Have you noticed times when men who murder women in movies are portrayed as calm and even high-brow, on the order of Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs” 1991?

Movie madness

But when women kill men in movies, they’re pictured as crazed and low-brow. Charlize Theron in “Monster” 2003 could be the poster child for Hollywood’s vision of homicidal women.

Theron played an actual woman (Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who killed her clients and was executed for her crimes). Lecter, a fictional serial killer, walked away in well-dressed dignity.

My thoughts here were prompted by a Hyperallergic essay from British culture writer Billie Walker titled “For the Love of Murderous Women.” She faulted detectives in the Netflix documentary “Catching Killer” for saying that a homicidal woman baffled them.

“No one understands why she did what she did,” one detective said. A fellow investigator agreed saying of the homicidal women: “It was like fiction” – as if to say that lady killers don’t exist in real life.

(Isn’t that a little like a child who can’t believe his mother has sex?)

Jaundiced eye

Walker’s point about the detectives is well-taken. No one raises an eyebrow when a man goes on a killing spree, but when a woman is a serial killer, investigators on the case become wide-eyed.

Walker rightly called these investigators ignorant. But her ignorance also surfaced when she pinned homicidal women on “America’s history of male violence,” as if violent men live only in the U.S.

Perhaps she was thinking of Wuornos’ crimes when she said that.

The movie “Monster” was clearly on her mind here: "When I think of Wuornos, I think also of Elisabetta Sirani’s painting 'Timoclea Killing Her Rapist'(1659)."

Seeing a woman on the attack in Sirani’s painting “shifts the power dynamic,” Walker said. And she made a plea for “revenge of the oppressed woman” in art. There aren’t enough retaliatory paintings like Sirani’s, she added.

But wait, there is a lot of what Walker would call female retaliatory art (paintings of women killing men) throughout art history. Odd that a culture writer wouldn’t know that.

I’m not just talking about Artemesia Gentileschi’s famous painting of a woman taking a man’s head off in "Judith and the Head of Holofernes."

I concede there isn’t a lot of female retaliatory art by females.

But there are a ton by men. Here are a couple of examples.

Secret smile

In 1530 Lucas Cranach the Elder painted a woman’s act of violence against a man but without showing the act. What you see is Judith after the fact standing with her sword in one hand and the severed head of Holofernes in the other – like a trophy.

And the depiction is even more contemptuous of a male than Gentileschi’s bloody rendition because Cranch shows Judith smirking.

Another sardonic look at the same subject: a woodcut illustration for the Nuremberg Chronicles of 1493 – the historical and biblical accounts of the time. In this image, you see a woman holding a man’s severed head on the tip of her sword as if it were a marshmallow ready for toasting.

Walker’s plea for “revenge of the oppressed woman” seems to come from her unawareness of retaliatory art through the ages. Unless she’s saying that such imagery only counts if a woman paints it.