Maternal Monsters (Pt. 1)

The idea for this blog has been floating around in my mind for a while (since last Mother’s Day, in fact). I feared my mother would somehow read my blog and assume my opinions of the mothers I am discussing in these blogs somehow reflect her motherhood, which is completely not the case. So, I saved it for Halloween… and that’s equally as appropriate. This week’s topic is maternal monsters of Hollywood — we aren’t talking about Michelle Duggars or June Cleavers. The mothers I’m talking about will encourage a phone call to moms everywhere with a heartfelt “thanks for being a sane human being.”

Mommie Dearest (1981) is, of course, at the top of the list.

For some reason, I was allowed to watch this at a young age. At the time, I couldn’t quite place a finger on why this film is so terrifying.

Her freak-outs?



The shoulder pads?


Her eyebrows?

Crawford actually didn't shape her eyebrows as thick until later in her career.

Crawford actually didn’t shape her eyebrows as thick until later in her career.

Later, I realized it’s because she is a mom and expects her children to treat her like one, even if she is undeserving. If you’ve never seen it, I understand. This film is as draining as it is compelling. A person needs to mentally prepare for the scenes and images to appear on their screen at least a few hours in advance. The basic premise of the film is based, somewhat, on Christina Crawford’s book by the same title. The book details her life with Joan Crawford. Crawford adopted Christina at a young age, possibly for publicity, and wound up being an unfit mother. The book was groundbreaking because Crawford was known as a ladylike figure in the Classical Hollywood era. This side of her facing exposure was a shock to fans.

I’m not really certain of the historical accuracy in Christina Crawford’s tell-all book about her mother. However, if you remove Joan Crawford’s name from the film entirely, it would still cause heads to turn. Faye Dunaway is outstanding. Though campy and over the top at times, she delivers a fantastic performance. That any one mother could treat her children in such a cruel manner is beyond anything I could ever imagine, but Dunaway makes every action believable. I, personally, would call this film a horror film. Some parts are too hard for me to watch — raw meat, anyone? Needless to say, you’ll never look at a wire hanger the same way again.

The next blog will explore another monstrous mother from a Stephen King novel and filmic adaptation.


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