The Bad Seed

“You were always a law unto yourself!”

There’s one in every family, I’m told. The scapegoat, the child who is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family. In the family known as society, the psychopath is blamed for just about everything that goes wrong in the world. The old movie, The Bad Seed, starring Patty McCormick, tells the tale of an eight-year-old child who is completely psychopathic. She is charming, manipulative, and a serial killer. The mother, who finds out she, herself, was adopted and that her real mother was a serial killer worries that her child might have inherited something from her killer granny. She gets more and more suspicious of things Rhoda might have done and finally becomes convinced that a murder-suicide is the only way out.

“You always were a law unto yourself,” my mother told me. She was not trying to give a compliment. I could tell my her tone of voice and the context in which the Thereby, she was exempting herself from having any part in my “problems” (I was in a nuthouse where a standard question from one patient to another was, “Do you hate your mother yet?” But my mom would have none of that. My problems. My fault.)

I obtained the files from my nuthouse, I read, “Patient was threatening to mother, and mother’s rejection of patient seemed to serve further the purpose of eliminating any pathology within herself. It appeared at the clinic that, by isolating patient, the mother attempted to isolate her own emotional problem.”

Me age 13

After I attempted murder, Mother “once remarked to her assigned social worker that her reputation had been ruined by the patient, and she could no longer accept her back in the household. By February, 1958, the mother had arranged to move into a more expensive apartment with fewer rooms, with the idea that the patient would not be allowed to return home. She also stated tearfully, ‘I no longer consider Frances my daughter.'” Despite her brave words, I was “allowed” to return home after I was misdiagnosed and discharged. The last words of the nuthouse were that my condition was “improved” and my prognosis was “guarded,” Nevertheless, I finished high school and immediately entered college. My mother died and my father remarried. I got my own place. When I disclosed (over dinner during a visit) that I was a masochist, my father took his turn to disown me. He recanted a couple of days later. Both my parents disowned me and both relented, They may have been able to pretend nothing happened but I remember both of these incidents.

While in the nuthouse, my best friend, another patient my age, informed me that she had described me to some professional person who ventured to diagnose me a “psychopath.” This “diagnosis,” as inappropriate as it was, hit home. It explained my detachment, my awareness of separation from others and my sense that they were all pretty crazy in my opinion. As years went on, my certainty deepened. It also explained why I was seen by my own mother as a “bad seed.”



17 thoughts on “The Bad Seed

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  4. I always felt sorry for the character of Carrie in the Stephen King movie. It is clear to me today that she was driven to the point of insanity by her mother, and then triggered by the abuse and mockery the cruel children in the high school committed against her.

    I think I would feel safer being friends with Carrie, than with any of the other characters in that book.


    1. Oh, sure. I thought Carrie was a good person who had some really hard times. But my blog was about another movie, The Bad Seed about a little girl who was a serial killer. I wasn’t a serial killer but my mother still thought I was a bad seed.


      1. Yes I know. I haven’t seen the movie though that you wrote about. I am so sorry your mother imposed that label on you. No one is a bad seed, in fact no individual human being is at any time “a seed”.

        We can compare newly conceived individuals to teeny tiny baby trees that need to get much bigger but a seed? Come on, sometimes telling only half the story is telling nothing at all.


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