Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Women Behaving Badly: Actresses Playing Against Type

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Kate Seideman


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participationrequires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email.

5-Week Course

Feb. 26 - March 25


Do films do justice to women? Too often women play stereotypic roles such as the homemaker, the love interest, the helper, or a whore versus an angel. They are submissive, in low status jobs and in roles where they have little or no agency over their own lives. Notably, they almost always look attractive. Even when a woman is the main protagonist, her success often depends on a man to help her succeed, rescue her, or marry her. Is it fair for films to represent women this way? Is it accurate? Does it matter? How should films represent women?

In this course we will watch five award winning Australian films across different genres. Each film features a woman in an atypical leading role including solo explorer, fighter, and revenge seeker, who forges ahead despite physical, emotional, and especially societal challenges against her. Through guided class discussion supplemented with additional material, we will consider in what ways women are or are not treated realistically and fairly in these films and ponder questions of representation by women in key production roles.  

Group Leadership Style

More facilitated discussion than lecture.

Course Materials

Films: My Brilliant Career (1979), The Nightingale (2018), The Dressmaker (2015), Shame (1987), Tracks (2013). All the films are readily accessible on a streaming service and YouTube for free or for a nominal fee. Many are also available through a library network. 

Preparation Time

1.5-2 hours per week. Each film is approximately 90-120 minutes long.


Kate grew up in Melbourne, Australia. She went to college (undergraduate and graduate) in England before moving to America for post-doctoral research. Since coming to Boston she has worked in research or early product development for several large high tech companies addressing issues of collaboration and ease-of-use. She has been a BOLLI member for over 8 years. She is currently a member of the BOLLI SGSC and the Membership Committee. She previously taught The Land Down Under: Understanding Australia Through Film.