It’s not every week I include a villain in Women Who Wow Wednesday. However, given how the character Kathryn Merteuil is outstanding in that capacity, I thought it best to introduce you to this manipulative bitch the best way I know how—to show you of her cruelty.
Now, if you haven’t seen Cruel Intentions (1999), this post contains spoilers. You might want to jump to the last paragraph to find out why I’d chosen Kathryn for my weekly tribute to strong women.
Suggested by the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos De Laclos, the film Cruel Intentions is a character study revolving around two step siblings, Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe). Kathryn wagers Sebastian that he can’t deflower Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), the daughter of the new headmaster at their prep school, before the beginning of the school year. Kathryn hatches the insidious plot in an attempt to win Sebastian’s 1956 Jaguar roadster. The catch? If she loses, Sebastian will have the right to do with Kathryn whatever he pleases, including taking her to bed.
When we meet Kathryn for the first time, she’s actually quite nice. Chatting with a perspective student for new enrollment, she’s warm, friendly, honest and candid about the school. I know I’d trust her with my daughter. Asked from where she draws her strength, she pulls a two-inch gold cross from around her neck and mentions she has all the strength she needs as she holds the item tightly in her hand.
But once alone with Sebastian, the real Kathryn emerges. The cross she sports is a repository for cocaine, making Kathryn nothing more than a drug addict. Next, she reveals she has a thing for carrying grudges. She wants revenge against the guy who dumped her over Fourth of July weekend. Her plan? To have Sebastian take her former boyfriend’s girlfriend Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair) and mold her into the school tramp. The boy won’t know what hit him since there won’t be a direct connection to Kathryn. After all, she wears a mask as the school’s radiant example of virtue. As the student body class president, she admits, “Everybody loves me, and I intend to keep it that way.”
What’s more? Kathryn’s a practiced liar. In order to corrupt Cecile, she befriends her with the supposed intention of helping her write love letters to a boy Cecile likes. In so doing, Kathryn wins Cecile’s trust. Cecile then declares they are best friends. What Kathryn doesn’t mention, however, is how she wants to get her dirty paws on the letters already written between Cecile and the boy, so she can use them for her own nefarious purposes.
It takes a special kind of evil to accomplish such a feat of deception. To lie and not feel empathy for others. To play passive aggressive games without a sense of moral direction. Kathryn may deceive everyone into believing she is this larger-than-life example of good stewardship, but she will always be the shallow slut, sucking victims into the vortex of her self-absorbed drama pit.
After having written all this, why would I even consider including Kathryn Merteuil in my Wednesday weekly post? Simply put, to show you how a woman who has everything going for her could remain corrupt despite the time she has at her disposal to change and do good. Let me make it plain, she is a strong, determined woman, and if she’d only use her talent for good, she’d be a hero instead of a villain. But a long time ago, something in her caused her to become a narcissist. She’s broken inside. Completely broken. Darkness follows her. She’s not happy until she spreads that darkness to others in her scope of existence.
For that, I’m including her, not because of her dedication to corrupt the good, but because of her ability to foster change in people even if it is for malicious intents.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
If you’ve seen it, what did you like/hate about Cruel Intentions? Which character could you identify with most? What do you think of Kathryn Merteuil?
15 thoughts on “Kathryn”
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Gellar was definitely the star of this flick. Of all the female villains I’ve seen on screen, I have to admit it’s hard not to forget how evil she played out this character! Maybe you should dedicate a post once in awhile on female villains? We love to hate them – but we still love that they exist. 🙂
That may be a good idea. I’ve featured villains before, but none quite as wretched and heartless as Kathryn.
Great post Jack. It’s been so long since I’ve seen this film that I cannot truly comment on any question noted. But yes, I remember that Geller proved amazingly versatile in acting ability, (Buffy fan) myself. But it was believable how manipulative she was.
Bit of a control freak and always had to be in the know. To use it for her own gains.
Going to watch this and ‘Dangerous Liasons’ with John Malcavich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfieffer(1988 film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094947/).
I’ve read the opening and final paragraphs because I want to go and check out this film. I have a hazy recollection of a similar French film, which was probably based on the same novel. I keep asking myself why we enjoy villains in film, television and literature and how far can the villainy go before we switch off that ‘affection.’ I’d like to test that out in a novel someday.
I feel compelled to comment that I too, will have to re-watch this movie! I had forgotten how I loved to hate her in this film! 🙂
The character portrayed is a classic narcissist! The layers were developed well! I love her utter lack of human compassion. Others are simply minions to manipulate as she pleases. Great post!
I haven’t seen this movie either, although it has been on my to-watch list for some time. Now its even more-so!
PS: I know you were kind of concerned about the two-word invective at the beginning, but I think it summed up the character quite well.
Yes, the word at the beginning and a variation of it third paragraph from the end of the post is what I struggled with. I’m glad I published it, though. My wife ultimately convinced me when she said, “Whatever gives you peace of mind.” You know what? She was right!
Tell me what you think about the movie when you finally watch it, Katie! K?
Great post and I love your justification for including her. She is a very strong and powerful woman. Love this movie and I think I will have to watch it again this weekend. 🙂
I never tire of watching Cruel Intentions. And it’s sad that a character with so much potential wallows away in fear rather than allow joy to overtake her life!
Great post, that scene when everyone learns of her true nature is so well executed as you watch her lose everything.
This film showed the amazing transition from a seemingly nice girl to a vicious person; quite shocking, indeed.
The film came out in 1999 – and I am still impressed. Sarah Michelle Gellar proved that she can convincingly play more than a nice vampire slayer.
The quality of a good actress/actor: she/he convinces you to love her/him in one role, and to hate her/him in the next one….
Goes to illustrate never cross a female, for inside her brain is a devious cell of intrigue.
I remember this movie threw me off because it was ‘Buffy’ being evil. Definitely showed some versatility on Gellar’s part. As for the character, she’s one of the few villains that I was really happy to see get her comeuppance. It does prove that strong characters aren’t necessarily the heroes.
The perfect word, Charles: comeuppance!