This is my second entry for the 2017 Reel Infatuation Blogathon, whose aim is to share “favorite character crushes” from “film, television, or books.” I thought it would be fun to choose a “good girl” and a “bad girl,” so I chose Jennifer Mack from Wargames for my first entry and Princess Aura from Flash Gordon for this one.
One fun way to approach a character is via the tropes he or she represents. For example, a search for “Aura” on the TV Tropes’ entry for the 1980 Flash Gordon movie returns 34 hits, including the following:
- Break the haughty
- Cat fight
- Heel-face turn
- Covert pervert
- Daddy’s little villain
- Does this remind you of anything?
- Femme fatale
- Future spandex
- One-woman wail
- Pleasure planet
- Really gets around
- What is this thing you call love?
What a list, huh? Makes Flash Gordon seem like the campy, subversive kink fest that it is.
Of all these tropes, the most essential to Aura’s character is the femme fatale. “The Femme Fatale is sexy and she knows it,” explains the Wiki. “If the Femme Fatale is vying for the hero’s romantic attentions, she will likely have a sweeter and purer rival.” Ummm, yeah, that would be Dale. Aura would be textbook except for two things: (1) Flash Gordon isn’t a noir, and (2) according to TV Tropes, the femme fatale “generally uses sensuality instead of upfront sexual advances.” Aura is pretty upfront with Flash, especially when she gets him alone in the rocket ship.
Speaking of upfront, the film is pretty upfront with all the fanserivce, defined as “the use of sex or sexualized situations to reward or entice viewers.” Obviously, there’s no shortage of this in Flash Gordon. TV Tropes includes among them “Aura, Dale, Ming’s handmaidens” and “Flash’s very little leather shorts in the execution scene.”
Two currents that run throughout the film and tie a lot of these tropes together (nyuk, nyuk) are BDSM and voyeurism. You could make a drinking game from how often someone is shown bound in the film. And the two scenes of voyeurism that nearly bookend the story are interesting both for being comically and erotically charged and for framing Aura’s “heel-face turn” (i.e., her change from bad to good). The first scene occurs early in the film after Aura resurrects Flash intent on whisking him off to her pleasure palace. “Don’t worry,” says Aura, giving Flash a change of clothes, “I won’t look.” Not to get into spoilers or anything, but, yeah, she looks. The second occurs toward the end during Aura’s cat fight with Dale, only this time Aura is the one being watched by a crowd of amused, lustful onlookers who stare creepily from the shadows. Having been tortured by Klytus and abandoned by Ming, Aura experiences tears for the first time and shows them to Dale to prove she’s changed her evil ways.
Princess Aura, like Flash Gordon itself, is a lot of fun and way crush worthy so long as you don’t take her, or it, too seriously. Oh, yeah, and did I mention it’s in technicolor?