APHRODITE: THE SEDUCTIVE MUSE AND THE FEMME FATALE

 

From the depths of the ocean, the realm of emotions, Aphrodite emerges a perfect image of beauty. She covers herself with an implied modesty but does not crouch or hide from your gaze.  She charms you with an innocent smile all the while knowing the hold she has on you.  She steps from the sea, her hair flowing in the breeze.  The sea creatures give up their lives just to follow her onto land and gaze at her for one moment longer.  She takes in the sights and smells of her surroundings as if she’s a child in a strange land.  Everything is fascinating and beautiful to her.  Desire and love follow her, turning wise men into fools.

The Seductive Muse

The seductive muse is a strong woman who knows what she wants. She has a lust for life, forever satisfying all her senses.  The gods bestowed on her gifts of creativity, beauty, love and abundance, which make her driven to creative projects that show the world who she is.  She’s a great inventor and visionary who often sees the simplest solution to life’s problems.  She’s the child who tells the trucker to let the air out of his tires when he can’t figure out how to get his tall truck through the highway tunnel.

A deep longing for love and connection with one man fills her heart, but she can’t give up the thrill of the chase. She needs many relationships and sensual experiences to keep her stimulated and alive.  She can’t do anything alone unless it’s an intense creative activity that requires deep focus.  A natural healer, she cares deeply about other people’s feelings and tries to help them heal their wounds.

In our culture, this archetype has gotten a very bad rap. Her openly sexual nature and the power it gives her are too much for society to handle.  In ancient times sexual union in Aphrodite’s temples was considered a sacred and purifying act.  Now, however, a distrust of the sexually active woman has regulated her to the status of prostitute, slut or femme fatale.  There is, however, a growing goddess movement in the United States that seeks to reclaim such images of women as powerful.

The Seductive Muse’s open sexuality causes her problems when she looks to get married and start a family. She often finds herself playing the role of mistress.  It’s hard to for men to see her playing the role of wife and mother even though her youthful charm would bring a lot of love and spice into a marriage.  Sex is the answer and cause of her problems.

What Does The Seductive Muse Care About?

  • The Seductive Muse cares about men – at least the intimate part of relationships. She loves being in control but doesn’t try to dominate men openly. She secretly manipulates them with her charm. She’s an expert in body language, always seeing the hidden desires of others. She tries to awaken them in her partners and friends by bringing their repressed feelings to the surface.
  • If she’s been hurt, she can put up a wall when it comes to emotional involvement with a lover, telling herself “someone better is just around the corner.”
  • Her relationships with other women are important to her, but she seldom finds a true best friend. She wants other women to express their sexuality as openly as she does, but only other Seductive Muses can understand her intensity. At the same time she doesn’t understand other archetypes. The Nurturer seems boring to her, and the Father’s Daughter is too mentally focused and rigid. She lives for the moment and won’t be held down by friendships with these archetypes.
  • Although she may not admit it, she cares about being the center of attention and about being the most desired woman in the room. She loves her body and shows it off every chance she gets. Her body is part of her identity.
  • Any form of expression can be important to her – dancing, singing or drawing. Her sexual creative energy can be channeled through these expressions, and it becomes an obsession.

What Does the Seductive Muse Fear?

  • The Seductive Muse fears losing her sexuality, allure and creativity. It would devastate her. This can happen if she contracts a sexually transmitted disease or is assaulted. Her emotional center would be scarred for life.
  • Rejection of any sort can be an enormous blow to her, especially if it comes from a lover. Her charm over men gives her power, and she wants to be the one to end the relationship. She’s like Cleopatra in her relationship with Caesar – filled with sex, power and intrigue.
  • Aging is terrifying to her, the end to her charm and magnetism, casting her into a lonely existence. She may never get married, but her need for people and attention is fueled by a fear of isolation. She believes youth and charm keep people around.
  • She hates not being the center of attention but at the same time she fears that other women will hate her for this attention. Her best friendships seem to be with Amazons who are just as extraverted but also protective of her like a big sister, and with Maidens who look up to her. Most women are dying to let loose and be more like her, but they don’t know how and wind up becoming jealous of her. Her relationships with other Seductive Muses become competitive rather quickly.

What Motivates the Seductive Muse?

  • Her biggest motivator is self-actualization. Whether she’s publicly recognized or not she has an urge to create. There is a need deep within her soul that drives her to produce things and experience life to the fullest. Without a creative outlet she expresses this drive sexually.
  • She needs love, connection and creativity to be happy. She may have trouble seeing projects through to the end, loving the process itself more than anything. When the project ends so does the fun.

How Do Other Characters See the Seductive Muse?

  • Some women are jealous of the attention she receives. She can see it in their eyes. How many women would be comfortable with Marilyn Monroe in the room? They don’t understand the charm and magnetism she has over men and women alike. She is sexual, colourful and full of a love for life, something most women have trouble cultivating. They watch her and feel their own shortcomings.
  • She wears alluring clothes and sometimes is ahead of the trends, possibly starting them herself. She always adds a touch of uniqueness and class to her outfits and seems to be totally perfect – hair, nails and skin all vibrant. She has an inner glow, a “star quality” about her.

Developing the Character Arc

Look at your character’s main goal in your story and then at the fears you’ve selected to use against her. What does she need to learn to help her overcome her fear?  Does she need to learn how to be by herself in nature?  Does she need to turn another woman into a sexual goddess and step out of the limelight herself?

Very often the Seductive Muse just wants to be recognized for her brain instead of just her looks. She may learn that looks are temporary and superficial.  She wants a true soul mate who sees her for who she is.  She needs to learn to sit still and to plan for the future instead of always living in the moment.

What happened to her at an early age to make this archetype dominate her personality? Was she treated like the favored child and spoiled for her innocent alluring behavior?  Did she live in a culture were women were encouraged to be open and giving?  Was she sexually abused and is now acting out her abuse unconsciously by sleeping around and degrading herself?

To grow, this archetype is best paired with one of the following:

  • The Woman’s Man – can teach her to value herself for her mind and spirit as well as her body.
  • The Messiah – can teach her how to channel her sexual energy to advance spiritually.
  • The Recluse and Mystic – can teach her how to be alone without fear of abandonment and also how to know herself deep down inside.
  • The Amazon – can teach her to set limits and accept discipline as a positive thing in life.

THE SEDUCTIVE MUSE

Assets:

  • Loves to be the center of attention.
  • Has a need to express herself.
  • Is smart and creative.
  • Is emotional and deeply feeling.
  • Loves herself and her body in a healthy way. No eating disorders here.
  • Loves to dress up and wear alluring clothes.
  • Enjoys sex.
  • Enjoys female friendships but sometimes feels ostracized.
  • Encourages other women to be creative and sexual; inspires men.

Flaws:

  • Is unable to do things alone.
  • Lives for the moment, never thinking of or planning for the future.
  • Falls in and out of love easily – loves ‘em and leaves ‘em.
  • Is manipulative and flirtatious.
  • Is impulsive and promiscuous.
  • Is very self-focused.

The Villainous Side of the Seductive Muse: The Femme Fatale

She deliberately uses her charm to control men and get them to do things against their nature. She’s a Femme Fatale who lures nice men to crime and murder.  She trusts no one.  She has become jaded and disappointed with life.  She only values herself for her body and feels powerful when others do her bidding.  Society owes her, and she is only collecting her due.

She never dirties her own hand when she can manipulate a man into doing the dirty work for her. She will push and tease men, dangling her body in front of them like a golden carrot.  Any man who strives for her will end up dead or completely ruined.  Watch any film noir movie to see her in action.

Things can get ugly when she turns on a lover. Blackmail is the first thing on her mind if he’s married, but she’ll do anything to save face if crossed.  She doesn’t play victim easily and would rather die than give up her looks or power.  If a younger woman tries to take over her position as the center of attention, watch out.  In the words of Bette Davis in All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

She has a pattern of excessive emotionalism and attention seeking. She has a low tolerance for problems and has rapidly changing emotions behind a face that remains stoic and unreadable.  She’s a ticking bomb that no one knows about until she explodes.  She is sensitive to criticism and overly concerned with her appearance.

She may suggest that a man do something and then withhold sex until he does it. She uses her body as a weapon.  She feels that if men are stupid enough to get sucked into her web then that’s their problem.  No one handed her anything as a kid.  She had to manipulate people and use what God gave her to survive.  She trusts no one and is driven to prove she’s not a piece of meat to be thrown around.

THE FEMME FATALE

  • Feels she can trust no one.
  • Deliberately manipulates others with her sexual promises and usually never delivers unless she has to.
  • Has no morals.
  • Has to kill-or-be-killed mentality.
  • Is a great actress who can summon real tears on command.
  • Is concerned with money and power, which equal survival to her.
  • Is unfaithful.
  • Doesn’t take things personally when sex is involved; she can remain detached.
  • No one ever knows when she speaks the truth.
  • Is a chameleon who can be all things to all people.
  • Uses her physical appearance to draw others into her web.
  • Needs to be the center of attention.
  • Has rapidly changing emotions behind a face that remains stoic and unreadable.
  • Is sensitive to criticism.

 

Aphrodite in Action

Seductive Muse/Femme Fatale TV Heroes

Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) in Sex in the City

Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) in Married With Children

Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) in Gilligan’s Island

Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) in Twin Peaks

Erika Kane (Susan Lucci) in All My Children

Seductive Muse/Femme Fatale Film Heroes

Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) in Basic Instinct

Elvira in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Cora Smith (Lana Turner) in The Postman Always Rings Twice

Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) in Pretty Woman

Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) in Risky Business

Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) in Cabaret

Rizzo (Stockard Channing) in Grease

Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton (Kim Novak) in Vertigo

Seductive Muse/Femme Fatale Literary and Historical Heroes

Cleopatra

Delilah

Salome

Marilyn Monroe

Mary, Queen of Scots

Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Lady Chablis in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Rebecca Sharp in Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

 

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