“Hey, that’s me you’re talking about there.”
Hey there, wait your turn to chime in, okay? I actually have two words in this post, both of which I feel are closely related. Let’s start off with…
Yep, “Secret.” Back around 2006, a self-help belief called “The Secret” became a big phenomenon. Based on the law of attraction, the book The Secret (and a movie before that) contended that life-changing results and increased happiness can result just by the power of positive thinking. It gained lots of notice thanks to its promotion on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, but it also endured a good share of ridicule and parody. It is also not the subject matter of this post.
“That’s a relief. You had me going there for a second.”
No, what we’re talking about here is the natural meaning of the word. Of course, when you have a secret, you are hiding certain information from others who do not (or not yet) need to know about it for whatever reason or motivation the secret’s keeper may have. (Grade school level explanation, I know.) Secrets are everywhere, and everyone has at least one, big or small: A world leader and his military keeping an important mission a secret. A corporation keeping their trade industry a secret. A married person keeping their affair a secret. A group of friends keeping a surprise party, well, a surprise.
“And a crossdresser keeping their dressing up a secret?”
Yes, that too. That is, of course, if they want to. Sure, dressing up in clothing of the opposite sex may need to be kept a secret if there’s a fear it could damage a relationship. But then, a crossdresser could also choose to be open and willing to share their status, as this story so clearly proves.
As a crossdresser myself, I fall into the “keep it on the down-low” category, keeping Allison a guarded secret when it comes to my colleagues at work and especially to my family. Since getting into familial trouble with my dressing up at the age of 15, I’ve been very hesitant about letting that secret slip, lest it do any damage (even after all these years after I got into trouble). Of course, I don’t mind at all sharing my feminine side to an internet-based audience.
“Which is why you’re here.”
Absolutely. I’m not the only crossdresser online, of course; many of my CD/TG sisters and brothers are on the internet, and I feel sympathy with those like me who do not disclose their “other side” to the ones they love, lest it possibly lead to an uncomfortable situation. Those brave enough, though, to have revealed their feminine persona to their family and close friends do and will always have my unyielding admiration.
Dressing up and being Allison isn’t the only secret I have; yes, I have personal traits and experiences that don’t involve putting on a wig or a dress. And just as with my feminine side, I will be selective when it comes to revealing these secrets to my colleagues, friends, family… or even you, the reader. If and when I feel the time is right, and I have the gumption to do so, I will disclose them on a need-to-know basis.
“Hopefully those secrets don’t involve anything illegal.”
Oh, those secrets definitely aren’t illegal, believe me… although having a feminine nom de guerre may help in sharing some of them.
I want to point out, too, the power of a secret. What a secret is about, or keeping that secret just that, may haunt a person that’s hiding that secret tightly. Disclosing a secret to at least a few chosen others may give them a feeling of sweet release (or not). I know I felt that feeling of freedom when I began sharing my crossdressing secret to the broad internet audience years ago; that feeling was also there when I started posting my photos on the internet, as well as the few times when I presented myself as Allison in person. Just as with everyone else and what they keep clandestine, my secret and what I choose to do with it make me who I am. And even though, as I noted above, my family and colleagues don’t know about Allison, revealing my feminine side and finding a welcoming and interested audience gave me a sense of liberation.
“Ah, the power of a secret.”
Which is what I’m saying. Whether it sees the light of day or stays in the shadows, knowing a secret can be a powerful thing.
Let’s now introduce that second word I wanted to bring up, and that word is:
Yep, “femme fatale.“ If you couldn’t gauge from my seductive dress and my lame attempt at come hither body language (maybe I shouldn’t have worn those stylish gloves), a femme fatale is generally defined in folklore and fiction as as a female figure with enough charm to lead anyone she can ensnare into a compromising situation — even a dangerous or deadly one (“femme fatale” is literally “fatal woman” in the French language).
“Fly, meet spider.”
Ever since Eve tempted Adam with an apple in The Bible, there have been stories of alluring femme fatales (real life or fictional) coming along and leading someone into doing something they know (or don’t yet realize) is wrong.
“Come on, are you really paraphrasing Springsteen?”
Just pay attention, okay? A femme fatale has tempted with, if not silver and gold, her personality, attractiveness, and “innocence” — not to mention an ability to lie, tempt, and, if need be, coerce — to do a lot of damage to the hero or heroine of the story. Yes, most femme fatale characters are often the villain of the story, or at least associated with the side you think is bad.
But an evil woman isn’t the only form of femme fatale, though: She may be part of the good side of the story, using her charm to lead the bad guys on. On some occasions as well, she has to be bad because she’s just a movable pawn in a diabolical plot; it’s not that she wants to be bad, but she has to be bad in that situation. And her actions may not be lethal at all. So to turn around the analogy you use above, that spider could very well just be inviting the fly over for a game of gin rummy rather than *ahem* inviting it over for dinner.
“But they’re most often bad, right?”
Well, femme fatales (again, real and fictional) with impure intentions have indeed been more celebrated and been more appealing over the centuries. The World War I exploits of Mata Hari are a prime real-life example, while fictional ones have been prominent since at least the noir films of the 1940s (the above black-and-white photo is a tip of the hat to those movies). Heck, even Lifetime movies has had a femme fatale or two.
“Lifetime? The network of Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”
Yes, it’s true, the network known for women in peril has had a few movies where they leading lady was, to borrow a line from Breaking Bad‘s Walter White, not in danger but the danger. There was one Lifetime film I once came across whose title and lead star escape me at the moment (*4/2016 UPDATE* It was The Good Sister and Sonya Walger was the star), but the basic plot involved a dowdy wife with an unfaithful husband. Said husband discovers his wife has a voluptuous twin sister and begins an affair with her, only to discover way too late that (**spoiler alert**) the wife was posing as her twin all along (skimpy dress, fake eyelashes, the whole deal), all in effort to really get back at him.
“The frumpy wife was the femme fatale all along?”
Yep, she was indeed. Of course, Lifetime is the network known for a homme fatale or two (or at least men who are just plain ol’ crazy, with the aforementioned Tori Spelling potboiler being an infamous example). Still, there has always been something about the feminine mystique that can make even the bravest and strongest of hearts melt. Any woman exhibiting an attractive personality has been compelling enough to those in her sphere of influence, whether or not she’s the stock femme fatale.
That feminine charm is something I’m sure everyone has related to in one point of their life or another. I’ve always been enamored by one of my former supervisors at my place of employment; she’s friendly, approachable, and supportive — and nowhere near evil or dangerous. She really does have charisma in spades. Yes, men can have those same traits, but there’s still something about the feminine persona that can charm anyone — whether that charm leads to danger or not.
Even though I would never harm a soul, there’s something about the alluring personality a femme fatale exhibits that I would love to perfect. Mind you that I would never lead someone down a calamitous path by use of a faux feminine charm.
“Just replicate the style but not the substance?”
Something like that, yeah. So be aware, everyone (and this goes double for my gentlemen callers), that my intention with my crossdressing — this secret that I share to you — is to be an emulation of feminine style and personality, not to be a homewrecker.
So, let’s take what we’ve talked about so far and venture back to the entertainment world. As the above mentioned Lifetime movie with the wife and her “twin” shows, fictional secrets, and the fictitious femme fatales who keep them, have piqued my interest more than real-life ones; perhaps those tales have stimulated yours as well. For certain, we all found ourselves admiring Romeo and Juliet making their love official by secretly marrying (lest their warring families find out). Those of a certain age probably took interest to to the secret romances and femme fatales that populated daytime soap operas. Even a well-written mystery novel or short story — the kind where the identity of who did the crime is a secret until the last chapter, if not the last paragraph — has kept readers on the edge on their seats. Heck, even secret identities or backgrounds can be intriguing, from Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne to a law enforcement agent working undercover.
Yeah, the show from the late 80s where the lead character’s cover was so deep, even his mother believed he was on the wrong side of the law. (Damn, that was a good show.) Which leads me to another law-and-order show I’ve been rapidly catching up on this summer, one with an enamoring character that’s germane to this post. Perhaps you’ve heard of Rookie Blue, which is a dramatic series based in Toronto and centers on the uniformed officers and detectives of a police division in that fair city.
“Wait… Toronto? Don’t they have constables in Toronto and not officers?”
“Officer” is a universal term for law enforcement everywhere, okay? Anyway, some of the characters on Rookie Blue have their own secrets. Just this season alone (the show’s sixth), Rookie Blue has seen one detective in a relationship with a uniformed officer reveal a secret that he fathered a baby with his ex-girlfriend. Another officer has generally kept close to her (police) vest her hopes to become an adoptive parent. And another beat cop learned of a dark secret, confirmed by his brother, surrounding a familial tragedy (this season’s 4th episode, by the way; it’s a very good one).
Then there is the generally vague background of a new character to the show’s large fold. Let me give you a basic sketch: Said new officer, Juliet Ward, joins the division. She’s gotten to know and learn about most everyone there, has capably fulfilled her police duties, and has even become romantic with fellow officer Nick. But as the season’s first episode is ending, (**WARNING** Major spoiler alert ahead) she gets into a fancy car and starts revealing to an unknown gentleman everything she’s learned about her colleagues. And the way she utters “Yeah, I’ll tell you everything I know on our way back” didn’t sound as if she were some giddy kid returning home from her first day at school.
A big plot twist, isn’t it? Officer Ward’s mysterious background appears to be a slowly developing one, giving her an air of mystery underneath her dutiful charm. In other words, the secret side she’s keeping from her colleagues is, from the episodes I’ve had the chance to see as of this writing (yes, I’ll catch up; no spoilers, s‘il vous plaît), a secret to the folks watching at home. (Kudos to the Rookie Blue creative team for creating that slow build.)
“A slow build makes things so intriguing.”
I’m in agreement. So, let’s analyze Officer Ward, shall we? First of all, her secret (or is it secrets?). We know Juliet — if that is indeed her real name — is hiding something from her compatriots, so let’s guess what it could be: She could be undercover in an internal affairs investigation within the division, a strong possibility considering a certain *ahem* explosive incident occurred toward the end of Season 5. Maybe she could be a federal agent deep undercover.
Exactly like Wiseguy. Or, Officer Ward could truly be just a regular officer who’s simply been asked to keep tabs on her new division. She could possibly be other things, too.
“You mean in addition to being a good actress?”
Well, she is that. Heck, for all we know, and I know I’m just throwing something out of left field here, she could be the reincarnation of Mae West.
“Now there was someone who was good at being bad.”
Secondly, the romance angle. As noted above, Juliet has slowly become romantic with one of her new colleagues, and she and Officer Nick do have a mutual attraction. But does this attraction pass the femme fatale test? In other words, is Juliet someone who will eventually pull our dear Nick’s heartstrings in an effort to extract some important information? Well, Nick is probably too smart to let that happen without countering it. And besides, they seem to hit it off rather well.
“So she’s not a femme fatale then?”
Well, before we say that, let’s apply one more test and ponder the intent. We’ve noted above that femme fatales are known to lead their prey down wrong paths, but you get the sense that Officer Ward isn’t one who’s eager to lead her colleagues on. Case in point: Episode 3 of this season (another really good one), in which she has to work around being recognized while assisting on a prison transfer, using the “you’ve mistaken me for someone else” defense. And when confronted by patrol colleague Andy on the way back, she… admits part of her relevant background? Or is it a fabrication? It’s hard to tell, of course, but she does confide to that gentleman in the fancy car afterwards, basically, “I don’t like lying to these people.”
That line could mean anything, really, but it does bring up what I mentioned above: A femme fatale may be nothing more than part of the plan and not the cunning mastermind or a willing accomplice. Juliet seems reluctant in leading on the people she’s now in deep with, but there still could be various repercussions, especially of the personal variety.
So, does all that qualify Juliet Ward as a femme fatale? Well, that’s probably in the eye of the beholder. She does have a secret or two for sure, but at this point Officer Ward seems more like Rita Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai than Mata Hari in World War I; she’s someone who may be on a mission that may result in some damage, intended or otherwise… but still, you feel for and want to root for her just as much as those she is doing reconnaissance on.
“A three-dimensional femme fatale.”
“Three-dimensional” can be applied to people like these really, and that makes them someone you want to have at least a little bit of empathy towards. Whether they’re a cop working deep undercover or a crossdresser who’s afraid of being discovered. They can come from various backgrounds, and not all of them can be considered a traditional…
… but they do all share something that’s different for each of them yet equally powerful, something that could be smaller than a pearl yet can still be bigger than all of us. That something is called a…