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Watchmen and Double Indemnity – Laurie as Femme Fatale

Among many evocations of film noir in Watchmen, one of the most interesting is Laurie Jupiter as femme fatale. Dangerous, seductive, suspicious. Much of what she does recalls in particular the seminal, quintessential noir Double Indemnity, so comparing the two directly is sure to offer interesting results. So let’s start from the beginning with… Notice attraction and decide to use it to your advantage. In Watchmen, Laurie notices Dan’s attraction to her, and years later, after the Comedian’s murder, she decides to reconnect with Dan, out of the blue, if you’ll excuse the pun. The seed is planted. Our femme fatale dresses provocatively and deliberately draws attention to her appearance. And with that, he’s hooked. She turns up unexpected at his door. Her motivations are… unclear. In Double Indemnity, Walter’s fallen into the trap. He and Phyllis secretly meet up to conspire against her husband. Dan and Laurie also meet on multiple occasions. To an onlooker, this would be very suspicious indeed. The femme consolidates her power by engaging in romance with the mark, giving him a taster of what he wants – what she knows he wants. Laurie is automatically a dangerous woman by association. But more so than the government, it’s Walter Kovacs – alias Rorschach – who suspects Laurie, of manipulating Dan, perhaps. Likewise, in Double Indemnity it’s a close friend and another investigator of sorts – Barton Keyes, claims adjuster – who’s on the couple’s trail. Rorschach’s not without excuse for suspecting Laurie. Her hatred towards the Comedian, even immediately after his death, is enough to put her on a longlist of suspects. It’s no coincidence that – as Walter Kovacs – he happens to be outside as Dan and Laurie dine. And his suspicions start to take form… If we apply his suspicions to Double Indemnity, something interesting happens. An affair. Did she engineer her husband’s death? To make room for Neff? Or, so she claims, for now. See, the deed done and under intense investigation, the relationship between Phyllis and Walter becomes strained. They meet. And this is when we first know for sure that she had manipulated him, not for love, but purely for her own benefit. Indeed, I humbly submit that it is no coincidence that Laurie wears very similar sunglasses in this scene – recalling a specific scenein Double Indemnity – when she’s most suspicious to the audience, when Rorschach actually voices his suspicions. But is Rorschach just being a nut? Watchmen is a wonderfully ambiguous book, and film. The number of possible interpretations to its various scenarios is both thrilling and dizzying. Even read as a whodunit, many characters are presented as suspects, sometimes very subtly. Nothing is fixed. Even though the finale doesn’t reveal Laurie to be some sort of criminal mastermind, it’s worth reading her as a potential villainess, because it’s definitely possible. Rorschach certainly thinks so. Such a reading bears its rewards. Laurie continues to fulfil her role as femme fatale, but with a twist. The misogyny of a character type that emerged in a period of unstable gender relations is ruthlessly undercut. Laurie is a genuinely sympathetic human being, challenging the morally dividing approach that her actions make her a bad person. Walter Kovacs’ mind-set is woefully out-dated. He sees the world through noir-tinted glasses, as if he had lived it in some past life. His predecessor is Keyes – a man whose name obviously relates to his ability to solve a problem, to root out the secrets at the heart of a mystery. Incidentally, Double Indemnity was based on a real life murder – the Snyder case. Well, ok, that’s going a bit far, but there’s one more link we can make between our respective sources…

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