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Film and Television Discussion
: Kitty as Femme Fatale *Heavy spoilers*
Kitty as Femme Fatale *Heavy spoilers*
4 years ago
(January 22, 2016 10:03 PM)
Member since June 2002
Kitty is an obvious femme fatale in Scarlet Street. She plays Chris for money, leads him to ruin, etc. But it's striking that Kitty really isn't very good at the whole femme fatale game. Kitty plays Chris, but she's reluctant to do so. She needs a lot of prompting by Johnny before she even considers playing Chris, let alone taking him for increasingly large amounts of money. Furthermore, Kitty's conversations with Johnny reveal that she feels a bit bad about fleecing him. When Kitty says that she'd like Chris better if he were a bit meaner, that comment isn't just revealing her taste for bad boys like Johnny and her distaste for seemingly weaker men, it's also a sign of her guilt that she's conning someone who's so gullible. It's also Johnny that starts selling Chris' art. The only part Kitty plays in that scam is to play along that she's the artist after Johnny coerces her into doing it. Even when Kitty makes her speech about how weak Chris is and how he's not a man at all compared to Johnny, Kitty's insults seem to be just as much a reflection of how annoyed she is with herself for hurting a good guy like Chris, whether or not she can respect him. And when you boil down Kitty's motivation for conning Chris, it all comes down to her wanting to please Johnny. Kitty doesn't want the money for herself. She isn't particularly evil. She just wants to please the only person she's ever really loved. She's certainly no criminal mastermind; Kitty has nothing on Phillis Dietrichson or Brigid O'Shaughnessy or any of noir's standard femme fatales.
In fact, Kitty is taken in by her own femme fatale--or homme fatal, as the case may be--in the form of Johnny. It's obvious that Johnny doesn't really care for Kitty and only keeps her around as a meal ticket and perhaps for easy access to sex. Kitty is just as blinded by his masculine wiles as Chris is blinded by her feminine ones. And in the end, despite Chris' double murder (Kitty and Johnny), there's still a sense that he is overall a better person than Johnny was. Chris may have done more terrible things that Johnny; but he was pushed by passion and circumstance to do those things, whereas Johnny was a woman-beater, a liar, a conman, etc. without any real provocation. Though Johnny didn't deserve to be executed, it's hard to feel really bad about his death. In a lot of ways, if Scarlet Street has a villain, that villain is Johnny. By hitting Kitty, Johnny got Chris involved in her life. And by pushing Kitty to con Chris, Johnny holds a great deal of responsibility for Kitty's death and Chris' fall from good man to killer.