Posted by A.C. Wise on Mar 15, 2013 in Apex Publications Blog: Matters of SF, Fantasy, and Horror | 2 comments
My fascination with Noir began before I knew what Noir was, before I’d ever even heard the term. It started in a darkened cinema, when I was around 8 years old, and I first saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I had no idea there was a whole genre to which the movie was paying loving tribute. All I knew was I loved it, and as a result insisted on seeing it twice more in the theaters, an unprecedented event for me.
Sure, the cartoon aspect was appealing, but the character who first caught my attention was Eddie, the hardened, bitter detective with the tragic past, the rocky relationship, and the drinking problem. Then, of course, there was Jessica Rabbit. I still want to be her when I grow up.
Jessica Rabbit is the ultimate femme fatale. She owns the tropes of the Noir genre and subverts them, shattering several required characteristics of female Disney cartoon characters (especially for her time) along the way. Noir tells us women are trouble from the moment they walk through your door. They’ll get you killed, break your heart, take you for everything you’ve got, drive you to drink, and that’s just for starters. On the other hand, Disney princesses are rewarded for being no trouble at all. They can be beautiful, but only if they’re never proud of it. Their job is to be patient and wait for someone to notice their worth so they can ultimately marry a rich, handsome prince.
Jessica Rabbit doesn’t stand for any of that. Sure she’s got legs for miles, looks to kill, and a voice to die for, but she’s also a strong woman hell-bent on defying stereotypes and expectations. She has her own career separate from, and some might argue, more successful than her husband’s. She marries for love and laughter, not looks or money. She’s fiercely loyal, and never double-crosses anyone or causes their down fall. She’s not a patient damsel in distress, either; she even rescues Roger on more than one occasion.
Her most famous line says it all, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” How dare anyone judge her on her appearance, or shame her for embracing her sexuality? She won’t pretend to be meek, or downplay her gender. Her body and her looks are her own, and she’ll do whatever she pleases with them—none of which is in opposition to her being a kind and caring person.
The movie flips the typical Noir ending, too, further reinforcing Jessica as a positive character. It’s Roger’s love for her that wins the day. As he’s reading the love letter he wrote her, the Noir plot mcguffin of Acme’s will is revealed, and Toon Town is saved.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit may not be part of the Noir cannon, but it I’d argue it deserves an honorable mention within the genre. If I ever get around to writing that detective novel some day, there will be a space in the acknowledgements for Eddie, Roger, and especially Jessica.
From Modern Noir Master Tom Piccirilli
Screenwriter Tommy Pic fell hard from Hollywood success and landed in a psychiatric ward, blacked out from booze and unmedicated manic depression. This is not the first time he’s come to in restraints, surrounded by friends and family who aren’t there.
This time, though, he also awakes to a message from his agent. The first act of his latest screenplay is their ticket back to the red carpets. If only Tommy could remember writing it. Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.
…This is what makes you die.
A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories, which have appeared in publications such as Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4, among others. In addition to her writing, she co-edits The Journal of Unlikely Entomology. She can be found online at www.acwise.net and on twitter as @ac_wise.