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revisiting fatal attraction
understanding alex forrest, 23 years later
by alex b (@Lexistential)
11.17.10
film

When I first watched Fatal Attraction, I was twelve or thirteen. While I'm not about to ever let my prospective tween progeny sit down to see it, my mother chose to rent it for my whole family, and even invited my fourteen-year-old brother's friend Tim to join us.

Two hours, one hastily departing Tim, and a dead Glenn Close later, I sat petrified. Apart from feeling like my mother had left a bitter, indelible dent in my adolescence (yeah, thanks MOM), I vowed that I would never, ever be Alex Forrest. Apart from wanting to be a Wife over a Mistress, I decided my life would never involve marital compromise.

Twenty-three years later on Halloween weekend, another viewing of Fatal Attraction taught me otherwise. Just as I had in my adolescent days, I took Alex Forrest personally. But, thanks to the passing of time and some acquired maturity, I felt Close's character more keenly.

Aside from noticing I share a name, age, city, and single status with Alex Forrest (and duly allowing my superstitious nature a three-alarm freakout due to watching this movie over Halloween weekend), I realized that I understood all of her emotional baggage- her frustration, loneliness, and refusal to be cast aside quietly. Glenn Close wasn't just an intimidating, pre-dalmatian psychotic Cruella DeVille , but someone whose desire to be recognized by a man was one I saw in myself. Where I had once wanted Anne Archer to kick her ass, I now wanted to save her.

Don't get me wrong, though. Kidnapping a bunny is not an imminent decision on my plate. Nor do I fixate strongly on married men. As a general choice, I prefer not to incur any wrath on my karmic tab from ruining marital promises; if anything, I am too painfully aware that we get what we set ourselves up for, and sleeping with Michael Douglas generally looks like disaster.

But, at 35, I finally, fully understand her. Living in New York can be bone-crushingly lonely at times. More often than not, the act of meeting a man results in a short-lived affair instead of commitment, and I'm lucky if the guy doesn't have a hidden wedding ring while trying to engage me. In the moments when I feel too incredibly tired of being alone, I wonder if I need to grab the next person who comes along like a golden hoop at a carousel.

So, when I watched Alex Forrest happily ignite her affair with Michael Douglas, I finally got it. Though I was far too young to know all this when the movie was first released, but I now see how my own experience is part of the greater vein Close's character was born from, and likewise comprehend just why Fatal Attraction hit as many raw nerves as it did in 1987. Furthermore, I can also understand why our society has come to adopt stalking laws, and how the word "boundary" is now part of common conversation.

However, in spite of being more hyper-aware of the impacts of our affairs in society, I don't think people haven't changed much- if at all- since Fatal Attraction. Around me, single women still get involved with married men; in spite of my general refusal to tread in taboo affair waters, I've felt tempted to explore it. I weigh arguments espoused by Sex and the City devotees, and in my moments when I'm probably far too carried away by the kind of feminism that involves buying plenty of Manolos, I even think I'm entitled to have one.

At the end of the day, Fatal Attraction is a far better and brutally honest teacher of sexual play in adulterous circumstance. I have yet to learn of any relationship between a single girl with a married man that reaps happy benefits. If one watches Carrie Bradshaw in the hope of dashing to City Hall with her married Mr. Big, I personally think watching Alex Forrest (and disregarding Fatal Attraction's far too melodramatic, audience-appeasing ending) is a better idea.

Thus, this past Halloween, I came across a set of unexpectedly terrifying insights, empathy that I never expected to feel towards one of our film culture's most notorious ladies. Luckily, I've acquired just enough wisdom to know that taking a few cues from Alex Forrest will not attract the next Mr. Kinda Right I hope to click with, and will just exacerbate whatever homicidal feelings I have about my single life. I'm not about to have an affair, even in my lonely moments.

But, I may need someone to ward off any possible Stockholm Syndrome for the next time I decide to watch Silence of the Lambs by myself.


ABOUT ALEX B

An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

more about alex b

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