What's Happening

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Jordan: If Rosa Klebb is an example, is it really true to say that the Baroness is always good looking- that character like the Austin Powers parody is rather unattractive. Isn't the female and sadistic part the real unifying factor?

Frau Blucher: IMHO, there are two quite distinct sub-sets of Baroness, and From Russia With Love demonstrates both really well. One is attractive, blonde, and at least potentially sexual, especially if she gets together with the hero. The other is more like Rosa Klebb - unattractive, more dour, usually more senior, and almost always implicitly if not explicitly a lesbian. If you get the two types in the same film, book or whatever, the Rosa Klebb type will always have a jealous, unrequited passion for the attractive one. Again IMHO, the reason this trope as I describe it seems to demonstrate some rather dubious ideas about women is because it dates from mid-twentieth-century spy and adventure novels, which are full of that kind of thing. Lots of examples in the Modesty Blaise novels too.

Jordan: I think you're right, and also that this is particularly egregious, given that the idea is based on having a few women in high positions in other countrys' militaries. When you said having both in the same film, are there examples?- I know there is some weirdness with Rosa Klebb and the heroine, but the latter isn't really The Baroness.

Hmm, I thought of a borderline example from film- the title character of the comedy, Ninotchka- she is a fairly high ranking bureaucrat/soldier in the the USSR, and shown as being really cold and unfeminine and spouting propaganda at first but then warms up after being romanced by the hero. However, her character is more complex (probably because of better writers) than the stereotype since she isn't sadistic or a lesbian, and when her life in Russia is shown later in the film, it becomes clear that her prior behavior has more to do with needing to embrace the ideals of Communism in order to stay sane.

Lale: I get what this trope is not, but I'm confused about what this trope actually is. A sociopathic female with authority?

Frau Blucher: There's more to it than sociopathy. The basic idea is a female villain with military (or paramilitary!) authority, and sadistic/dominatrix tendencies. I think some of the confusion this trope is generating is based on the fact that this is really two related tropes, or two sub-sets of the same trope, as I argued above. A clearer way to divide one from another might be this: either the character's presented as a) young-ish and sexy, potentially interested in the (male) hero or b) middle-aged and repellent, not interested in the hero. Much of her plot role will vary in line with which of these categories she falls into. Type a), her sadism or (in milder versions) fervent militarism is presented as enticing, and she's prone to falling in love with the hero and losing her ice-queen demeanour. If we can call Ninotchka an example of The Baroness, she'd be type a). So would Pvt. Helga from the Brit Com 'Allo 'Allo!. Type b) is scary and repellent, with ominous emphasis either on her asexuality or hints that she's a lesbian. She will likely be dead as a doornail when the credits roll. Examples: Frau Farbissina, Rosa Klebb, et al., Mrs Fothergill in the first Modesty Blaise novel. As I said, staple of 20th century pulp fiction, hence somewhat sexist to say the least.

In short: I think the two 'types' aren't so far apart that they merit separate pages, but the page as it stands could do with a rewrite to emphasise the duality of the trope (a couple of images would probably make the distinction pretty clear!), with examples. If I get a couple of votes in favour, I'd be happy to do this.

The Editor: Go for it!

Silent Hunter: Is someone going to do a re-write?
Silent Hunter: Lovely rewrite!
Doktor von Eurotrash: Is there such a thing as a Spear Counterpart of this character?