Christina Ricci's Enduring 'Bad Girl' Body
National University of Ireland Galway
(at time of presentation)
Jennifer O’Meara recently completed a PhD in verbal style in American independent cinema at Trinity College Dublin. She has published articles on dialogue, sound and performance in Cinema Journal, The Soundtrack, and The Cine-files, and has contributed essays to edited collections on Wes Anderson (Kunze, ed.: 2014) and poetry and cinema (Santos, ed.: 2013). Jennifer currently lectures at the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
This paper considers the relationship between the body and the ‘‘bad girl’’ in the performances of Christina Ricci. Ricci is suggested to be an ideal subject for the analysis of performance and the body, given the range of issues brought together in her defining roles: distinguishing facial and vocal features; the performance of excess, in terms of sexuality and death; bodily modification and disguise via prosthetics and masks; and the physical signs of ageing or, in Ricci’s case, a relative lack thereof. Situating Ricci within discourse on historical performances of girlhood and Kathleen Rowe’s concept of ‘‘the unruly woman,’’ it is argued that the actress’s lengthy career rests on a distinctive tension; Ricci early performances of psychologically ‘‘dark’’ girls transitioned into roles playing unruly but childlike women, an evolution that was smoothed by Ricci’s youthful face and her performance of bodily taboos in roles spanning childhood and adulthood. It is argued that, in contrast with child stars whose appeal lessens as they lose their innocence and youthful appearance, through a combination of Ricci’s natural body and what she does with it, the actress’s performances have maintained the physical signs of youth, while even her early performances countered the innocent body of girlhood. Analysis of Ricci’s performance style is focused on a variety of her roles between 1991 and 2006, with particular attention paid to Ricci’s eyes, chest, mouth and voice, as well as her authoritative employment of transgressive props.