Women in Film as Portrayed in the Movie, Double Indemnity
American commercial cinema currently fuels many aspects of society. In the twenty-first century it has become available, active force in the perception of gender relations in the United States. In the earlier part of this century filmmakers, as well as the public, did not necessarily view the female“media image” as an infrastructure of sex inequality. Today, contemporary audiences and critics have become preoccupied with the role the cinema plays in shaping social values, institutions, and attitudes. American cinema has become narrowly focused on images of violent women, female sexuality, the portrayal of the “weaker sex” and subversively portraying women negatively in film. “Double Indemnity can be read in two ways. It is either a misogynist film about a terrifying, destroying woman, or it is a film that liberates the female character from the restrictive and oppressed melodramatic situation that render her helpless” (Kolker 124). There are arguably two extreme portrayals of the character of Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity; neither one is an accurate or fare portrayal.
Despite the fact that the character of Phyllis as the “tough as nails” perpetual, intentional aggressor is a valid attempt to obliterate the image of women as the oppressed, one interpretation of this role is that she ultimately seems to misrepresent herself, and females in cinema, anyway. Janet Todd, author of Women and Film, states that, “Women do not exist in American film. Instead we find another creation, made by men, growing out of their ideological imperatives”(130). Though these “power girl”characters are strong examples of anything but submissive and sexual females,they still were created as images that misrepresent their existence as independent voices and rather “the knife-wielder on the screen acting as surrogate for the masculine sensibility enraged at the notion of female assertiveness” (Todd 130). Cassie Carter, author of Woman, Red in Tooth and Claw, makes an interesting point stating, “The male avant-garde deliberately adopted the image of the base and violent woman in order to free themselves of the constricting image of the rational and civilized man…while the male avant-garde presents the decadent state as liberating, feminist performance artists who adopt Angry Essentialism often inadvertently reinforcea conception of the ‘feminine’ which validates the oppression of women”(2). Carter then further states, “Whilet hese performances attempt to obliterate the image of woman as the oppressed,nurturing Earth Mother, they merely invoke her mirror image, the Devouring Mother” (2).
Double Indemnity, in its attempt to lend its female character more strength and control, no longer situating her as the secure center of the family, but rather its destroyer, ironically seems to highlight a played-out submissive, weak, abused or lonely and alienated image of Phyllis. The varieties of...