Tropes vs. Women: #4 The Evil Demon Seductress

May 19, 2011

This is the fourth of a six part series created for Bitch Magazine. Tropes vs. Women explores the reoccurring stories, themes and representations of women in Hollywood films and TV shows.

The Evil Demon Seductress is a supernatural creature usually a demon, alien, robot, vampire etc. who is most often disguised as a sexy human female.  She uses her sexuality and sexual wiles to manipulate, seduce, kill and often eat poor, hapless men by luring them into her evil web.

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A trope is a common pattern in a story or a recognizable attribute in a character that conveys information to the audience. A trope becomes a cliche when it’s overused. Sadly, some of these tropes often perpetuate offensive stereotypes.

Does this remind you of a woman? How about this one? Or that one?  Ya me neither….  but somehow these insects have become the inspiration for a whole trope of sexy female characters.

The Evil Demon Seductress is a supernatural creature usually a demon, robot, alien, vampire most often disguised as a sexy human female.  She uses her sexuality and sexual wiles to manipulate, seduce, and kill and often eat poor, hapless men by luring them into her evil web.

One example of this trope shows up in the form of a Deceptacon in Transformers 2, where Isabel Lucas plays an alien robot disguised as a sexy college co-ed sent to kill poor Sam.

CLIP Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Sam “I can explain”

Then who can forget back in 1995 when Natasha Henstridge starred in the horror film Species playing the sexy half human/half alien hybrid created by the U.S. government.  When the alien hybrid escapes into the real world she see that women have babies and therefore she wants one too.

CLIP Species (1995)
Alien “Listen, I want a baby”
Man, “WHAT!? Excuse me?”

So she uses her sexual wiles to lure men in and her alien strength to kill them.

And in the Batman universe Poison Ivy is another example of the Evil Demon Seductress.

CLIP Batman Arkham Asylum Video Game (2009)
Poison Ivy “That feels so much better.”
Poison Ivy “And now we’ll grow together”

And this trope even makes a couple of appearances in Buffy the Vampire Slayer first when Xander is seduced by his sexy teacher who is really happens to be a giant preying mantis.

CLIP Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Teacher’s Pet (1997)
Man “I think it’s eenie, meenie, miney…”

And then again in the last season when performer Ashanti seduces Xander.

CLIP Buffy the Vampire Slayer – First Date (2003)
Xander “It can’t just keep happening that demon women find me attractive, there’s gotta be a reason”
Demon “You just seem like a nice guy, that’s all, and I wanted to get to know you.”
Xander “And kill me?”
Demon “Sure”

It might also be worth mentioning at this point that one of the roots of this trope is based on a misconception that dates back to 1886 with a scientist name Leland Ossian Howard.  Howard made the claim that the female praying mantis cannibalizes the heads of her sexual partner after mating, well… turns out, this isn’t exactly true.  New scientific research that found the vast majority of female Praying Mantis species do not in fact kill their mate.

So back to this trope, the amount of times that this character appears in speculative fiction is kind of astounding, the list goes on and on and on.

In Star Trek’s First Contact we have the Borg Queen trying to seduce Data.
Keanu Reeves is taken advantage of by the Brides of Dracula.
And then some years later in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilles meets these three sisters.
In the science fiction show Farscape there’s the villain Grayza with her enchanting body sweat.
There are the evil mermaids in Pirates of the Caribbean 4.
And Mystique in X-Men often fulfills this trope.
In the opening scene of Battlestar Galactica we meet a human looking cylon woman  who seduces and kills a man.
Men in Black 2 stars a shapeshifting alien who disguises herself as a Victoria Secret model
And Megan Fox as a man eating demon in Jennifer’s Body.

Alright, we get the idea, it’s everywhere and you’ll notice that there’s variations of this trope between mermaids, and sirens and vampires and their expressions of supernatural evil seductress varies but the basic characteristics remain the same, they’re using their sexuality as a weapon. This trope is closely connected to its counterparts: The Vamp,  The Black Widow, The Femme Fatale which are human women using their sexuality to manipulate men.  Here I’m only focusing on supernatural creatures but you can see how insidious this trope has become in popular culture.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what this means, we have a whole collection of supernatural creatures using their sexuality to manipulate and control men in order to fulfill some nefarious plan of doom.  You’ll notice that these supernatural creatures are not necessarily enjoying or exploring their sexuality, they’re not even really being genuinely sexual, they are just using it to manipulate and trick men.  So we see over and over again female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress who are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling, that these demon women always have ulterior motives, and that there sexuality is dangerous and they’ll probably bite your head off.

The harmful misogynist myth that this tropes reinforces is that women primarily use their so-called sexual power as a way to manipulate, trick and control men. This fallacy is widespread and pervasive and some men even claim that women hold more power in society purely based on this absurd myth. Thank you Hollywood for encouraging and promoting sexist thinking.

So what do Hollywood, male viewers (and even female viewers to a lesser extent) get out of the Evil Demon Seductress trope?  Well, Hollywood is in the business of selling the status quo they use these characters to appeal to a male demographic.  When an Evil Demon Seductress is on screen men get to objectify her while having these sexist preconceived notions reconfirmed that women are in fact manipulative and deceitful. And there is a danger of real world women internalizing this sexist myth. Instead of believing that our sexuality is something to be explored and celebrated we are repeatedly told that it is our only form of social power.

Hollywood writers, I don’t have a problem with you occasionally making some of your villains female, but you’ve gotta stop writing women who’s primary weapon is her sexuality.

I’ll leave you with a clip of Alicia Silverstone in one of the worst movies ever made… saying something kinda cool.

CLIP Batman & Robin (1997)
Batgirl “Using feminine wiles to get what you want, trading on your looks? Read a book sister, that passive aggressive number went out long ago, chicks like you give women a bad name”

Music – Maneater by Hall & Oates
“Ooooh here she comes, watch out boy she’ll chew you up, oooh here she comes she’s a maneater.

7 Responses to “Tropes vs. Women: #4 The Evil Demon Seductress”

  1. Not trying to take away from your point (I agree! With everything you said! Ever!), but Jennifer’s Body was kindof awesome. My feelings are generally along the lines of:


  2. I love the use of “Maneater” in this. (: Remind me to show you the HP vid that uses that song.

    Nicely done! Glad to see Grayza made the cut.


  3. Haha, the very first thing I thought of when I saw the title was poor Xander.


  4. I’m in love with these videos.


  5. Fantastic video! My History teacher touched on this; back in the 1800s the idea of “sexualized witches,” the Salem witch trials, Malleus Maleficarum. Even in ancient greek plays like Aeschylus (Clytemnestra). It’s insane how prevalent this stereotype is.


  6. It would be fun to have as well some offensive tropes on men, to get an idea !
    And what about empowering tropes on women ?

    Is there any ?


  7. […] post on the blog is Tropes vs. Women: #4 The Evil Demon Seductress; in this post, Anita Sarkeesian shows how the media is utilizing TV shows and movies such as X-Men […]



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