From the importance of masculinity to the lack of accurate representations of the female gender, Double Indemnity hits the nail on the head of misogyny. The two main characters, Walter Neff and Phyllis Deitrichson act as prime examples of what would be a man’s fantasy according to Janey Place’s Women in Film Noir. Men in the film are depicted as chain-smoking, booze guzzling gods to emphasize their masculinity.
On the other hand, women are portrayed as sexual objects for the men’s pleasure. Being of film noir, Double Indemnity gives women power but not in a completely positive way. Phyllis’ power is derived from her sexuality, the sexuality that weakens men to their primitive and vulnerable state. Being threatened by this, the main male, Walter Neff attempts to gain control through his masculine assertions over Phyllis’ sexual advances. From their relationship, the audience essentially absorbs the theme of how a woman’s independence inevitably leads to the downfall of man, thus protecting the construct of patriarchy.
There are countless times to when Phyllis is devalued through sexual objectification. Take for instance when she is first introduced to Walter and the audience. She is already identified as being a sensual seductress with her slight nudity on the staircase. This clearly establishes Phyllis and Walter’s relationship into a purely sexual one. We see Phyllis through Walter’s point of view in which we see Phyllis diminish into nothing but a “honey anklet”. The camera’s focus is a closeup on her anklet, not her entire body.
This draws attention to Phyllis’ role as a nothing but a mere sexual fantasy. She isn’t even depicted as a whole being, the fact that Walter begins to characterize her as a honey anklet is a prime example of sexual objectification women face in film noir (Place 135).Some would argue that Phyllis’ depiction as a sexualized and “liberated” character is a progressive choice of film noir but that is not the case. Women are defined in relation to men and their position is centralized in sexuality (Place 131).