Diabolique: Of Harlots, Hays, and Harlow
I’m on Diabolique, writing about Jean Harlow’s lunatic psycho-sexual comedy Red-Headed Woman which, with just a tweak here and there, could have just as easily been a disturbing horror film.
“Do it again,” she…pleads? commands? sneers? “I like it!” And with that line, she robs a weak man of his illusion of control. She subverts a submission — being slapped in the face and begging for more — into an act of dominance. The man realizes, but cannot accept, that he is, in every way, bested. He can’t outwit her, can’t outthink her, certainly can’t outsex her, and his pathetic attempt at physical intimidation elicits nothing but defiance that sends him scurrying, confused and afraid, from the room pursued by peals of her victorious laughter. The battle’s barely begun, and he’s already lost the war.