Yes, you read correctly...the archetypes are back, by popular demand. We're going to cover the heroines this time, so make sure to check in every Monday for a new type. ;-)
The Seductress knows how to use her beauty, her sexuality, to do two things, manipulate people, mostly men, and get what she wants. The first heroine I thought of that fits this archetype is Anne Boleyn, both in the HBO series The Tudors and the book The Other Boleyn Girl. Since there is so little known of the real Anne, we can only guess as to whether she truly seduced her way to the crown. But in the series and the book, her family drives her toward her death by encouraging her manipulative behavior.
Following that vein, her experiences as a child, and the influence of her family would play a part in the birth of a Seductress. This archetype has been told since childhood that external beauty is more important than intelligence. But the Seductress is very intelligent. She analyzes people and fashions her behavior to draw their attention. She’s a chameleon, able to take on the characteristics guaranteed to draw her target’s interest and get what she needs or desires.
The Seductress is a cynic. Since she is a student of human nature, she uses her understanding of people’s motives and responses to gain what she can from her relationships. She’s not interested in friendships, because being manipulative herself, she distrust other people’s intentions. Or if she does cultivate friendships, she’s only interested in them for what they can bring her.
Sometimes the Seductress is born out of a bad experience. Because of her beauty she might have been molested as a child or a young teenager, or had some other experience that has left her feeling vulnerable and humiliated. Instead of becoming a victim, she becomes a survivor, but it hardens her and makes her distrustful. It also makes her determined that no one will ever take advantage of her again. Such as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. “As God is my witness I’ll never go hungry again.” With that vow she’s grown from the spoiled, playful, flirtatious, tease looking for a husband, to the true Seductress determined to survive no matter who she steps on to do so.
The Seductress who has discovered her beauty can lead to security, power, and adventure uses her beauty as a weapon to gain it. That first taste of success becomes addictive and she wants more. Her eyes are on the prize: money, position, or fame.
The Seductress is a siren. And the siren can get any man she wants. Perhaps she’s been dirt poor and down on her luck and she’s discovered that a sway in her walk and a soft wispy laugh can wrap a man right around her little finger. And men will compete against one another, fight one another, and stab each other in the back to gain possession of her. Yet, they’ll never possess her because she may give her body, but her heart is well protected behind her defenses and her agenda.
The Seductress can be a kind of anti-heroine if the writer neglects to give her enough likeable characteristics, a touching vulnerability, or a good reason for growing into the such an archetype. She can evolve into too hard edged a character to like. But with penning the right balance she can become softer, and grow into a bigger more likeable character.
In Kathleen Woodiwiss’ book Shanna, her heroine starts out being a spoiled, flirtatious, manipulative, tease very similar to Scarlet in Gone With The Wind. But because she grows a conscience and is finally able to look beyond herself and sincerely care for those around her, she escapes that cliché archetype. Through love she grows more as a character than Scarlet ever does, and she becomes someone the reader can pull for and respect.
Tell me about some of the Seductresses you’ve run across in movies or books-- or in real life. Was she likable? Did she have a good reason for growing into such a character? Let’s discuss it.