COUN 620: Movie Review 2
Professor Jonna Byars
June 23, 2012 COUN 620: Movie Review 2 – The Bad Seed
Overview of Movie
The movie The Bad Seed, (1956) is set in Washington D.C. where the main character is eight year old Rhoda lives with her father a service man, and mother in the context of a nuclear family. Rhoda appears to be beset by a perfectionist personality that includes lying, stealing, arson, and even homicide. The angst of the movie is established when Rhoda’s mother Christine tries to make sense of her daughter’s devious behaviors. Christine is bound and tormented by the family secret which is juxtaposed with her own recurring nightmare that only her husband, Colonel Kenneth Penmark knows about. Since Rhoda is the only child her mother dotes upon her as a totally adorable, polite, and respectful child. Rhoda is prim and proper and styles pretty blonde hair that’s always in perfect pigtails.
Rhoda Penmark strives to be perfect which is uncharacteristic of an eight year old, and she is portrayed as a textbook example for the Nature versus Nurture debate which in this case stresses genetic and environmental influences on criminal behavior. Rhoda habitually requests things that she believes she deserves beyond what people in her family circle are unwilling to give her. This is a classic example of the idiom, “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Rhoda’s mother Christine is aware that her daughter is uncharacteristic of a normal eight year old, and that she displays a degree of maturity well beyond her years. The movie begins when Rhoda clashes with the family handyman, Leroy who adopts a suspicious posture of this articulate eight year old who refuses to take no for an answer. Rhoda later sets fire to the basement quarters where Leroy is living and he is overcome by smoke inhalation. Rhoda’s impoverished social skills were revealed in the movie as evidenced when she covets an achievement medal that was won by a classmate named, Claude Daigle. Claude suspiciously drowns in a lake during a school picnic, while Rhoda is void of emotion and lacks empathy regarding the tragic loss of a classmate.
The authorities begin to investigate Claude’s suspicious death and start to question all of his classmates in determining the true cause of death. It is at this point when Christine, Rhoda’s mother suspects that Rhoda knows more than she is revealing because she boasted earlier that Claude won the performance medal that only she deserved. Christine wonders if this event is tied to her dream involving a surrogate childhood that appears in her repressed memory on a revolving basis. Christine’s dream is unnerving and leads her to suspicion that her prim proper, and perfect little girl knows more about what happened to Claude than she is revealing. Claude’s suspicious death is symptomatic of other similar occurrences that have occurred in their general environment. Consequently, when Rhoda begins to act suspiciously and her story does not add up her mother soon makes a horrible discovery, Rhoda killed the boy and may murder again.
It is at this juncture in the movie that Christine begins to worry because she suspects that she was adopted herself even though she has not shared her suspicions with her (Piaget & Inhelder, 1958) parents. As it turns out, Christine’s biological mother was Bessie Denker, who was an infamous serial killer that was latter executed for murdering several men. The movie ends with Christine blaming her biological mother for Rhoda’s homicidal behavior as being genetically predisposed, and attempts to rectify the problem by killing her daughter and herself. Adolescent Crisis and Development Depicted in Movie
The screenplay for the movie, The Bad Seed (1956) was adapted from the genre of fiction written by William March under...
References: Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.
Jaffe, M. L. (1998). Adolescence. New York, N.Y.: John Wiley amp; 0-471-57190-3.: Sons, Inc. ISBN.
March, W. (1954). The bad seed. New York.: Rinehart. ISBN 0-88001-540-3.
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1958). The growth of liturgical thinking from childhood to adolescence. N.Y.: New York: Basic Books.
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