Name your favorite, torrid little thriller in which the hero is seduced by a vixen who, obsessed, behaves with escalating psychological and physical violence toward him. She undermines his relationships, she gets him in trouble at work, often she "cries rape"; she systematically harms him until everyone thinks he's crazy, and then the pair fights to her (inevitable, relatable) death. I call it the obsessed vixen plot.
There's some old little arthouse flick called Fatal Attraction, and from the same era we also have Disclosure. My generation turned obsessed vixens out en masse: Swimfan. The Crush. All three Poison Ivy's. There are even some post-millennial up-and comers! Watch Beyonce play the normative wife in Obsessed! Variations abound.
OMG you guys, there are so many killer vixens.
Aaaaand then there are the movies with female protagonists and their male obsessives. I can think of only a few psycho vixen plots with women as the central characters, and the formula changes perceptively. We have Sleeping with the Enemy, J-Lo's deadly Tae Bo in Enough, and who could forget Mark Walhberg's breakout performance as the psycho in Fear. I'm also really sad to admit I sat through all of "The Resident," an ooze of a film that pants over Hilary Swank's every bathtime.
When this story happens to a man, a young, sexually appealing woman entices the poor hero into some sex on the sly, and eventually reveals herself to be a murderous, obsessive psychopath. The narrative for men pairs aggressively sexual women with loss and violence. They seem to say, If you give in for even one moment to the forbidden but aggressive vixen, she will undo you.
That's not a very interesting story when the roles are reversed, because one of the most generic and idiotic ideas we have as a culture about masculinity is that men are sexually aggressive. A movie about a sexually aggressive murderous woman gets made and remade and nodded to and remade again. A movie about a sexually aggressive murderous man is a Tuesday.
In the killer vixen genre, men have to fight for their families, their jobs, and their reputations: their status is always threatened by the lady vixen. Women in the same role have to fight for these things, and also for their bodily and sexual integrity. And guess what? While the manipulations and deceptions are just as elaborate, and the women equally sexualized, the tone when a woman is the main character is much, much darker. It's not that children are more often involved; it's that the male psycho vixen resorts to overt manipulation from the very get go, often staging elaborate events in order to appear heroic. His violence gives a much more menacing tone to the films, and unwanted sexual contact is the norm, if not an explicit plot point. Also? He's usually her primary partner or an acquaintance, not some side indiscretion.
Perhaps it hits a little too close to home to be campy. I haven't met a lot of men who have been stalked by a relentless hot girl, but I have met many, many women who have been stalked, beaten, raped, and chronically abused by men. It happens to people of all genders and orientations, and GOOD GOD, WE SHOULD TAKE EVERY INSTANCE SERIOUSLY, but there is a huge, compelling epidemic of violence and hostility against women that changes the dynamic of the fun little sexy thriller.
The killer vixen phenomenon is scary when it happens to men because it's novel. It's scary when it happens to women because it happens ALL THE TIME.
I've always thought the problem with commercial movies is that they are made, painstakingly, for a caricature of a thirteen year-old boy. But maybe it's more sinister than that. Maybe Hollywood is setting a trap for me, anticipating my every thought in an effort to make me question my very sanity, and then, I don't know, later it will pop out of a dumpster with a gun to my lover's head.
I think it would be great if we made more stupid, campy thrillers in which a woman relatably kills her crazed, relentless stalker. I think there should be ten Enoughs (unwatchable as it was) for every Fatal Attraction, every Swimfan. I would enjoy the shit out of a woman-dominated, woman-told story that echoes the campy vixen thriller genre that men get to have. Let's do it. Let's make films where women kill their stalkers in hundreds of creative, thoughtful ways. Let's line them up like heads on spikes.
I'm not saying it's the way to end gender violence; I'm just sayin', I will make the popcorn.