[Content note: ableism, use of “crazy”]
So I saw Fatal Attraction was getting a re-run on Sky Movies this month. It’s one of those often-cited trope-forming classics I’d never seen, and I have no upper limit on how much villainous-Glenn-Close I can have in my life.
I figured, this is going to be a problematic film. The whole tension arises from the fact that Michael Douglas’ character chooses to cheat on his wife … he’s just unfortunate enough to cheat with a person who has erotomania. Shenanigans ensues. It’ll be a little uncomfortable, but it’ll be interesting.
Then comes the scene where she tries to force him to reconnect with her by saying (I suspect, falsely) that she’s pregnant. It’s got the suspense-y music, she’s already been set up as a person who will do extreme things to get his attention, so sure, she goes for a classic entrapping-woman tactic.
And then he says “it’s okay” because … he’s willing to pay for the abortion. Which she hasn’t mentioned wanting to have or anything – and he isn’t meant to know, the way we do, that they’re characters in a movie where her obsessive behaviour is doomed to escalate dramatically. He just jumps to the conclusion that she’ll have an abortion. Because despite not knowing this woman, who he’s had unprotected sex with, he’s happy to assume firstly that she should have been using contraception and secondly that she won’t want to continue the pregnancy. Coincidentally, this second assumption makes his life a hell of a lot easier.
Then she says “I don’t want an abortion” – and sure, that’s probably because this is about getting power over him, not because she’s necessarily telling the truth about wanting to have a child and raise it on her own.
But then he says “Don’t I get a say in this?”
NO MICHAEL DOUGLAS. NO YOU FUCKING WELL DO NOT.
This is where I stopped watching and deleted the film from the MySky. Because it felt very much that I, as the audience, was meant to read her refusal to consider his wishes – after he’s fucked her, multiple times, without protection, assuming that she’ll carry the burden of contraception – as another symptom of the List Of Things What Show Glenn Close Is Craaaaaaaaazy. We’re meant to see Michael Douglas as the victim because the evil craaaaaazy woman has trapped him with her evil craaaaaazy vagina.
To quote the Wikipedia summary:
She then phones his home at all hours, and then confronts him saying that she is pregnant and plans to keep the baby. Although he wants nothing to do with her, she argues that he must take responsibility.
MY GOD, SHE’S SO CRAAAAAAAAAAAZY. Only a craaaaaazy person could argue that someone needs to take responsibility for his actions.* Financial and emotional support for a child he fathered? Craaaaaaaaaaaaazy talk.
Calling him at 2am? That’s scary, warning-bell-ringing behaviour. Self-harming when he says he has to go home? That’s scary, warning-bell-ringing behaviour.
Declaring that she gets to decide what to do with her uterus? NOT ACTUALLY SCARY.
Related reading: Breastfeeding = craaaaaaaazy with Lysa Arryn.
*I must note here, for obvious reasons, that no, arguing Michael Douglas’ character has to take responsibility for the consequences of having sex is not equivalent to arguing pregnant people should be denied abortion. The biological reality of pregnancy is that the sperm donor’s ability to control the process stops at the end of their penis. Don’t want Glenn Close blackmailing you with her pregnancy? Don’t have lots of casual unprotected sex with Glenn Close.