Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Fall 2023

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Robin Hackett


From the instant Catherine Tramell stepped on screen with shaven, glossy legs and a perfectly curled, bouncy, blonde bob, Basic Instinct (1992) became a cult classic, centered around the dangerous and seductive femme fatale who makes the movie tick. Nearly 25 years later, a new monstress steps on screen as a suited, quirky, slicked-back assassin with a penchant for curly-haired women and a destiny to reform the femme fatale trope: Villanelle of Killing Eve.

The co-lead and resident femme fatale of Killing Eve, Villanelle, subverts the traditional role of the femme fatale in a decentering of the patriarchy through her queer identity, desexualization, and particular use of violence. In this paper, I will explore the ways in which Villanelle disrupts the heteronormative and patriarchal stereotypes typically accredited to the femme fatale. I will begin by establishing Killing Eve’s representation of the femme fatale in comparison to an elemental representation of the traditional femme fatale, Catherine Tramell of Basic Instinct. Then, I will move into the discussion of how Villanelle queers the trope through her emotional intimacy with another woman, her desexualization, and her denial of the abject. I will also explore the ways in which Killing Eve abandons the male gaze through Villanelle’s relinquishment of sexually commodified and objectified violence. Lastly, I will conclude with the ways in which Villanelle provides an opportunity to move forward with the femme fatale trope in a queered world.