Kiss of the Vampire
Femme fatale stereotypes
Stuart Hall argues that stereotypes are a primary means of reinforcing wider social power. The Kiss of the Vampire poster, likewise, deploy a number of gender-based stereotypes that arguably help to reinforce a passive and objectified representation of women - a representation that clearly prevents female social empowerment.
The right-hand female figure is constructed as a femme fatale stereotype - the use of overly sexualised gesture codes, black hair, red lips and a commanding presence over a weak male counterpart would be instantly recognisable to the film poster’s contemporary audience.
Despite the power of the femme fatale, their presence in media texts conventionally signfifies a vilification of female power. Certainly, the KOTV female fatale’s contorted facial gestures and dominance combined to outline her as a negative role model for female audiences of the period.
Juxtaposed against this is a socially accepatble female ideal, constructed through the disempowering dumb blonde stereotype who willingly and passively submits to her male counterpart. The left hand positioning and the high key lighting combine to present this more submissive character as the privileged and ideologically acceptable role model from the female binary offered.
Stereotype use of this sort, Hall argue, reflects the real-world powerlessness of women. They also affect what Hall calls ‘power circularity’ in that both female and male readers are led to internalise the gender model offered as a fixed or natural state.
A simplified representation of a social group, constructed by exaggerating physical traits or behaviours. Stereotypes are problematic because they are easily internalised by audiences.
Media terminology used
A female character archetype, used predominantly in the film noir genre. Femme fatales are dangerous and usually seductive women, who lead men astray. FFs demonise female power.