Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hollywood’s Mind Games: Stop messing with Mom!

In honor of Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, I thought I might write about the masters of mind games: our moms, and the roles they play in our lives. It’s a theme that authors and movie-makers have capitalized on since man first started telling stories—books like Christine Crawford’s “Mommie Dearest,” which told of the abuse she suffered from her mother, Hollywood superstar Joan Crawford.  (Ironically, Crawford played a divorced mother desperate for her child’s love and approval in “Mildred Pierce,” Warner Bros., 1945.) “Mom” is often a significant character in fiction as well, for both adults and children.

Then I started thinking about those children’s stories and the famous moms in children’s literature who are missing, like Bambi’s mother, and Ariel’s mother (“The Little Mermaid,” Walt Disney Pictures, 1989). Littlefoot’s mother (“The Land Before Time,” Universal Studios, 1988) actually dies on screen! In case you forgot, here’s the clip, which, to this day, makes me well up.

I remember watching this and other animated movies when my children were small, my arms around them, as I waited for the part where I knew…I KNEW they’d kill off the poor mother. I’d cry out, “Why? Why did you kill the mother?!” and I’d sob as my children (boys) giggled at my grief.  “It’s just a movie, Mommy!” they’d say, scrambling to escape my ever-tightening clasp. 

And that’s not even touching on the dead mothers who are replaced by wicked stepmothers. Anyone remember poor Hansel and Gretel whose stepmother banishes them into the woods to be eaten by some witch, who just happens to eat children!? Then of course there’s Cinderella, Snow White…

Good grief, it never ends, all these kids’ stories featuring dead and dying mothers. What’s that about?

It’s about that universal mother connection. As of this writing, no human (that I know of) has been birthed via an artificial womb. We all have mothers, whether or not they’re still with us, whether or not we are/were close, and that universal connection makes for great story-telling.

Mothers evoke the greatest emotions, often conflicting, because the strongest emotions elicit the most extreme responses : love/hatred, joy/despair. (If you’re a mother or mother figure and have survived raising your children through their teen years,  you’ll understand that reference to hatred <grin>.)

References to mothers fill our modern-day lexicon: soccer moms, stage mothers, full-time mom, working mom, mama’s boy, even MILFs! 

I don’t believe any of us can separate ourselves from our mothers on an emotional level. We see them differently as we progress through life—life-giver, caregiver, pain in the backside, friend maybe, and if we’re lucky enough to follow them into their elder years, sometimes they become the recipients of our care. When they pass on (over, away…whatever term of death you prefer), we all lose something on an emotional level, and possibly even a cellular level.

So I understand the need of the story-teller to bank on that universal truth, but I really wish Hollywood would take a hiatus from killing off the moms for a little while. I mean, couldn’t the mom be on a nice, long extended spa vacation (even if it’s a euphemism for a padded cell)? Wouldn’t it make an even happier ending for the mom to show up unexpectedly for the wedding with Prince Charming?

Come on, Hollywood, give moms a break!


Leah writes stories of romance and suspense, and the enduring power of love. She blogs monthly here with her friends at Words, Women, Wisdom about mind games. Her latest story, Christmas Dance, explores the mysteries of love, marriage and parenthood.

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  1. EXCELLENT blog, Leah. (I love my mommy.) And what a great connection to writing - the heroine in distress due to the absence of the mother. Fabulous.

    1. Thanks, Sofie, for taking the time to share your thoughts. My mom is gone, and I miss her more every year -- which might be part of the reason this theme upsets me!

  2. Hi, Leah! Excellent post. I truly enjoyed it though I must hang my head in shame for having followed the trope. I'll have to make it up to you with another storyline with a present and active Mom. I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day!

    1. I don't blame you, Denise. It's a good story angle! But yes, I'd love to see some healthy and happy moms once in a while. :-) Thanks for your thoughts!

    2. Oh...and Happy Mother's Day to everyone!

  3. When I was a little girl, I pissed off my entire family by making them leave the movie, Bambi, when the mother died. They couldn't get me to stop sobbing. I loved the part about your boys (hey, look, I have a daughter and even she sniggered at me with her brother and dad)so, I can relate. I'm beginning to think that a powerfully *emotioned person always expects everyone else to perceive things the way they do, and hardly anyone does. But, maybe if we accept our uniqueness, we can both appreciate being powerfully emotioned, and appreciate how differently unique everyone else is.
    *new word I just made up

    1. Love the new phrase, Elvy! It's perfect! Yes, I'm a powerfully emotioned person as well.