For this Halloween special of bitches on film, I’ve chosen a classic bitch that I first met on the silver screen in high school, Rhoda Penmark. Rhoda is the main character of the classic book-turned play-turned-film The Bad Seed. The 1956 film details the life of precocious school aged Rhoda, a seemingly perfect child with seemingly perfect manners, who is a secret sociopath.
Sociopath? You don’t say…
The difference between Rhoda and other evil children in film, such as the children of the corn or The Omen, is that Rhoda plays a true sociopath and is not influenced by demons or other supernatural means. The book, and in turn the play and film were ground breaking at the time for their exploration of genetics, hence the title “The Bad Seed”. Is true evil something that can be passed down through the generations? In this case from Rhoda’s biological grandmother, who is revealed to be a murderer.
Rhoda gets what Rhoda wants…and that is the basis of the film. What happens when you get the mentality of Aileen Wuornos stuffed into a 10 year old? Murder, and lots of it.
I’m the queen of frosted mini wheats!
On a side note, FICTIONAL Rhoda on the left, REAL Aileen on the right…it’s the eyes
Rhoda is mad that a classmate won the penmanship medal that she feels she rightly deserves, so the little boy ends up in the drink with a tap shoe shaped bonk on the head at the school picnic. When Rhoda’s mother discovers the medal in Rhoda’s room, Rhoda attempts to say she won it from the dead boy in a bet, then confesses to the murder, but offers up the explanation that “she deserved the medal anyways”.
life’s a bitch mommy, and so am I.
Mommy dearest finally realizes she may have a problem on her hands, especially after Rhoda also tells her that the sweet, elderly neighborhood in their former building who had promised Rhoda a coveted snowglobe when she died (not a great thing to tell Ted Bundy Junior Miss), may not have accidentally fallen down the stairs. Since in 1956, turning your 10 year old over to the police was out of the question, Mommy tells Rhoda to burn the shoes she killed the little boy with, in the incinerator. The gardener, who has not been fooled by Rhoda’s Pollyanna routine since the start, makes a joke about her committing the murder with the shoes, and burning the shoes (pretty swell guess for someone with an obvious second grade education) and taunts Rhoda, saying he took the shoes and was going to tell. Rhoda full bore flips out and puts those female inmates on “scared straight” to shame.
Although to be fair, the gardener looks like he has stuffed a few Rhodas down a drain in his time.
Because it IS 1956, it’s perfectly acceptable to have the hired help sleep on a pile of hay in the basement, the gardener probably works for table scraps and old reader’s digests (just for the pretty pictures). Our pint size bitch steals matches and flambes the simple groundskeeper. As Rhoda, her mother and the rest of the tenants watch the blaze, Mommy knows it’s time to take matters into her own hands…and do a little murder herself. After giving Rhoda a lethal dose of sleeping pills, mommy shoots herself in the head (I KNOW RIGHT?? It’s 1956!). But evil never dies so easily and Rhoda lives, and mum?…..
What mommy? Kool-aid? For me? You shouldn’t have…
Mom lives. . So while Mom is elegantly laid up in the hospital with her head bandaged in an attractive gauze turban, Rhoda sets off in the rain to the dock when she murdered her classmate. Rhoda’s Mom had tossed the penmanship medal into the lake to cover up Rhoda’s crime, but Rhoda wants WHAT RHODA WANTS!!! In the grand finale, Rhoda uses a long pole to try to dredge up the medal and is FRIED BY LIGHTENING!!
Does it smell like fried bitch in here to you?
If it seems like a contrived ending, it’s because it is. Because of some old timey rule called “the hays code”, in a film crime cannot be shown to pay. By having the mother die (as she did in the book) and Rhoda surviving (as she did in the book) the censors saw it as “evil winning”, so they cooked up an ending where they cooked up the protagonist.
The Bad Seed was ahead of it’s time for it’s exploration of genetics, the realistic portrayal of psychotic behavior, and the fact that the source of that behavior is a child. Patty McCormick, the actress who plays Rhoda, was brilliant and was nominated for an Oscar…a great addition to our bitches on films, the youngest yet.
If you’re interested in doing some reading about a real life Rhoda, look up Mary Bell, a truly evil 10 year old.