Bad Girls: Recalcitrant Women in Contemporary Pop Culture

full name / name of organization: 
Julie A. Chappell and Mallory Young
contact email: 
chappell@tarleton.edu; myoung@tarleton.edu

CALL FOR PAPERS
A volume of scholarly essays to be collected under the title:
Bad Girls: Recalcitrant Women in Contemporary Pop Culture
Edited by Julie A. Chappell and Mallory Young

From the primal “Bad Girl,” the biblical Eve, to her classical and contemporary sisters in “crime,” recalcitrant women have evolved and devolved throughout western literature and culture. Essays collected for this first of two projected volumes on Bad Girls will explore the theoretical, literary, and cultural consequences of this archetype in contemporary popular culture. Essays may explore topics derived from any medium of contemporary pop culture—television, film, pulp fiction, graphic novels, advertising, cartoons, music, fads, graffiti, etc. Bad Girls, as fictional characters or historical figures, thrive outside of the accepted social conventions of female behavior, sexuality, and/or work and are simultaneously celebrated or condemned in contemporary popular culture.

Television and film have provided two of the most direct means of bringing Bad Girls to the masses in this period. In the 1920s’ and 30s’ Hollywood Bad Girls were portrayed by Theda Bara and Jean Harlow with their 1940s’ counterparts in Rita Hayworth’s Gilda, Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson, and Bette Davis’s Kate/Patricia Bosworth. With the advent of television in the 1950s, Bad Girls came to us in episodes of Playhouse 90, Dragnet, or Gunsmoke, among others. The next three decades ushered in a new era of Bad Girls on film and television—All about Eve, Bus Stop, Cleopatra, Alien (3x), Snow White: A Tale of Terror, Monster, The Avengers, Charlie’s Angels, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men, Justified, and the list goes on. Some real women were helped to Bad Girl status by their edgy private lives: Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe oozed “badness,” giving fodder to countless movie magazines, newspapers, and television news shows. In more recent decades, postfeminist icons such as Madonna and Lady Gaga have continued to explore the Bad Girl ethos in newer venues including music videos.

In literature, twentieth-century crime fiction could always be counted on to feed the popular need for Bad Girls. Male writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler created the essential Bad Girl in every story or novel. Out of three female characters in Hammett’s 1929 novel, The Maltese Falcon, one was the central villain engineering most of the murder and mayhem in the novel, one was the cheating wife turned not-so-grief-stricken widow, and the other filled the part of the loyal-even-when-abused young secretary to the hero. Hammett and Chandler set the pattern in crime fiction that in the twenty-first century resonates in Elmore Leonard’s Ava Crowder, Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, and Lou Berney’s Gina Clement. This represents only a fraction of the media-conjuring of recalcitrant women, women who don’t “mind,” who sometimes even kick ass and take no names.

This volume will offer well researched, scholarly essays exploring the myths and counter-myths of the Bad Girl in twentieth- and twenty-first century popular culture. The deadline for abstracts is 11 August 2014. Please send queries or a 250-word abstract outlining your topic and methodology to both editors: chappell@tarleton.edu and myoung@tarleton.edu Completed essays for those proposals accepted will be due on 1 November.

cfp categories: 
american
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
eighteenth_century
gender_studies_and_sexuality
interdisciplinary
journals_and_collections_of_essays
popular_culture
romantic
theatre
twentieth_century_and_beyond