because they’re unwell, or desperate, or traumatised from an abusive past. But at the end of the day, we are still talking about a woman who breaks things and hurts people. Faced with the kind of romantic disappointment virtually every person experiences at least once — and a disappointment that is not just ordinary but, considering the married status of her paramour, entirely predictable — Alex chooses to go to extremes.

All of this makes Alex Forrest both a natural yet somewhat uncategorisable addition to the current entertainment landscape. Today’s Hollywood is a place where the only thing more bankable than a female anti-hero is a nostalgia property. But it is also a place where truly dangerous women go to die — or at least, to be rendered toothless by retellings that chalk all their bad acts up to PTSD. They are thus robbed of the agency that made them such interesting and effective villains in the first place.

There is a fine line between revealing a character’s humanity and excusing her behaviour, a balance that seems to present a particular struggle for television in the post-#MeToo era: writers are too quick to explain away the moral ambiguity of female characters with some kind of sexually traumatic backstory. Critics are too quick to accuse those who don’t do this of just hating women, full stop. Nobody has quite come out and said that women can’t be straight-up villains anymore, but in this tepid, fearful climate, it’s no surprise that people struggle to create female characters: bad, strong, or otherwise.

And yet, if the first two episodes of Fatal Attraction threaten to make you root for Alex — Dan, as played by Joshua Jackson, is so smarmy, and so entitled, that the prospect of seeing him taken down is not without its appeal — the third-episode twist reveals that Dan is not, and never was, the catalyst for what comes next. This is Alex Forrest’s show; this is Alex Forrest’s game. And while all of this makes Alex more interesting, crucially, it does not redeem her. It does not make her relatable.

In fact, in centring Alex, what this new take on Fatal Attraction really does is to hold her accountable. She is human rather than supernatural in her badness. She makes up stories to justify her choices, the way all human beings do. But she is bad: she orchestrates and manipulates. She tests people in the cruel and imperious manner of an Old Testament God, just for the dark pleasure of lashing out and punishing them when they fail her. Because however sorry you are for disappointing her, you can never be sorry enough. Because in her mind, you’re the bad guy.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

It’s not just women who are impacted enough by trauma in their childhood that they grow up to become abusive adults themselves, it happens to men too and it’s as excusable for women as it is for men, by which I mean it isn’t. Yes it becomes more understandable but it doesn’t excuse it.
When Caroline Flack took her own life, most women I encountered focused on her poor mental health rather than the fact that she was a domestic abuser, even to this day! I pointed out that had she been a man, no-one would be making such a fuss and I was derided as heartless because she had mental health issues, I pointed out that anyone, male or female, who behaves as she did towards her partner (domestic violence) has mental health problems. Explains but doesn’t excuse.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I’d never heard of this case, so I did a quick google search. Most of the entries were on the treatment she received from the media during the days leading up to her suicide. Hardly any on her boyfriend who she attacked while he was asleep.
While her suicide remains a tragedy, I think you are correct in asserting that had Caroline Flack been a man much of the media would have celebrated his demise. I also wonder how much of this dynamic has been internalized by modern society. In my interactions with women I’ve noticed a strong tendency to externalize responsibility i.e. blame others for their own ill-judged actions.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I’d never heard of this case, so I did a quick google search. Most of the entries were on the treatment she received from the media during the days leading up to her suicide. Hardly any on her boyfriend who she attacked while he was asleep.
While her suicide remains a tragedy, I think you are correct in asserting that had Caroline Flack been a man much of the media would have celebrated his demise. I also wonder how much of this dynamic has been internalized by modern society. In my interactions with women I’ve noticed a strong tendency to externalize responsibility i.e. blame others for their own ill-judged actions.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

It’s not just women who are impacted enough by trauma in their childhood that they grow up to become abusive adults themselves, it happens to men too and it’s as excusable for women as it is for men, by which I mean it isn’t. Yes it becomes more understandable but it doesn’t excuse it.
When Caroline Flack took her own life, most women I encountered focused on her poor mental health rather than the fact that she was a domestic abuser, even to this day! I pointed out that had she been a man, no-one would be making such a fuss and I was derided as heartless because she had mental health issues, I pointed out that anyone, male or female, who behaves as she did towards her partner (domestic violence) has mental health problems. Explains but doesn’t excuse.

Graeme Archer
Graeme Archer
1 year ago

It’s not the writer’s fault, but I’m pretty fed up with children re-explaining the 1980s to me, as though it were a long-lost epoch impossibly distant in time, as opposed to (how it feels to me) ‘last week’. We really weren’t un-self-examined barbarians chuntering around in reactionary grass when women started to work, and Fatal Attraction was examined on many, many more levels than ‘She boiled the rabbit’. iirc (and not mentioned here) it was commonly viewed as a metaphor for HIV.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

This is how are lives are now, well, us old farts.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

“We really weren’t un-self-examined barbarians chuntering around in reactionary grass when women started to work”
The other thing that really irritates about that line of thought – is that in reality, it’s women who choose to go for an easy life in a part time or low stress, low earning job, and “allow” their husbands to slog away to run household expenses. I have met hardly a single man who expressed anything negative about women working. Even amongst the women I see who do earn well, just about none of them married a man who earned less than them (or even the same).

It’s a very common theme I have found, not just in feminists but most educated young women. They will complain about the “patriarchy” and how men are against women entering sports, gaming, STEM etc
But – they take absolutely ZERO interest in watching sports, playing computer games or anything tech-y. In fact look down upon such activities, while they happily gossip for hours about love island and soap operas.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

It’s very common for women to choose to take time off from work or go part time after becoming mothers. It’s the major factor in the male/female earnings gap.
Women want choice but this one is not popular with feminists (but then neither is marriage since one of the main foundation principals of feminism is its abolition). Feminists also campaign to have men take time off from work and assume childcare duties but this doesn’t sit well with many new mothers who desperately want to be with their babies and, if they do choose to return to work and leave the father to care for the baby, often end up resenting his time at home. It’s ironic that feminism has produced many benefits for men while setting young women on a path they later come to regret.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I think your anecdotal circle is not universal. I made equal, then more than my husband. I played team sports competitively and studied computer science through a master’s degree. I worked for a company that had prestige and expected long work hours.

My husband is not a bad guy, but he only tried to pick up our kids from daycare twice over three years and somehow was late both times because his meetings ran late. He said he couldn’t leave until his meetings were finished, as well-intentioned justification. What he misunderstood was that I had meetings that also ran late, but instead of staying at the meeting—I had to walk out early to make the daycare pick up before the center closed. There was, and is, something in him that compels him to work relentlessly in order to be successful at his job and “bring home the money”. Even though he wasn’t bringing home more money than I was. I am driven, but it’s not pathological. I can dial it back without psychological distress (just embarrassment), as evidenced by me leaving work early to make pick up time. He would consider himself a modern man and has never uttered a sexist phrase to me in his life, but yet his presumably innate male drive to be a provider was crushing my career. In fact, to this day he continues to say “I think you should do whatever job you want, I’ll support you” without irony.

So I transitioned to staying at home with our kids. And I realized that two phrases that I’ve heard over the years are the best summations of what I experienced after we had kids: “you marry your glass ceiling” and “my husband wouldn’t stop treating me like a stay at home mom, so I became one”.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

Sounds like you are using him as your reason for staying home with your children.
Many women in your situation simply monkey branch to a higher status male provider. You’re unusual in that regard.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Shaw
T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  William Shaw

William, what part of my comment made you think that I was using my husband to stay home with my kids? I’m genuinely curious.

I stay home as a sacrifice for both my marriage and our kids. It’s not my natural disposition, and this is not how I foresaw this period of my life going, but I’ve made my peace with what my family needs at this time in our lives. It was either keep my career or keep my family. I’m also a practicing Catholic, so my faith and the subsequent worldview reinforces my intuition that family and marriage is more important than the healthy ego derived from my career and income.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

Your final sentence
 plus all the exposé of his faults/limitations.
Personally I think you’re oversharing.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  William Shaw

William, in order to propose a counterexample I think there has to be a degree of personalized content. Versions of my experience, that I’ve described in depth in my comments, have been and continue to occur in families across the country and there are real social and political implications to the cultural relationships between marriage, work, and children (even if it’s shoved into the Women’s Issues bucket at this time).

But similarly I think that you and Samir are generalizing based upon your personal experiences. For the same reason you feel compelled to assert your generalizations on an internet forum, I feel compelled to refute your generalizations on the same internet forum—particularly since your generalizations are about me and others similar to me. Why should you get to make assertions about women and then expect no counterexamples from women?

If you’re worried about a random stranger on the internet’s husband, fear not. I showed him this comment exchange and he laughing exclaimed “those are bots! No one talks like that in real life” and then immediately said “yeah I did push you out of your career, you can write that to the bot”.

Last edited 1 year ago by T A
William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

I’ll let that be the final word.
Peace.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

I’ll let that be the final word.
Peace.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  William Shaw

William, in order to propose a counterexample I think there has to be a degree of personalized content. Versions of my experience, that I’ve described in depth in my comments, have been and continue to occur in families across the country and there are real social and political implications to the cultural relationships between marriage, work, and children (even if it’s shoved into the Women’s Issues bucket at this time).

But similarly I think that you and Samir are generalizing based upon your personal experiences. For the same reason you feel compelled to assert your generalizations on an internet forum, I feel compelled to refute your generalizations on the same internet forum—particularly since your generalizations are about me and others similar to me. Why should you get to make assertions about women and then expect no counterexamples from women?

If you’re worried about a random stranger on the internet’s husband, fear not. I showed him this comment exchange and he laughing exclaimed “those are bots! No one talks like that in real life” and then immediately said “yeah I did push you out of your career, you can write that to the bot”.

Last edited 1 year ago by T A
William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

Your final sentence
 plus all the exposé of his faults/limitations.
Personally I think you’re oversharing.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  William Shaw

William, what part of my comment made you think that I was using my husband to stay home with my kids? I’m genuinely curious.

I stay home as a sacrifice for both my marriage and our kids. It’s not my natural disposition, and this is not how I foresaw this period of my life going, but I’ve made my peace with what my family needs at this time in our lives. It was either keep my career or keep my family. I’m also a practicing Catholic, so my faith and the subsequent worldview reinforces my intuition that family and marriage is more important than the healthy ego derived from my career and income.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

So your life choices are his fault?
C’mon now, ‘you pays your money, you takes your choice’. This is as true of marriage decisions, kid decisions, work decisions, staying at home decisions as it is for all decisions. Your husband’s “innate male drive to be a provider” was not crushing your career…your decision to abandon that career for your family ‘crushed it’.
But so what?
Career is not a higher priority than family unless we choose to make it one. You might just as easily said that choosing to pursue a career (at the expense of family) crushed your family, if indeed you had made that choice.
The point is, we all make choices. And despite all the commercials we can’t have it all. Everything has a price and there’s only so much time & effort we have to spend, so trade-offs are a fact of life. You traded time with your children, for time programming widget making. Personally I think you made a great choice. There are 10 million widget makers out there but our children are uniquely ours. And they are and always will be vastly superior to whatever your Master’s in Computer Science might have brought you.
As always, it’s a question of priorities…and the choices we make to pursue those priorities.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

B Davis, I couldn’t agree with you more on the futility of deriving one’s identity on a career and income level. This is my philosophy as well and it is the reason I’m at peace with sacrificing my career for my marriage and family.

But it was indisputably a sacrifice on my part to leave my career as a woman in the 21st century. I have incurred significant financial risk by leaving my job and staying “unemployed” for an extended time period. If my husband passes away or decides to leave me, I will need to get a job immediately. I will have a large gap in my resume; large gaps in resumes are often difficult to overcome in a job search (as many non-moms can also attest). I also am a ~middle aged person looking for a new job; age discrimination is rampant across most industries (as many non-moms can also attest). I have also lost career momentum within my industry, in conjunction with my current technological skills becoming outdated as a result of being away from the field; the pace of technological change leaves many employees behind, even the ones that stay in their jobs and can’t keep up for one reason or another; once one has been “left behind” by technological changes in a field, it’s very hard to compete with other job seekers that already have the updated skill sets (as many non-moms can also attest). It’s not impossible to re-enter the workforce after being out of the job market for awhile, but it’s certainly an uphill battle and the salary is typically less than the previous salary before the employment gap.

Moreover, it was my certainly my husband’s inability to split childcare duties that did in fact “crush” my career. Yes, I made the final choice to end the high stress, high conflict, high resentment period that our family was going through because of the friction between jobs and child duties, but it was only after a long period of trying to make dual income with kids work. I was doing my job and 100% of all of the child work. Even the best employee can only leave meetings early and not work late into the night with their co-workers so many times before their boss begins to reconsider the employee’s dedication to the company and their co-workers start to resent the unfair work standards. This is an experience that non-moms can also relate to if they’re both employed and also caregivers to elderly or sick family members. And tbh it is unfair to both the company and the other employees for a parent to expect or request special hours and treatment at work, since it’s not their fault that a co-worker has young kids and those kids are not the co-workers’ responsibility. But, those kids are the responsibility of their other parent, which is where the choices of both parents directly affect each other’s ability to maintain a career. This is where my husband’s choices made the difference.

I’m not dwelling in resentment or self-pity about my choice either. As I’ve noted, I am at peace with what has transpired and the decisions that I’ve made. I love my kids and my husband, so the sacrifices are totally worth it. I simply wanted to refute Samir’s generalizations with my experience in my initial comment and describe the risks and the oftentimes unavoidably dichotomous choice of career or family in this comment.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

Understood completely.
But I would still argue the word ‘sacrifice’.
Rather I would suggest that what you describe is a simple trade-off (simple in the sense that the choices are obvious & clear).
When I was a kid my folks would give me a quarter…that I could then take to the local Dairy Queen. I was very young & this was many years ago (obviously, given the fact that it was only a quarter!). Once there I was faced with a horrible, terrible, no good choice. I could either get myself an ice-cream cone…OR….an icy-cold glass of rootbeer. Now I loved ice-cream and I loved rootbeer and I remember being torn between these two alternatives. Whichever choice I made I ‘sacrificed’ the other…and always I regretted that sacrifice. Buyer’s Remorse haunted me as a kid! I traded-off ice cream for rootbeer or visa versa…and I still remember the regret: damn I should have chosen the other!
But looking back on it, that was not really any kind of sacrifice. It was just a choice. And since every choice to do “X” requires that we’re not doing ‘A’, or ‘B’, or ‘C’, or or or, it seems somewhat misleading to say we’re sacrificing A, B, C, etc. when we choose ‘X’. Rather we are simply choosing a path. And every path carries with it a different kind of risk.
Certainly to choose, freely and joyously, to spend a major chunk of one’s life raising a family causes 10,000 trade-offs to occur…but the fact that we’ve made a trade-off doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a bad outcome…it simply shifts where that risk of a bad outcome might lie.
And you’re absolutely right, the nature of your choice does indeed increase the risk of financial exposure given certain conditions (which may be more or less probable). Equally, as you indicated, if you’d made the career choice rather than the family choice, a different set of risks are created, each with their own set of probabilities. As Sinatra might have said, “that’s life!”

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

B Davis, this is a very good point. I actually had to think for a bit in order to understand why it’s so important for me to call leaving the workforce a sacrifice as opposed to a mere choice.

I used an analogy from another part of life to think through my response. I served in the Army and Afghanistan at the height of the GWOT. I have lost a few good friends and some of my friends have lost limbs. Most people would agree, I think, that my friends who were killed “sacrificed” their lives. The justification would be, “they gave their lives for the nation”. My friends gave up something that they had (their lives), denied the needs and wants of the self (the will to live), and did so for other people (their fellow citizens).

Did my friends who lived but lost limbs also sacrifice? I think most people would say yes, they just sacrificed less than my friends who were killed. Those who just lost limbs gave up something that they had (their limbs), denied the needs and wants of the self (the will to have the body intact), and did so for other people (their fellow citizens).

But what about the soldiers who were killed and lost limbs in Vietnam? From speaking with veterans from that era, many were told that they didn’t sacrifice and instead made a choice. Given our template of sacrifice described above, those soldiers should have been culturally acknowledged as sacrificing in the same way my friends of this culture were acknowledged as sacrificing.

The difference is, I believe, in society’s belief in the *necessity* of the proposed sacrifice. It wasn’t my time, but I would assume that people who denied that soldiers killed in Vietnam sacrificed their lives, and instead chose to needlessly die, did not believe in the validity of the Vietnam War nor the necessity of soldiers going to Vietnam. While Afghanistan is now a bit more controversial, in the post 9/11 era I observed that most people believed in the general necessity of the war—and thus most people viewed my friends’ loss of life or limb as sacrifices as opposed to a mere choice.

Does the act of me (and the many other women in similar positions) leaving the workforce fit my template of sacrifice? I believe it does. I gave up something that I had (a job and income security), denied the needs and wants of the self (the will to be independent and financially secure), and did so for others (my husband and our kids). Yes, it is not equivalent to losing my life in combat, nor is it equivalent to losing limbs, but losing limbs is not equivalent to losing a life—yet both losses are considered sacrifices—so the range of sacrifice already exists on a spectrum.

But what about the *necessity* of this departure from the workforce? I think this is question is where my insistence on the diction of sacrifice comes from. In dual income families with kids, on average, something changes in at least one parent’s behavior in order to raise the children. In my opinion, that change is necessary. In my personal experience, as I’ve written in my previous comments, that change was necessary. Now, just like in war, some may sacrifice analogous limbs (part time or stepping back in intensity), and some may sacrifice analogous lives (leaving the workforce entirely). But whatever one gives up and however one self-abnegates, a parent must change something for their kids when they are born. Dirty diapers won’t change themselves and young children can’t procure and prepare their own food. To imply, by denial of the necessity of parental change, that children can take care of themselves, in some way, unintentionally seems to diminish the role of the parent. Perhaps there is also a sense of a cultural implication that children are not necessary, and that having kids is a mere choice amongst daily choices.

But you’re right, if someone doesn’t think a person leaving the workforce for their children is necessary, then it could be construed as a choice. The verbiage of choice can also occur if someone thinks that there was nothing given up by leaving the workforce, that there was no denial of self, or that the parent left the workforce for their own reasons and not for their family. So alas, I must concede that sacrifice vs choice is perhaps not provable and is instead subjective. Lol to each their own ice cream, I suppose!

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

B Davis, this is a very good point. I actually had to think for a bit in order to understand why it’s so important for me to call leaving the workforce a sacrifice as opposed to a mere choice.

I used an analogy from another part of life to think through my response. I served in the Army and Afghanistan at the height of the GWOT. I have lost a few good friends and some of my friends have lost limbs. Most people would agree, I think, that my friends who were killed “sacrificed” their lives. The justification would be, “they gave their lives for the nation”. My friends gave up something that they had (their lives), denied the needs and wants of the self (the will to live), and did so for other people (their fellow citizens).

Did my friends who lived but lost limbs also sacrifice? I think most people would say yes, they just sacrificed less than my friends who were killed. Those who just lost limbs gave up something that they had (their limbs), denied the needs and wants of the self (the will to have the body intact), and did so for other people (their fellow citizens).

But what about the soldiers who were killed and lost limbs in Vietnam? From speaking with veterans from that era, many were told that they didn’t sacrifice and instead made a choice. Given our template of sacrifice described above, those soldiers should have been culturally acknowledged as sacrificing in the same way my friends of this culture were acknowledged as sacrificing.

The difference is, I believe, in society’s belief in the *necessity* of the proposed sacrifice. It wasn’t my time, but I would assume that people who denied that soldiers killed in Vietnam sacrificed their lives, and instead chose to needlessly die, did not believe in the validity of the Vietnam War nor the necessity of soldiers going to Vietnam. While Afghanistan is now a bit more controversial, in the post 9/11 era I observed that most people believed in the general necessity of the war—and thus most people viewed my friends’ loss of life or limb as sacrifices as opposed to a mere choice.

Does the act of me (and the many other women in similar positions) leaving the workforce fit my template of sacrifice? I believe it does. I gave up something that I had (a job and income security), denied the needs and wants of the self (the will to be independent and financially secure), and did so for others (my husband and our kids). Yes, it is not equivalent to losing my life in combat, nor is it equivalent to losing limbs, but losing limbs is not equivalent to losing a life—yet both losses are considered sacrifices—so the range of sacrifice already exists on a spectrum.

But what about the *necessity* of this departure from the workforce? I think this is question is where my insistence on the diction of sacrifice comes from. In dual income families with kids, on average, something changes in at least one parent’s behavior in order to raise the children. In my opinion, that change is necessary. In my personal experience, as I’ve written in my previous comments, that change was necessary. Now, just like in war, some may sacrifice analogous limbs (part time or stepping back in intensity), and some may sacrifice analogous lives (leaving the workforce entirely). But whatever one gives up and however one self-abnegates, a parent must change something for their kids when they are born. Dirty diapers won’t change themselves and young children can’t procure and prepare their own food. To imply, by denial of the necessity of parental change, that children can take care of themselves, in some way, unintentionally seems to diminish the role of the parent. Perhaps there is also a sense of a cultural implication that children are not necessary, and that having kids is a mere choice amongst daily choices.

But you’re right, if someone doesn’t think a person leaving the workforce for their children is necessary, then it could be construed as a choice. The verbiage of choice can also occur if someone thinks that there was nothing given up by leaving the workforce, that there was no denial of self, or that the parent left the workforce for their own reasons and not for their family. So alas, I must concede that sacrifice vs choice is perhaps not provable and is instead subjective. Lol to each their own ice cream, I suppose!

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

Understood completely.
But I would still argue the word ‘sacrifice’.
Rather I would suggest that what you describe is a simple trade-off (simple in the sense that the choices are obvious & clear).
When I was a kid my folks would give me a quarter…that I could then take to the local Dairy Queen. I was very young & this was many years ago (obviously, given the fact that it was only a quarter!). Once there I was faced with a horrible, terrible, no good choice. I could either get myself an ice-cream cone…OR….an icy-cold glass of rootbeer. Now I loved ice-cream and I loved rootbeer and I remember being torn between these two alternatives. Whichever choice I made I ‘sacrificed’ the other…and always I regretted that sacrifice. Buyer’s Remorse haunted me as a kid! I traded-off ice cream for rootbeer or visa versa…and I still remember the regret: damn I should have chosen the other!
But looking back on it, that was not really any kind of sacrifice. It was just a choice. And since every choice to do “X” requires that we’re not doing ‘A’, or ‘B’, or ‘C’, or or or, it seems somewhat misleading to say we’re sacrificing A, B, C, etc. when we choose ‘X’. Rather we are simply choosing a path. And every path carries with it a different kind of risk.
Certainly to choose, freely and joyously, to spend a major chunk of one’s life raising a family causes 10,000 trade-offs to occur…but the fact that we’ve made a trade-off doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a bad outcome…it simply shifts where that risk of a bad outcome might lie.
And you’re absolutely right, the nature of your choice does indeed increase the risk of financial exposure given certain conditions (which may be more or less probable). Equally, as you indicated, if you’d made the career choice rather than the family choice, a different set of risks are created, each with their own set of probabilities. As Sinatra might have said, “that’s life!”

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

B Davis, I couldn’t agree with you more on the futility of deriving one’s identity on a career and income level. This is my philosophy as well and it is the reason I’m at peace with sacrificing my career for my marriage and family.

But it was indisputably a sacrifice on my part to leave my career as a woman in the 21st century. I have incurred significant financial risk by leaving my job and staying “unemployed” for an extended time period. If my husband passes away or decides to leave me, I will need to get a job immediately. I will have a large gap in my resume; large gaps in resumes are often difficult to overcome in a job search (as many non-moms can also attest). I also am a ~middle aged person looking for a new job; age discrimination is rampant across most industries (as many non-moms can also attest). I have also lost career momentum within my industry, in conjunction with my current technological skills becoming outdated as a result of being away from the field; the pace of technological change leaves many employees behind, even the ones that stay in their jobs and can’t keep up for one reason or another; once one has been “left behind” by technological changes in a field, it’s very hard to compete with other job seekers that already have the updated skill sets (as many non-moms can also attest). It’s not impossible to re-enter the workforce after being out of the job market for awhile, but it’s certainly an uphill battle and the salary is typically less than the previous salary before the employment gap.

Moreover, it was my certainly my husband’s inability to split childcare duties that did in fact “crush” my career. Yes, I made the final choice to end the high stress, high conflict, high resentment period that our family was going through because of the friction between jobs and child duties, but it was only after a long period of trying to make dual income with kids work. I was doing my job and 100% of all of the child work. Even the best employee can only leave meetings early and not work late into the night with their co-workers so many times before their boss begins to reconsider the employee’s dedication to the company and their co-workers start to resent the unfair work standards. This is an experience that non-moms can also relate to if they’re both employed and also caregivers to elderly or sick family members. And tbh it is unfair to both the company and the other employees for a parent to expect or request special hours and treatment at work, since it’s not their fault that a co-worker has young kids and those kids are not the co-workers’ responsibility. But, those kids are the responsibility of their other parent, which is where the choices of both parents directly affect each other’s ability to maintain a career. This is where my husband’s choices made the difference.

I’m not dwelling in resentment or self-pity about my choice either. As I’ve noted, I am at peace with what has transpired and the decisions that I’ve made. I love my kids and my husband, so the sacrifices are totally worth it. I simply wanted to refute Samir’s generalizations with my experience in my initial comment and describe the risks and the oftentimes unavoidably dichotomous choice of career or family in this comment.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

“I played team sports competitively and studied computer science through a master’s degree”
That is sadly not typical, which is my point. Also, you were obviously good at computers and sports. The issue is, men who are useless at studying computers or competitive sports would still take an interest in computer games/ tech stuff or sports, but the same doesn’t hold true for women. Which is absolutely fine, but it’s irritating to see a narrative that it’s because of “evil patriarchy”, not because women just have different interests.

“his presumably innate male drive to be a provider was crushing my career”
I am not denying that dynamic exists, just feel it’s something imposed by overall society (including women’s expectations from partners), rather than something meant to oppress women or some plot to impede their careers. I know one guy who lost his job and shifted to running the house, and he was visibly tense and sensitive about it. I can realise you would feel it’s unfair and blame your husband for seemingly prioritising his own job, but he grew up knowing women in general would look down upon him if he didn’t do well in his career. Pity really, because I would feel it’s better for kids if their fathers were really involved in their lives.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Samir, I agree with you that I am not necessarily representative of all women, but I am representative of some women. Hence why I’ve put forth effort to provide a counterexample to your personal observations.

On some women lambasting the “evil patriarchy”, I would postulate that we most likely agree on more things than we disagree. In my opinion, there are not many men actively attempting to “put women back in the kitchen”, just like there are not many women actively attempting to “make men irrelevant”. Rather, I think both men and women are casualties of the conflict between a biological imperative to reproduce for the survival of the species and a current culture that is excessively individualistic. Raising a child is the ultimate team sport between the mom and dad, and a society that is structured and incentivized for individuals and the individual mindset puts structural and cultural pressure on individuals trying to operate as a team.

Additionally, women are often pressured by peers, bosses, and cultural discourse to sacrifice none to little of their individualism after having children; part of this pressure is the very real, very visceral concern about the sheer financial risk in removing oneself from employment in order to support your family team in a society structured for individuals, but part of this pressure is also, in my opinion, an insistence on the self over the needs of others—aka selfishness (albeit not maliciously intentioned). However, in the age of no fault divorce, it is a big gamble to trust that the spouse you sacrificed your individual economic security for will not leave your marriage. Similarly, it’s probably increasingly a gamble for men to get married and have children given the typical court decisions on divorce and custodial arrangements.

On men’s experiences filling traditional child rearing roles, I agree that there is often stigma and unfair portrayals. I have seen it myself at children activities during the workday. An equivalent stigma used to exist towards women filling traditional breadwinning roles, but from my observations that stigma from external society towards women no longer exists outside of certain sub-cultures.

The solutions to the perhaps mutual dissatisfaction towards the current roles of men and women, in my current opinion, will controversially stem from a cultural change towards family incentivization and less individualism. But I don’t know if people will be open to willingly relinquishing individual choice until they are so utterly dissatisfied with their current status quo that they’ll consider alternatives. That dissatisfaction is what ultimately prompted my shift away from individualism towards sacrificing for my family (and improving the quality of life of everyone in my family, in return), but I could be missing something in advocating for ‘throwing off the reins of individualism’ once one has kids.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Samir, I agree with you that I am not necessarily representative of all women, but I am representative of some women. Hence why I’ve put forth effort to provide a counterexample to your personal observations.

On some women lambasting the “evil patriarchy”, I would postulate that we most likely agree on more things than we disagree. In my opinion, there are not many men actively attempting to “put women back in the kitchen”, just like there are not many women actively attempting to “make men irrelevant”. Rather, I think both men and women are casualties of the conflict between a biological imperative to reproduce for the survival of the species and a current culture that is excessively individualistic. Raising a child is the ultimate team sport between the mom and dad, and a society that is structured and incentivized for individuals and the individual mindset puts structural and cultural pressure on individuals trying to operate as a team.

Additionally, women are often pressured by peers, bosses, and cultural discourse to sacrifice none to little of their individualism after having children; part of this pressure is the very real, very visceral concern about the sheer financial risk in removing oneself from employment in order to support your family team in a society structured for individuals, but part of this pressure is also, in my opinion, an insistence on the self over the needs of others—aka selfishness (albeit not maliciously intentioned). However, in the age of no fault divorce, it is a big gamble to trust that the spouse you sacrificed your individual economic security for will not leave your marriage. Similarly, it’s probably increasingly a gamble for men to get married and have children given the typical court decisions on divorce and custodial arrangements.

On men’s experiences filling traditional child rearing roles, I agree that there is often stigma and unfair portrayals. I have seen it myself at children activities during the workday. An equivalent stigma used to exist towards women filling traditional breadwinning roles, but from my observations that stigma from external society towards women no longer exists outside of certain sub-cultures.

The solutions to the perhaps mutual dissatisfaction towards the current roles of men and women, in my current opinion, will controversially stem from a cultural change towards family incentivization and less individualism. But I don’t know if people will be open to willingly relinquishing individual choice until they are so utterly dissatisfied with their current status quo that they’ll consider alternatives. That dissatisfaction is what ultimately prompted my shift away from individualism towards sacrificing for my family (and improving the quality of life of everyone in my family, in return), but I could be missing something in advocating for ‘throwing off the reins of individualism’ once one has kids.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

Sounds like you are using him as your reason for staying home with your children.
Many women in your situation simply monkey branch to a higher status male provider. You’re unusual in that regard.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Shaw
B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

So your life choices are his fault?
C’mon now, ‘you pays your money, you takes your choice’. This is as true of marriage decisions, kid decisions, work decisions, staying at home decisions as it is for all decisions. Your husband’s “innate male drive to be a provider” was not crushing your career…your decision to abandon that career for your family ‘crushed it’.
But so what?
Career is not a higher priority than family unless we choose to make it one. You might just as easily said that choosing to pursue a career (at the expense of family) crushed your family, if indeed you had made that choice.
The point is, we all make choices. And despite all the commercials we can’t have it all. Everything has a price and there’s only so much time & effort we have to spend, so trade-offs are a fact of life. You traded time with your children, for time programming widget making. Personally I think you made a great choice. There are 10 million widget makers out there but our children are uniquely ours. And they are and always will be vastly superior to whatever your Master’s in Computer Science might have brought you.
As always, it’s a question of priorities…and the choices we make to pursue those priorities.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  T A

“I played team sports competitively and studied computer science through a master’s degree”
That is sadly not typical, which is my point. Also, you were obviously good at computers and sports. The issue is, men who are useless at studying computers or competitive sports would still take an interest in computer games/ tech stuff or sports, but the same doesn’t hold true for women. Which is absolutely fine, but it’s irritating to see a narrative that it’s because of “evil patriarchy”, not because women just have different interests.

“his presumably innate male drive to be a provider was crushing my career”
I am not denying that dynamic exists, just feel it’s something imposed by overall society (including women’s expectations from partners), rather than something meant to oppress women or some plot to impede their careers. I know one guy who lost his job and shifted to running the house, and he was visibly tense and sensitive about it. I can realise you would feel it’s unfair and blame your husband for seemingly prioritising his own job, but he grew up knowing women in general would look down upon him if he didn’t do well in his career. Pity really, because I would feel it’s better for kids if their fathers were really involved in their lives.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

How many prejudices and misconceptions can one man fit into one four-paragraph comment?

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

It’s very common for women to choose to take time off from work or go part time after becoming mothers. It’s the major factor in the male/female earnings gap.
Women want choice but this one is not popular with feminists (but then neither is marriage since one of the main foundation principals of feminism is its abolition). Feminists also campaign to have men take time off from work and assume childcare duties but this doesn’t sit well with many new mothers who desperately want to be with their babies and, if they do choose to return to work and leave the father to care for the baby, often end up resenting his time at home. It’s ironic that feminism has produced many benefits for men while setting young women on a path they later come to regret.

T A
T A
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I think your anecdotal circle is not universal. I made equal, then more than my husband. I played team sports competitively and studied computer science through a master’s degree. I worked for a company that had prestige and expected long work hours.

My husband is not a bad guy, but he only tried to pick up our kids from daycare twice over three years and somehow was late both times because his meetings ran late. He said he couldn’t leave until his meetings were finished, as well-intentioned justification. What he misunderstood was that I had meetings that also ran late, but instead of staying at the meeting—I had to walk out early to make the daycare pick up before the center closed. There was, and is, something in him that compels him to work relentlessly in order to be successful at his job and “bring home the money”. Even though he wasn’t bringing home more money than I was. I am driven, but it’s not pathological. I can dial it back without psychological distress (just embarrassment), as evidenced by me leaving work early to make pick up time. He would consider himself a modern man and has never uttered a sexist phrase to me in his life, but yet his presumably innate male drive to be a provider was crushing my career. In fact, to this day he continues to say “I think you should do whatever job you want, I’ll support you” without irony.

So I transitioned to staying at home with our kids. And I realized that two phrases that I’ve heard over the years are the best summations of what I experienced after we had kids: “you marry your glass ceiling” and “my husband wouldn’t stop treating me like a stay at home mom, so I became one”.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

How many prejudices and misconceptions can one man fit into one four-paragraph comment?

Adam Wolstenholme
Adam Wolstenholme
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

Yes, I remember it being interpreted as an HIV metaphor. But I’ve always thought of the original Fatal Attraction as something more simple – a powerful warning about the dangers of adultery: Illicit sex with a stranger is not only wrong, but also dangerous because she might just be crazy. Okay, so Dan ‘gets away’ with it in the end, but she doesn’t half put him through the ringer. In its twisted way, it’s a small-c conservative family-values movie. Nothing wrong with that.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

This is how are lives are now, well, us old farts.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

“We really weren’t un-self-examined barbarians chuntering around in reactionary grass when women started to work”
The other thing that really irritates about that line of thought – is that in reality, it’s women who choose to go for an easy life in a part time or low stress, low earning job, and “allow” their husbands to slog away to run household expenses. I have met hardly a single man who expressed anything negative about women working. Even amongst the women I see who do earn well, just about none of them married a man who earned less than them (or even the same).

It’s a very common theme I have found, not just in feminists but most educated young women. They will complain about the “patriarchy” and how men are against women entering sports, gaming, STEM etc
But – they take absolutely ZERO interest in watching sports, playing computer games or anything tech-y. In fact look down upon such activities, while they happily gossip for hours about love island and soap operas.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Adam Wolstenholme
Adam Wolstenholme
1 year ago
Reply to  Graeme Archer

Yes, I remember it being interpreted as an HIV metaphor. But I’ve always thought of the original Fatal Attraction as something more simple – a powerful warning about the dangers of adultery: Illicit sex with a stranger is not only wrong, but also dangerous because she might just be crazy. Okay, so Dan ‘gets away’ with it in the end, but she doesn’t half put him through the ringer. In its twisted way, it’s a small-c conservative family-values movie. Nothing wrong with that.

Graeme Archer
Graeme Archer
1 year ago

It’s not the writer’s fault, but I’m pretty fed up with children re-explaining the 1980s to me, as though it were a long-lost epoch impossibly distant in time, as opposed to (how it feels to me) ‘last week’. We really weren’t un-self-examined barbarians chuntering around in reactionary grass when women started to work, and Fatal Attraction was examined on many, many more levels than ‘She boiled the rabbit’. iirc (and not mentioned here) it was commonly viewed as a metaphor for HIV.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

What?? The United States wasn’t consumed by “panic over the prospect of ladies working outside of the home” in 1987. I, a young married woman, was working for a major newspaper then, and more than half of my colleagues were, too. My mother got her first job as a teacher when she was (secretly) pregnant with my brother in 1957. Pregnant teachers were not allowed, so she hid it as long as she could before she left. She returned to the profession after I was born and remained until her retirement in the early 90s.
How on Earth could this writer possibly think women with careers were viewed as a threat in the 80s? Heck, my grandmother taught music at Boston University in the 50s and my other grandma was a bank manager. Sheesh already.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

My grandmother, who was born in 1900, was a chef in a five star hotel which is still a five star hotel today. She was Irish and had cooked for a lord in Ireland before moving to England. My mother was a P.A. To a group of scientists.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The author was born in 1982 and started working in 2004. She might have been alive in the 1980s but you don’t actually get a feel for an era unless you are nearly adult. A lot of completely loony and unexamined beliefs are taken as gospel if you wear the right ideological goggles and don’t have practical experience to contradict the propaganda.

My mother was a professional violinist pre-war and I certainly don’t remember any panic over women working outside the home in the UK where a decent proportion of my colleagues in 1987 were women. I can’t imagine the US was any different.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It wasn’t, Jeremy, as you point out. I’ll bet our mothers and grandmothers would have fried up some SPAM and gone to work in the 40s with a shrug. People like this writer need to get up to speed with reality: this person has embarrassed herself.

poli redux
poli redux
1 year ago

My mother worked full-time in the Durex prophylactic factory. I wouldn’t call it a career, but she had great line in dirty jokes.

poli redux
poli redux
1 year ago

My mother worked full-time in the Durex prophylactic factory. I wouldn’t call it a career, but she had great line in dirty jokes.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It wasn’t, Jeremy, as you point out. I’ll bet our mothers and grandmothers would have fried up some SPAM and gone to work in the 40s with a shrug. People like this writer need to get up to speed with reality: this person has embarrassed herself.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

My grandmother, who was born in 1900, was a chef in a five star hotel which is still a five star hotel today. She was Irish and had cooked for a lord in Ireland before moving to England. My mother was a P.A. To a group of scientists.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The author was born in 1982 and started working in 2004. She might have been alive in the 1980s but you don’t actually get a feel for an era unless you are nearly adult. A lot of completely loony and unexamined beliefs are taken as gospel if you wear the right ideological goggles and don’t have practical experience to contradict the propaganda.

My mother was a professional violinist pre-war and I certainly don’t remember any panic over women working outside the home in the UK where a decent proportion of my colleagues in 1987 were women. I can’t imagine the US was any different.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

What?? The United States wasn’t consumed by “panic over the prospect of ladies working outside of the home” in 1987. I, a young married woman, was working for a major newspaper then, and more than half of my colleagues were, too. My mother got her first job as a teacher when she was (secretly) pregnant with my brother in 1957. Pregnant teachers were not allowed, so she hid it as long as she could before she left. She returned to the profession after I was born and remained until her retirement in the early 90s.
How on Earth could this writer possibly think women with careers were viewed as a threat in the 80s? Heck, my grandmother taught music at Boston University in the 50s and my other grandma was a bank manager. Sheesh already.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Twenty years ago, as it happens, I wrote a book about the topic of this article (actually, the first of four volumes on misandry as the fallout from ideological feminism) with my partner in academic crime, Katherine Young. In Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular culture (McGill-Queens University Press, 2001), we analyzed the content of narrative productions (mainly movies but also television series and even the “stories” that were featured on news shows). Our scope covered productions from the 1980s and 1990s. To simplify our method, which relied partly on feminist models, we found a distinct pattern in which every major male character was either evil or inadequate (or both), and every major female character was either good or an innocent victim of men and a heroic survivor (or both). In addition, we found that more than a few minor male characters were good if they were either gay or not white; these characters functioned cinematically as honorary women. This was long before anyone had ever heard of wokism, which later absorbed both feminist and racist ideologies.
Our book was originally intended as an introductory chapter to a more conventional book on political ideologies as secular religions, but we needed seven chapters to make our case about feminism’s influence on popular culture plausible (at a time when the word “sexism” was synonymous with “misogyny”) and additional chapters to explicate our findings and place them in a larger cultural and historical context (notably, by offering a rigorous working definition of “ideology” and comparing feminist ideology to other ideologies on both the Left and the Right).
We did not claim that misandry was the only cinematic pattern, simply that it was becoming an increasingly prevalent one. (Because misandry and misogyny co-exist in the real world, of course, we occasionally found a production that could be interpreted either way.) Even at the time, industry insiders referred to these productions as “jeps,” by which they meant productions that featured “women-in-jeopardy.” There was a lot of money in jeps. And nothing, as Rosenfield makes clear, has changed in that respect over the past two decades.
By that time, moreover, feminists had begun ransacking historical and literary sources to rescue women from cultural obscurity (such as Mary Shelley) or from undeserved infamy (such as Lucretia Borgia) along with “misunderstood” mythical or fictional women (such as Medea). Rosenfield is correct in noting that ascribing evil to women is politically and financially dangerous without explaining away this “anomaly” as the result of some trauma (almost always at the hands of truly evil men). There’s nothing wrong with taking a second look at what earlier generations either ignored or misunderstood. But when doing so relies heavily on ideological motivation, the phenomenon takes on a life of its own and becomes a political end in itself–that is, what could be called “agitprop” instead of scholarship per se. As one result, women were–and still are–routinely denied the moral agency and therefore the moral (or legal) accountability that are defining features of maturity. Even within living memory, however, most people assumed, because it was self-evident in everyday life, that both men and women could choose to do evil even if their methods are often different.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Great post. For the most part, Unherd really is away from the herd in terms of the range of opinions and view points it presents. The one great exception is its attitude to men. There are countless articles that interpret current events through the lens of feminism and the alleged harm being done to women. I don’t think I’ve seen a single article discussing the anti-male bias that pervades Western society.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Indeed and the commentary under the article is often as in Paul Nathanson’s case here often valuable. Unfortunately, articles by Unherd female writers too often are presented from an unexamined feminist lense, with the authors perhaps unaware of their bias. There are, of course, excellent women writers here who are little tainted by this and again it is often in the comments that women commentators will highlight weird nonsensical feminist perspectives in the author’s article as Allison Barrows and Aphrodite Rises does above.

The other subject that Unherd shies away from examining is the prevalence here and elsewhere of essentially woke moderation of comments. One comment I made yesterday disappeared into automatic moderation and did not emerge until.next day and I have no idea why it received this treatment when a very similar post I subsequently sent did not. I have commented on this so often that I bore myself but unless we bang on about such subjects nothing will be done. The frequent articles pointing out the lunacy of the ideology of insisting men who say they are women are women are repetitive and boring but the argument has to be continually made until sanity prevails.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Indeed and the commentary under the article is often as in Paul Nathanson’s case here often valuable. Unfortunately, articles by Unherd female writers too often are presented from an unexamined feminist lense, with the authors perhaps unaware of their bias. There are, of course, excellent women writers here who are little tainted by this and again it is often in the comments that women commentators will highlight weird nonsensical feminist perspectives in the author’s article as Allison Barrows and Aphrodite Rises does above.

The other subject that Unherd shies away from examining is the prevalence here and elsewhere of essentially woke moderation of comments. One comment I made yesterday disappeared into automatic moderation and did not emerge until.next day and I have no idea why it received this treatment when a very similar post I subsequently sent did not. I have commented on this so often that I bore myself but unless we bang on about such subjects nothing will be done. The frequent articles pointing out the lunacy of the ideology of insisting men who say they are women are women are repetitive and boring but the argument has to be continually made until sanity prevails.

Tom Condray
Tom Condray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Read your book when it first came out. Still have it in my library.

At the time, early 00s, I remember thinking, “Finally!”

Time to read it again, methinks.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Thank you for the reference! I’ve added it to my list!

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Great post. For the most part, Unherd really is away from the herd in terms of the range of opinions and view points it presents. The one great exception is its attitude to men. There are countless articles that interpret current events through the lens of feminism and the alleged harm being done to women. I don’t think I’ve seen a single article discussing the anti-male bias that pervades Western society.

Tom Condray
Tom Condray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Read your book when it first came out. Still have it in my library.

At the time, early 00s, I remember thinking, “Finally!”

Time to read it again, methinks.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Thank you for the reference! I’ve added it to my list!

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Twenty years ago, as it happens, I wrote a book about the topic of this article (actually, the first of four volumes on misandry as the fallout from ideological feminism) with my partner in academic crime, Katherine Young. In Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular culture (McGill-Queens University Press, 2001), we analyzed the content of narrative productions (mainly movies but also television series and even the “stories” that were featured on news shows). Our scope covered productions from the 1980s and 1990s. To simplify our method, which relied partly on feminist models, we found a distinct pattern in which every major male character was either evil or inadequate (or both), and every major female character was either good or an innocent victim of men and a heroic survivor (or both). In addition, we found that more than a few minor male characters were good if they were either gay or not white; these characters functioned cinematically as honorary women. This was long before anyone had ever heard of wokism, which later absorbed both feminist and racist ideologies.
Our book was originally intended as an introductory chapter to a more conventional book on political ideologies as secular religions, but we needed seven chapters to make our case about feminism’s influence on popular culture plausible (at a time when the word “sexism” was synonymous with “misogyny”) and additional chapters to explicate our findings and place them in a larger cultural and historical context (notably, by offering a rigorous working definition of “ideology” and comparing feminist ideology to other ideologies on both the Left and the Right).
We did not claim that misandry was the only cinematic pattern, simply that it was becoming an increasingly prevalent one. (Because misandry and misogyny co-exist in the real world, of course, we occasionally found a production that could be interpreted either way.) Even at the time, industry insiders referred to these productions as “jeps,” by which they meant productions that featured “women-in-jeopardy.” There was a lot of money in jeps. And nothing, as Rosenfield makes clear, has changed in that respect over the past two decades.
By that time, moreover, feminists had begun ransacking historical and literary sources to rescue women from cultural obscurity (such as Mary Shelley) or from undeserved infamy (such as Lucretia Borgia) along with “misunderstood” mythical or fictional women (such as Medea). Rosenfield is correct in noting that ascribing evil to women is politically and financially dangerous without explaining away this “anomaly” as the result of some trauma (almost always at the hands of truly evil men). There’s nothing wrong with taking a second look at what earlier generations either ignored or misunderstood. But when doing so relies heavily on ideological motivation, the phenomenon takes on a life of its own and becomes a political end in itself–that is, what could be called “agitprop” instead of scholarship per se. As one result, women were–and still are–routinely denied the moral agency and therefore the moral (or legal) accountability that are defining features of maturity. Even within living memory, however, most people assumed, because it was self-evident in everyday life, that both men and women could choose to do evil even if their methods are often different.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago

Based on this review I think I’ll stick with the original.
It all sounds rather tedious.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Shaw
William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago

Based on this review I think I’ll stick with the original.
It all sounds rather tedious.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Shaw
J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

For my money, the badest female character in a movie was Lilly Dillon in “The Grifters”. She had a rough upbringing but that’s not emphasized in the movie. She’s a con artist with a crush on her own son, and she runs book for the mob and happily cheats everyone and anyone if she can get away with it. In the end, she’ll do anything to advance her own interests. A mostly amoral character who is just who she is–no elaborate backstory needed.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

For my money, the badest female character in a movie was Lilly Dillon in “The Grifters”. She had a rough upbringing but that’s not emphasized in the movie. She’s a con artist with a crush on her own son, and she runs book for the mob and happily cheats everyone and anyone if she can get away with it. In the end, she’ll do anything to advance her own interests. A mostly amoral character who is just who she is–no elaborate backstory needed.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Well, I just finished Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope. It’s about a woman that’s spent her adult life nursing relatives. Then she gets rich; then she gets poor.
What a lucky guy Trollope was. He didn’t have to bow to the woke gods.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Well, I just finished Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope. It’s about a woman that’s spent her adult life nursing relatives. Then she gets rich; then she gets poor.
What a lucky guy Trollope was. He didn’t have to bow to the woke gods.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

First, a side-note:
The author speaks of 1987 as a year, the “country (was) consumed by panic over the prospect of ladies working outside of the home.” Nah, not in the least. Perhaps in 1957…but not in ’87. The Mary Tyler Moore show came out in 1970 (2nd Wave Feminists rejoiced!). And by the mid-80’s, 70-75% of all “prime, working-age women” were full time participants in the workforce… Hardly a condition of national panic, more reasonably a time of celebration as double-earner family incomes rose to record heights.
But yes, to give Alex a backstory….a history of victimization & post-traumatic stress (having not seen the series I take the author’s characterization as gospel) is, indeed, to rob her of agency…and ultimately to make her villainy less villainous (if it’s villainous at all, given her stress triggers and Dan’s micro-aggressions).
Is anyone surprised?
In Woke Hollywood there is only ONE villain (differently masked): the patriarchy, the heteronormative, racist & sexist White male, the Organization Man, the Corporate Boss, the Government (with its host of toxically masculine White Guys (who undoubtedly deny Climate Change and are Transphobic and call women, Babe). These are the only people who have agency because they are the Oligarchic Class who use that non-equitable agency of theirs to oppress everyone else…especially brave and independent females who speak the truth (hear them roar!)! (at least so goes the Feminist Progressive Meme).
In that world everyone (but the Bad Old Patriarchal Misogynistic White Guy who refuses to lean-back & ask for Affirmative Consent when he puts his hand on a woman’s shoulder) is a victim. Alex no less than anyone else. She’s simply misunderstood (and probably didn’t really mean to boil the rabbit!). I would guess it’s this inversion of the original plot which became the hook, the pitch, the ‘high concept’ that got the remake ‘green-lighted’.
Truthfully it sounds both trite & tiresome.
In fact we human beings ARE responsible. We are accountable. And we can separate ourselves from whatever trauma (big or little) which surrounds us. Viktor Frankl, speaking of his time in the camps put it this way, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
To make New Alex not a villain who consciously chose to commit evil acts but instead a victim is to make mockery of the freedom Frankl would have us embrace. And that is a shame.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

Yes, B. Thank you for this comment, especially the quotation from Viktor Frankl. He would have been shocked by movies that try to absolve characters of responsibility for their own behavior but also, as you say, by current racial and sexual ideologies that find shelter under the umbrella of wokism. All of these infantilize people by glorifying and politicizing them as victims, demanding trigger warnings, safe spaces, preferential treatment, abandoning the merit system. The explicitly deny their own moral agency. As Frankl says, even inmates in the death camps–even children–could remain moral agents. (Many, many of their autobiographies refer to that phenomenon, notably Elie Wiesel’s Night.) After liberation, most of them simply got on with the business of living, studying, working and building or rebuilding their families and communities. It’s true that many of their children had special problems (notably vicarious survivor guilt ), but they remained moral agents nonetheless, not psychologically deformed zombies who marinated in fantasies of revenge or succumbed to “repressed memory syndrome.”
Sorry for repeating what you and others have said, but I think that this refusal to accept moral responsibility, either in life or in reel-life, is of urgent importance. Underlying Rosenfield’s entire article is the awareness that no society worthy of survival can do so without a coherent and rigorous moral philosophy, one that fosters restraint (instead of bullying) but also respect and pride (instead of cynicism).

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

Yes, B. Thank you for this comment, especially the quotation from Viktor Frankl. He would have been shocked by movies that try to absolve characters of responsibility for their own behavior but also, as you say, by current racial and sexual ideologies that find shelter under the umbrella of wokism. All of these infantilize people by glorifying and politicizing them as victims, demanding trigger warnings, safe spaces, preferential treatment, abandoning the merit system. The explicitly deny their own moral agency. As Frankl says, even inmates in the death camps–even children–could remain moral agents. (Many, many of their autobiographies refer to that phenomenon, notably Elie Wiesel’s Night.) After liberation, most of them simply got on with the business of living, studying, working and building or rebuilding their families and communities. It’s true that many of their children had special problems (notably vicarious survivor guilt ), but they remained moral agents nonetheless, not psychologically deformed zombies who marinated in fantasies of revenge or succumbed to “repressed memory syndrome.”
Sorry for repeating what you and others have said, but I think that this refusal to accept moral responsibility, either in life or in reel-life, is of urgent importance. Underlying Rosenfield’s entire article is the awareness that no society worthy of survival can do so without a coherent and rigorous moral philosophy, one that fosters restraint (instead of bullying) but also respect and pride (instead of cynicism).

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

First, a side-note:
The author speaks of 1987 as a year, the “country (was) consumed by panic over the prospect of ladies working outside of the home.” Nah, not in the least. Perhaps in 1957…but not in ’87. The Mary Tyler Moore show came out in 1970 (2nd Wave Feminists rejoiced!). And by the mid-80’s, 70-75% of all “prime, working-age women” were full time participants in the workforce… Hardly a condition of national panic, more reasonably a time of celebration as double-earner family incomes rose to record heights.
But yes, to give Alex a backstory….a history of victimization & post-traumatic stress (having not seen the series I take the author’s characterization as gospel) is, indeed, to rob her of agency…and ultimately to make her villainy less villainous (if it’s villainous at all, given her stress triggers and Dan’s micro-aggressions).
Is anyone surprised?
In Woke Hollywood there is only ONE villain (differently masked): the patriarchy, the heteronormative, racist & sexist White male, the Organization Man, the Corporate Boss, the Government (with its host of toxically masculine White Guys (who undoubtedly deny Climate Change and are Transphobic and call women, Babe). These are the only people who have agency because they are the Oligarchic Class who use that non-equitable agency of theirs to oppress everyone else…especially brave and independent females who speak the truth (hear them roar!)! (at least so goes the Feminist Progressive Meme).
In that world everyone (but the Bad Old Patriarchal Misogynistic White Guy who refuses to lean-back & ask for Affirmative Consent when he puts his hand on a woman’s shoulder) is a victim. Alex no less than anyone else. She’s simply misunderstood (and probably didn’t really mean to boil the rabbit!). I would guess it’s this inversion of the original plot which became the hook, the pitch, the ‘high concept’ that got the remake ‘green-lighted’.
Truthfully it sounds both trite & tiresome.
In fact we human beings ARE responsible. We are accountable. And we can separate ourselves from whatever trauma (big or little) which surrounds us. Viktor Frankl, speaking of his time in the camps put it this way, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
To make New Alex not a villain who consciously chose to commit evil acts but instead a victim is to make mockery of the freedom Frankl would have us embrace. And that is a shame.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

The trouble with fictional characters is there’s something inevitably missing in their portrayal since, honourable attempts aside such as Anna Karenina, it’s impossible to get even close to encapsulating the full psychological profile of a human being in the space of a novel or film.

So either there’s a seemingly ‘victimising’ backstory or they’re just bad.

Most of us may well have come across women whose lives and actions are neither of those, but who nevertheless negatively impact others and seem to revel in it. In other words, just like some men we’ve come across too. Why women should need to be ‘excused’ for being a badass is the real story here, as if their traditional nurturing role just can’t be unhinged from their gender; and in fact, being unhinged is sometimes ascribed to them.

As the writer says, we all have the capacity for evil, although people will go to great lengths to deny that possibility within themselves. One of the most interesting women i ever met – briefly – told me she’d happily see her husband and daughter die in a car crash so she could just walk away and start a new life for herself. I believed her too. I think she told me this since the chances of us meeting again were remote and she felt the need to unburden herself of these feelings to someone who wouldn’t freak out. It happened at a conference away from home, but she’d managed to work out i’d just listen and not judge her with an awkward reaction, which i found extremely impressive. But actually, she wasn’t evil at all. Almost certainly, nothing would’ve happened through her subsequent actions, but how many people have similar feelings, genuinely?

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There is another possible interpretation of a woman befriending a stranger at a conference and dissing her husband to him.

Sorry,not particularly pertinent to the debate, just where my mind immediately went.

To the substance of the post, I agree we all have had thoughts we’d rather didn’t see the light of day.

The wider question of whether the medicalisation of a wide range of what would once have been adverse character traits is robbing us of accountability for what are still acts of agency, is I think is bigger than the article addresses.

I’d give an uptick but, as so often happens, my mad tapping is producing no result

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I get where you’re coming from, but she wasn’t just “dissing her husband”.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I get where you’re coming from, but she wasn’t just “dissing her husband”.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There is another possible interpretation of a woman befriending a stranger at a conference and dissing her husband to him.

Sorry,not particularly pertinent to the debate, just where my mind immediately went.

To the substance of the post, I agree we all have had thoughts we’d rather didn’t see the light of day.

The wider question of whether the medicalisation of a wide range of what would once have been adverse character traits is robbing us of accountability for what are still acts of agency, is I think is bigger than the article addresses.

I’d give an uptick but, as so often happens, my mad tapping is producing no result

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

The trouble with fictional characters is there’s something inevitably missing in their portrayal since, honourable attempts aside such as Anna Karenina, it’s impossible to get even close to encapsulating the full psychological profile of a human being in the space of a novel or film.

So either there’s a seemingly ‘victimising’ backstory or they’re just bad.

Most of us may well have come across women whose lives and actions are neither of those, but who nevertheless negatively impact others and seem to revel in it. In other words, just like some men we’ve come across too. Why women should need to be ‘excused’ for being a badass is the real story here, as if their traditional nurturing role just can’t be unhinged from their gender; and in fact, being unhinged is sometimes ascribed to them.

As the writer says, we all have the capacity for evil, although people will go to great lengths to deny that possibility within themselves. One of the most interesting women i ever met – briefly – told me she’d happily see her husband and daughter die in a car crash so she could just walk away and start a new life for herself. I believed her too. I think she told me this since the chances of us meeting again were remote and she felt the need to unburden herself of these feelings to someone who wouldn’t freak out. It happened at a conference away from home, but she’d managed to work out i’d just listen and not judge her with an awkward reaction, which i found extremely impressive. But actually, she wasn’t evil at all. Almost certainly, nothing would’ve happened through her subsequent actions, but how many people have similar feelings, genuinely?

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Jimjim McHale
Jimjim McHale
1 year ago

Read “Calamity Jane”. If she can do it, so can everyone else. Tough childhoods can bring out inner strength, character, wisdom, love, humor.
She was a “victim” and suffered for it, but she also had an indomitable will inside. She wanted to be loved, but realized she was homely, and made the best of it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jimjim McHale
Jimjim McHale
Jimjim McHale
1 year ago

Read “Calamity Jane”. If she can do it, so can everyone else. Tough childhoods can bring out inner strength, character, wisdom, love, humor.
She was a “victim” and suffered for it, but she also had an indomitable will inside. She wanted to be loved, but realized she was homely, and made the best of it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jimjim McHale
Jimjim McHale
Jimjim McHale
1 year ago

The way it’s going, there won’t be any women at all. Men becoming women, men competing in women’s sports, men having babies. It seems women are being disappeared – or something.

Jimjim McHale
Jimjim McHale
1 year ago

The way it’s going, there won’t be any women at all. Men becoming women, men competing in women’s sports, men having babies. It seems women are being disappeared – or something.

Kathie Lou Eldridge
Kathie Lou Eldridge
1 year ago

Contrary to the author’s views, the working woman was the ideal of the eighties. Alex Forest at first glance was the together career woman who wore designer clothes. that said the movie was based on an English story of a man who had a casual affair over a weekend that unraveled the lives of the man the woman and the wife.I don’t think Alex’s story needs a background. Many women at the time of the movie really questioned their own behavior of driving by a former boyfriend’s house after a breakup or tracking their moves, etc, and wondered what kept them from becoming totally unhinged.

Kathie Lou Eldridge
Kathie Lou Eldridge
1 year ago

Contrary to the author’s views, the working woman was the ideal of the eighties. Alex Forest at first glance was the together career woman who wore designer clothes. that said the movie was based on an English story of a man who had a casual affair over a weekend that unraveled the lives of the man the woman and the wife.I don’t think Alex’s story needs a background. Many women at the time of the movie really questioned their own behavior of driving by a former boyfriend’s house after a breakup or tracking their moves, etc, and wondered what kept them from becoming totally unhinged.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Now I want to know what childhood trauma Ernst Stavro Blofeld experienced that made him so, you know, bad.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Now I want to know what childhood trauma Ernst Stavro Blofeld experienced that made him so, you know, bad.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Career women are more of a threat to stay-at-home wives than to their husbands. For a start, career women and stay-at-home wives have different values and a large proportion of women cannot stand having their values questioned simply by the presence of other women with different values. Then there is the ease with which people at work can have an affair, especially if their work involves travel.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Career women are more of a threat to stay-at-home wives than to their husbands. For a start, career women and stay-at-home wives have different values and a large proportion of women cannot stand having their values questioned simply by the presence of other women with different values. Then there is the ease with which people at work can have an affair, especially if their work involves travel.

Scuba Cat
Scuba Cat
1 year ago

This is not unique to female villains on film and TV, though it is more prevalent among females than males. However, the Joker almost always has a tragic backstory (even though the specifics change), as do a lot of other male comic book villains.

Scuba Cat
Scuba Cat
1 year ago

This is not unique to female villains on film and TV, though it is more prevalent among females than males. However, the Joker almost always has a tragic backstory (even though the specifics change), as do a lot of other male comic book villains.

rick stubbs
rick stubbs
1 year ago

I am sorry but this doesn’t sound anything like what I experienced
 let us not go forth on false premises re women in a time past to draw convenient conclusions..

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
1 year ago

In the original Fatal Attraction movie I was disturbed that Michael Douglas’s character Dan was portrayed exclusively as the victim, while the Glen Close character Alex, was the crazed perpetrator. Dan was equally responsible for the wild weekend with Alex and casually brushed it off, i.e. he used her (as she did him) with no real feelings or expectation of responsibility for his own actions. He showed no empathy or sympathy for her feelings and made no effort to help her. Maybe a portrait of how most men would react in a similar situation, but I hoped not, as she was killed and he got his life back.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

Well he was the victim. They had a passionate one night stand with no commitment offered or given and then she would not leave him alone. She was a stalker and lunatic and he was her victim.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

Well he was the victim. They had a passionate one night stand with no commitment offered or given and then she would not leave him alone. She was a stalker and lunatic and he was her victim.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
1 year ago

In the original Fatal Attraction movie I was disturbed that Michael Douglas’s character Dan was portrayed exclusively as the victim, while the Glen Close character Alex, was the crazed perpetrator. Dan was equally responsible for the wild weekend with Alex and casually brushed it off, i.e. he used her (as she did him) with no real feelings or expectation of responsibility for his own actions. He showed no empathy or sympathy for her feelings and made no effort to help her. Maybe a portrait of how most men would react in a similar situation, but I hoped not, as she was killed and he got his life back.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

The ‘character’ of Alex is a male invention, not a person. The part is entirely the product of a male view of women who seduce, stalk and are dangerous to men. Giving ‘her’ a background doesn’t round out the character or balance things up: it panders to the male suspicion that such women lurk around every corner, waiting to entrap them and ruin their lives.
Women can be villains, and their motivations will be every bit as complex (or as simple) as those of male villains. The new version of Fatal Attraction may well be entertaining and interesting in its own right. But it is neither an apology for nor a betrayal of real women. It’s art.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago

The ‘character’ of Alex is a male invention, not a person. The part is entirely the product of a male view of women who seduce, stalk and are dangerous to men. Giving ‘her’ a background doesn’t round out the character or balance things up: it panders to the male suspicion that such women lurk around every corner, waiting to entrap them and ruin their lives.
Women can be villains, and their motivations will be every bit as complex (or as simple) as those of male villains. The new version of Fatal Attraction may well be entertaining and interesting in its own right. But it is neither an apology for nor a betrayal of real women. It’s art.