Fatal attraction is a 1987 film that revolves around the family of a young lawyer Dan Callagher (Michael Douglas). Dan is husband to Beth (Anne Archer) and father to a six-year old daughter Ellen. All is well within Dan’s family until he meets a lady, Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) on a weekend when Dan’s wife and daughter are out of town. Dan and Alex proceed to have an affair. While for Dan it was meant to be a one-off affair, Alex clings to Dan to a point of spying on him. The situation goes beyond control and not even relocation by Dan’s family could deter the Alex from following up on Dan especially after she confesses to him about a pregnancy she intends to keep. On the day Beth learns of the relationship, Alex picks Ellen from school without knowledge of either parent. She later drops her at her apartments on the same day. Dan confronts Alex at her place and a fight ensues creating ugly scenes. The film ends with Beth killing Alex by a gunshot in presence of Dan while the family remains intact despite the shambles caused by Alex’ affair with Dan.
“Critic Roger Ebert ends his review of "fatal attraction (1987)" by stating that he walked out feeling betrayed. What kind(s) of betrayal if any does the film present?”
Fatal attraction presents several forms of betrayal. Depending on the setting and scene where it occurs, the betrayal cases can be argued differently. These include:
- Trust betrayal
- Confidence betrayal
- Sexual betrayal
- Hope betrayal
- Psychological betrayal
When you trust someone it means believing that the individual has your best interests at heart. It means they think about you every time before they act or even decide to act. Earning trust is not an event but rather a process that could take days, months or years. Trust betrayal occurs in the event someone acts in a way that those who trust them feel let down or undermined. In the film ‘Fatal Attraction’ trust betrayal is depicted in from the start. Despite Dan Callagher having a happy marriage relationship with Beth, he takes advantage of Beth’s absence to engage in a steamy affair with Alex (Ebert 56). Though Dan considered it a one-night affair rather than a lifetime affair, it cannot be considered enough reason to consider Dan not being a betrayer.
It is clearly evident that Beth trusted Dan wholly considering the existence of a 9-year stable marriage. Similarly Beth’s reaction when he learns of the affair is justified. The anger and grief with which she suddenly reacts explains how she was deeply hurt.
In this case we consider one’s self confidence. Someone who is confident about themselves believes that in the right environment and condition he /she can achieve great. In this context, focus is on how Dan’s actions impact on Beth and Alex as women. When Beth learns of Alex intrusion into her marriage, she loses confidence as a woman about her ability to keep her man happy and away from the claws of other women. Surprisingly, these events bring to a crashing end her 9-year long belief that possesses the ability to hold and keep a man (Gartner 34).
Similarly, Alex had great confidence that she possesses the power and will to take not just a man, but a family man from the shield of another woman and take him as his own. Her actions of spying on him and even paying him a surprise visit at his home in the disguise of being a potential house buyer define her never-say-die attitude. This attitude is motivated by her confidence in the womanly power she believes she harbors. Her frustrations are made clear when she changes her tactics and takes the war to Beth’s doorstep meaning she had lost confidence in her ability to snatch a man from his wife. The moment Dan accepted her advances on their first meeting, he let her build confidence that she is about to win a man for herself (Dearden and Nicholas 38). He betrays her through his actions pointing that their one-night affair was only possible due to conveniences of the time.
Sexual betrayal is another way of describing sexual infidelity. It means engaging into a romantic affair with a partner outside marriage. Dan’s affair with Alex is a prime example of this especially considering Dan as a man who has stood by his marriage and built a stable family for a nine-year period. The biggest loser and one who feels completely betrayed is Beth, Dan’s long time wife. She is right to feel aggrieved especially by learning that Alex is pregnant of Dan.
Beth could have wondered why his husband could have taken such a decision once she was away. Could that have meant that Beth does not fulfill her marital responsibility well? Could it be that she has lost her mantle of performing her marital duties after just nine years in marriage? These are some of the questions that Beth could have engaged herself immediately she learns of this betrayal.
Beth though gets to understand that it his man’s failure that this happened since Dan opens up to him and later forcefully confronts Alex. This means he regrets what he did and knows that it was wrong of him. It is this realization that leads us to confirm that Beth is not a failure in marriage only that her man betrayed her.
Hope can be described as the expectation of good things to come in the future against all odds. It is built on a confident look into the future. In the film ‘Fatal Attraction,’ hope is crashed on several accounts and the result is anger and violent response. When Beth warns Alex to keep off her man, Alex’ hope of winning Dan in a near future are severely dented. They are crashed completely by death from the gun shot to bring Beth’s previous words to fulfillment.
Beth is also a casualty of hope betrayal. In their initially stable marriage with, it is possible that Beth never thought that her hopes of raising a happy family would experience difficulties at any point. This hope was cemented for the nine-year happy relationship that went on smoothly until Alex was introduced into their lives. Thus, Dan’s actions resulted into a completely different twist of events. A rocky relationship and the fight to maintain her family came as a strange occurrence to Beth. From this confusion, all hopes she harbored about bringing up a happy family were smashed.
Psychological betrayal describes the distress that occurs into ones inner mind and thoughts. When someone’s psychology is betrayed, that person changes their perception about you for worse. It would take great effort to change their perception again.
When Beth learns of the affair between Dan and Alex, that particular event changes her psychological perception of Dan as a liar. The situation causes her psychological distress which results to change in psychological perception about Dan. Her psychology will always relate Dan with the incidence of deception (Grainge 76). This was a psychological betrayal by the husband on the wife.
Dearden, James, and Nicholas Meyer. Fatal Attraction. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures Corp, 2000. Print.
Ebert, Roger. Life Itself: A Memoir. New York: Grand Central Pub, 2011. Print.
Gartner, Richard B. Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Print.
Grainge, Paul. Brand Hollywood: Selling Entertainment in a Global Media Age. London: Routledge, 2008. Print.