Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mata Hari: the legend and cultural influences

Image: Mata Hari postcard

A number of postcards/view cards and art items popularizing Mata Hari became a fashion. Immediately after her execution by the French, questions rose about the justification of her execution. The idea of an exotic dancer working as a lethal double agent, using her powers of seduction to extract military secrets from her many lovers fired the popular imagination, and made Mata Hari an enduring archetype of the femme fatale.

The Hollywood film, Mata Hari (1931) starring Greta Garbo in the lead role, became the greatest hit of Garbo’s career and the top grosser of MGM that year. The film, though based loosely on real events in the life of Margaretha Zelle, who became famous with her stage name Mata Hari, the plot was largely fictional that appealed to the public appetite for fantasy at the expense of historical facts. The exciting and romantic character in this film, Mata Hari, inspired subsequent generations of storytellers. Consequently, Mata Hari was featured in more films, television stories, and in video games. Many books have been written about Mata Hari, some of them being serious historical and biographical accounts, but many others were highly speculative, deviating too far from the real life of Mata Hari.

There is a very popular statue of Mata Hari in Leeuwarden, the place where she was born in The Netherlands.

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