Toxic Nannies and the Shrew

Monday, 31 May 1999

Looking for something different? It doesn't get much more different than this.

A new seminar being presented this Monday at the University of Adelaide is headlined The Turn of the Shrew: Domestic Surveillance and the Toxic Nanny in the Movies.

The speaker, Dr Joy McEntee from the University's English Department, explains:

"The shrew is a turbulent, unquiet wife ­ a woman not content to stay home and mind the kids. In Shakespeare's famous play, the shrew is tamed. But what if she refuses to stay tamed? What if she leaves the kids with the sitter and stalks off?

"This deals with what might be imagined to happen when the roles of child bearing and child raising are separated. If the best you can hope for is Fran Fine (the underqualified beauty therapist of TV's The Nanny), what about the worst?

"In recent news reports, the nanny has emerged as a dangerous figure: an untrustworthy creature who, left unsupervised, can do devastating physical damage to a child. Paranoia generated by cases like those of Louise Sullivan and Louise Woodward has been used to open a market for a new surveillance device: the Nanny Cam.

"That the nanny can be 'toxic' is old news for movie spectators. In The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (US 1991), The Nanny (UK 1965) and Don't Bother to Knock (US 1952), nannies sow seeds of doubt, suspicion and insecurity which poison the lives of families forever.

"This seminar takes a few snapshots from the long literary and cinematic history of paranoia about nannies, and about the nanny's role in the family. It examines an abiding disquiet about mothers who hand their children over to other people to mind, and about the people who take money to do the work of mothering."

The seminar will be held at 2.00pm in Room 618 (Level 6) of the Napier Building,University of Adelaide's North Terrace Campus. All are welcome.


Dr Joy McEntee is an Associate Lecturer in the University of Adelaide's English Department. She recently completed her PhD (on revenge in the movies). While she was a student, Dr McEntee supported herself by caring for other people's children; she has none of her own.


Contact Details

Dr Joy McEntee
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 4564

Ms Robyn Mills
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762