Gene Tierney’s character in the 1945 melodrama Leave Her to Heaven is not exactly the best role model for young women. She is so jealous of her husband’s attention that she drowns her disabled brother, throws herself down the stairs when she’s pregnant, and even (spoiler alert) kills herself and frames her sister for the murder. But for Kirsty Dootson, a doctoral candidate in Film, Media and Art at Yale University, Tierney and Leave Her to Heaven represent exactly what a lot of women like to see on screen.
“We couldn’t get our heads around the fact that her behavior was so abject, but Gene Tierney was so magnetic,” Dootson said in a recent interview on WNHH radio’s “Deep Focus.” “We thought it would be fantastic to do a series of films featuring women like this.”
Dootson has brought that hope to fruition this week with the opening of the new film series “BAD GIRLS: A Semester-Long Series of Witches, Bitches and Badass Dames.” Featuring 8 movie screenings between September 1st and November 7th, all of which are free and open to the public, the series seeks to draw attention to those women on screen who fight, steal, strip, seduce, and generally wreak havoc on a traditionally patriarchal cinema.
“Every woman in this series is a bad girl by nature of defying the conventions that have been set for her by society,” Dootson (pictured below) explained. “And those conventions are different whether you’re in revolutionary Iran, whether you’re working in an office in New York in the 90s, whether you’re in the old West. So it’s not necessarily about how someone dresses or how they act. It’s about refusing to conform to what you’re supposed to be as a woman.”
To listen to the full discussion, which includes ultimate cinematic bad girls Rita Hayworth as Gilda and Pam Grier as Jackie Brown, as well as some lesser known but equally defiant and entertaining female characters, like the young Iranian girl in Persepolis who seeks out Iron Maiden cassettes amidst the war-torn streets of post-revolution Tehran, click on the audio above or find the episode in iTunes or on any podcast app under “WNHH Community Radio.” The latter half of the episode includes an animated discussion with WNHH Station Manager Lucy Gellman and Independent staff writer Allan Appel about the new Noah Baumbach-Greta Gerwig movie, Mistress America.
“I really hope that a lot of women are going to turn up and see these movies,” Dootson said, citing an ideal, if by no means exclusive, audience for this series. “Because principally it’s about celebrating female enjoyment of women on screen.”
BAD GIRLS SCREENINGS
Suspiria (1977) – Tuesday, September 1st, 7pm at the Whitney Humanities Center
Gilda (1946) – Saturday, Septembert 19th, 7pm at 212 York Street
Ian Svenonious + Screening of What Is a Group – Sunday, September 27th, 3pm at Whitney Humanities Center. Introduction by Ian Svenonious.
Jackie Brown (1997) – Sunday, October 4th, 3pm at the Whitney Humanities Center
Persepolis (2007) – Tuesday, October 20th, 7pm at the Whitney Humanities Center
Johnny Guitar (1954) – Monday, October 26th, 6:30pm at the Whitney Humanities Center
Office Killer (1997) + Panel Discussion – Sunday, November 1st, 3pm at the Whitney Humanities Center