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Apr 15, 2015
Jul 23, 2008

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A femme fatale (plural: femmes fatales) is an alluring and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetypal character of literature and art.

The phrase is French for "fatal (or "deadly") woman." A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. Typically, she is exceptionally well-endowed with these qualities. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm. She may also be (or imply to be) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; the Lady from Shanghai (a 1948 film noir) giving one such example. Her characteristic weapon, if needed, is frequently poison, which also serves as a metaphor for her charms.

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