The African American Femme Fatale : How Black Hard-Boiled Fiction Encourages Misogynoir



Rok publikování 2022
Druh Další prezentace na konferencích
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Filozofická fakulta

Popis Hard-boiled fiction emerged as a sub-genre of crime fiction in the United States in the early 1920s and set its detective stories chiefly into an urban environment. Because hard-boiled stories were originally published in pulp magazines, they were fast paced and violent, and further explored the characterization of the femme fatale character trope, the misogynistic archetype of a devilish and cunning woman often at the center of brutal crimes. For African American hard-boiled authors, the portrayal of the Black American community became a crucial aspect of their writing. In Chester B. Himes’ A Rage in Harlem (1957) and Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1990), the Black detectives’ investigations rely on their relationships within the community and mutual trust that is often undermined in regard to the treatment of Black American women. Both novels present two femme fatale characters; in Devil in a Blue Dress, Daphne is introduced as a white woman who is seen regularly at Black- owned bars in the Watts area of LA. Later, it is revealed that Daphne is passing; she is said to be evil, and is discriminated against, misunderstood and objectified. In A Rage in Harlem, the femme fatale character called Imabelle is a Black woman who likewise dominates the story as deceitful and untrustworthy, said to come to Harlem, New York with a suitcase full of gold, and later is severely attacked on the streets. As heavily sexualized and daring characters with uncertain fate and no redemption, femme fatales in crime fiction have served as antagonistic and non-conforming women within patriarchal structures of society. This trope becomes even more complex when tied to Black women characters. Both novels show the favorable position of Black American men in their communities as opposed to Black women figures who not only deal with institutional racism but also sexist stereotyping and exclusion from the community based on their gender. In hard-boiled fiction, these ideas are additionally accentuated by the urban environment and close proximity of the Black community to white perpetrators as well as government officials, resulting in instances of double consciousness and internalized racism.
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