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A femme fatale is a stock character, usually a villainous woman, who uses the malign power of sexuality in order to ensnare the hapless hero. The phrase is French for "deadly woman" or "fatal woman". She is typically portrayed as sexually insatiable. Although typically villainous, femmes fatales have also been known to be antiheroines in some stories and sometimes even repentent heroines. Today, the archetype is generally seen as a character who constantly crosses the line between good and evil, but despite any allegiance, acts rather unscrupulously. A femme fatale is a nexus of evil: whether it be her own, that of a lover, of a third party, or some combination thereof varies, but generally arises when a woman's traditional role as subservient lover comes into conflict with other goals. For this reason a modern feminist woman may have quite a different evaluation of a so-called femme fatale in movies or fiction than a male companion. Consider the qualities of a beautiful woman wielding power by proxy (from her father or family), or who posseses in in her own right -- but will lose it if she marries:
* A man may declare his "love" for her, but his true objectives differ from what he states out loud, not only by subterfuge but because he may develop affection for the woman he initially sees as only as a pawn in a political struggle.
* Similarly, initially captivated by the woman's beauty, he may be shocked at the means she goes to pursue her political or commercial objectives, even though the same measures taken by a man would not cause comment.
* Under these conditions, a woman of power, being offered romance, needs to treat it with great suspicion, and as noted above even a true lover's intentions may change under pressure from his family or her own. Since a woman of power typically surrenders both her personal political power and romantic power to her husband, she has to put her potential partners under severe stress.

Therefore, it hardly surprising that part of the traditional femme fatale's power is to emotionally enslave her lover without his realising it. What makes her a tragic character is that the reason behind her methods and actions cannot be explained, even by the femme fatale herself. Her personality is a mystery to others---part of her attraction---and an abyss to herself.

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