Monday, 19 March 2012

la belle et le couteau - vingt


scarfish69 said...

What is it with you and women with knives? Gotta wonder about you Mr. Bates.

Pius said...


I was just trying to explain my attraction to these images to my wife and eldest daughter a few days ago. In short, I like powerful women.

Visually speaking, few images of women convey power better than their holding a knife or axe. In however crude a manner, such bladed weapons go a long way to clear the physical inequality of the sexes; hypothetically, I like to think that if even the tiniest and weakest of women wields a knife or axe, she may kill even the strongest of men (providing he's sleeping or otherwise unaware of what's about to happen).

I find that notion really fascinating, that a picture of a woman carrying a knife - particularly when she is looking into the camera, returning its gaze - inverts traditional patriarchal notions of power. Pictures of women with knives have a most curious effect, at least for me. I'd almost compare the power of the image to a drug, in that it's altering the 'normal' reality of things.

I think it's important to note that knives and axes are very different from guns. Guns fire bullets, knives cut. Guns are by their very nature assaultive (even when they're defensive). You pick them up when you're intending to shoot someone or something. Knives, on the other hand, don't have to be weapons. They're commonplace household tools which will usually never see use against another person; indeed, they're mostly used against groceries. In real life, the worst damage most knives give out is an accidental finger cut.

So there's an interesting disconnect between the image of knives (a femme fatale with dagger poised ready to strike) and the reality (a suburban mom making sandwiches). If anyone hasn't seen them, I did a series of posts on Women With Axes ( and the various aspects thereof ( the religious (, the utilitarian (, the historical (, the murderous ( Speaking of previous posts, I also did one on the mostly recent phenomena of The Sexy Posing With Knives Thing ( - a now-seemingly-ubiquitous meme whereby young women pose for a photo with a knife, conflating danger with sex, lending themselves some visual power, albeit often with friends and for laughs. I'm probably going to run a segment based around that soon.

In this most recent fifth 'la belle et le couteau' post, I tried to concentrate on the glamorous aspect of Women With Knives, highlighting some recent celebrity shots prominently featuring blades (I love Beyonce's lazy use of her machete-like tool in particular). What does it mean when we see photographers using knives over and over again in their shoots? Like a chef adding spices, this may simply be an easy route to a desired goal, a prop or ingredient that changes the flavour, that says This Woman Could Be Dangerous.

This afternoon, I'm taking my aforementioned daughter to see The Hunger Games. Is it fair to call this a legitimate mainstream trope yet?

scarfish69 said...

Wow, that's the longest response I've ever gotten out of you. Now I'm really concerned. No, I understand. I think there's a lot of males that are mystified by images of women portrayed in positions of power like, say, Frazetta's paintings. Of course, in that case, it doesn't hurt that the women are usually scantily clad if clothed at all. As for women with knives, I think seemingly candid shots of them looking at the camera are more disconcerting. Also, these images could be seen as metaphors. Women are dangerous. They can hurt you. Anyway, looking at these images tend to remind me of the bathtub scene in I Spit On Your Grave. Even though you couldn't see what she was doing, you knew.

As for the difference between knives and guns, I read a lot of horror short stories. Naturally, the subject of knives tends to come up. Some characters talk about how guns are noisy, messy, impersonal things. How it doesn't take much talent to shoot someone but to get close enough to someone to slit their throat is an art, a seduction. A knife in the hand becomes an extension of one's self.

I don't think I've seen all of those series you mentioned. I'll have to go back and check them out.

I don't know that much about The Hunger Games. I've just seen it compared to Battle Royale, Which I've yet to see.

Pius said...

I think I'd had a strong tea right before I started writing that. A rare burst of energy.

Sure, knives are more personal than guns. In many ways. I like your use of the word seduction - the idea that one has to get close, get personal. There is of course the whole phallic nature of knives too, the phallus wielded by a woman to deadly effect. I have a ton of images of women licking knives or otherwise putting them in their mouth (likely the subject of a future post), and this would seem to be directly related to the sexual nature of knives - that, and the fact that physical risk/danger is inherent in such a pose.

Pius said...

Perhaps it's so obvious I forget it sometimes, but, as you mention in regard to I Spit On Your Grave (love the poster), a woman with a knife can also castrate you - in effect, her phallus can remove yours. Another reason a woman with a knife is such a charged image.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps itd more intimate with a knife. says Mikiy