Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blog Guilt #2

The second round of Blog Guilt. This time I wrote about the film The Last Seduction. Same class, same rules apply. If it's dumb, ignore me.

Disguise in The Last Seduction

Bridget Gregory is not a human being. Human beings have flaws, they’re vulnerable, and they hurt. Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that “Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?”[1] Yet, Bridget is able to escape the film, all one hundred and ten minutes of it, without ever touching her mask. In the final scene, Bridget rides in a limo, the closest a neo-noir film will allow us to the notion of “riding into the sunset.” And in this scene, Bridget not only flicks her nose up at Kierkegaard but at the two prominent males in the film, Clay and Mike, as well. Throughout The Last Seduction, Bridget uses her sexuality as a weapon, dominates male characters through her knowledge of gender roles, and has no problem donning numerous identities in order immerge victorious. Yet, as Bridget manipulates the male characters in the film, John Dahl, the film’s director manipulates the audience as he uses the thinnest narrative pretense to hide what Bridget truly is – a modern day psychopath.

The Last Seduction opens with Bridget’s husband, Clay, earning $700,000 from a drug deal. But Clay is not the typical “bread winner.” He is essentially unemployed and the funds are supposed to go towards his medical school tuition. Yet, Clay’s panic filled tears underscore the aforementioned deal, which only happens due his medical connections and sheer luck. This man is no hero. Clay returns home, money in hand, and gets into a fight with Bridget. The situation escalates, he slaps her, but the incident dissipates, tensions fade. The two become intimate, but as Clay enters the shower, Bridget hides the rest of the condoms and tells him she’s running out to get more. Yet without hesitation, Bridget grabs the money and leaves. This heist was pulled off with lips and cleavage, no firearms involved. In this way, Bridget uses her femininity as a substitute for violence. However, later on in the film, when Bridget is pursued by a private investigator, she uses her sexuality in a much more sinister way, “using it to distract someone before she commits violence.”[2] In this sequence, Bridget walks out of her house and his apprehended by the private investigator. They climb into Bridget’s car. She drives while he sits in the passenger’s seat. Their conversation is hostile. After some time passes, Bridget makes a comment about the man’s penis, if it’s really as big as she imagines. At first, the private detective resists these advances. He’s a professional, or at the very least, functions under the guise of one. However, after further encouragement, the detective relents. He unbuckles his seatbelt in order to unbutton is pants. In this moment, Bridget pounces. She drives the car into a power line. Upon impact, the detective flies out of the windshield. He’s dead and it wouldn’t have been possible without the distraction enabled by Bridget’s sexuality.

Throughout the film, Bridget uses her knowledge of gender roles to not only get men to do what she wants, but to guarantee her innocence. Upon Bridget’s arrival in Beston, she quickly befriends a local insurance sales man named Mike. Their relationship turns sexual and on one rainy night, Bridget and Mike find themselves alone in the office building that they both work in. Mike, either half-serious or wanting to impress Bridget, demonstrates how he can catch a cheating husband by reading his credit report. This act impresses Bridget, who, taken by curiosity, calls the wife of one of the unfaithful to see if she can sell her on the idea of murder. Afterwards, Bridget tricks Mike into not only thinking that she now works as a part-time assassin, but needs him to kill someone as a way to prove his love for her. And while this may seem preposterous on paper, Mike believes it. Bridget leverages her femininity in order to engage Mike’s masculinity, to force him into a construction of power and strength that both parties know is false. Yet upon further pestering, the illusion of an unfulfilled gender role is enough to have Mike seriously contemplate murder.

Bridget constructs her femininity in order to have Mike believe that he is a failure of a man, that he cannot garner enough masculinity to prove his love for her. And this isn’t the result of bad acting but of design, “everything about Bridget seems slightly off, or faked, because she employs her femininity.[3]” This facade of femininity is again employed near the end of film. Mike, who finally relents to Bridget’s suggestion, sneaks into Clay’s apartment with the intention to murder him. However, the plot goes awry and both men realize that they have been tricked. As the men come to terms with one another as allies, Bridget walks into the door and kills her husband. Any illusion of femininity dissipates as the last drop of tear gas fills Clay’s mouth. After her husband has stopped breathing, Bridget turns her attention toward Mike. She informs him that she knows about Trish, the transsexual that Mike married while he lived in Buffalo. This revelation is enough to send Mike into a blind fury, for “the trauma here comes from the idea that a masculine man is supposed to be able to ‘recognize’ a feminine woman.[4]” Bridget capitalizes on this fury and provokes Mike into raping her while the authorities are on the phone. In the course of a few minutes, Bridget has played both cold-blooded murderer and rape victim. Once the authorities arrive, Mike is subsequently sent to prison as Bridget’s disguise of femininity claims its third victim.

Throughout The Last Seduction, Bridget uses her sexuality as a multipurpose disguise, one that can be used as a weapon, can dominate male characters through established ideology, and can assume many identities. Yet, Bridget’s femininity is not only used to trick the men in the film, but also the audience. Bridget is undeniably the protagonist of the film, yet she unable to have an emotional connection to any of the other characters, they are pawns in her scheme. Given this context, Bridget’s femininity masks her psychopathy, her manipulation along with her tendency to kill. Yes, she is a strong woman, but she is not a woman. She is powerful, she is intelligent, she “kicks ass,” but she lacks the flaws, vulnerabilities, and shortcomings that are essential in not only a character, but also a human.

[1] Kierkegaard, Soren. Either/Or. II. 146. Print.

[2] Neroni, Hilary. The Violent Woman. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. 95. Print.
[3] Neroni, Hilary. The Violent Woman. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. 95. Print.

[4] Neroni, Hilary. The Violent Woman. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. 97. Print.

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