While it's certainly true that I may never be the best mom in the world (despite what a certain coffee mug I've been given might lead you believe), I'm fairly confident that I'm far from the worst. And why am I so confident, you ask? Well, because TV and movies told me so, of course!
It's the old Mirror Up To Society thing, right? Indeed, though they may be slightly cracked or warped mirrors, TV and movies have long reflected back to us mediated visions of our collective maternal nightmares alongside soft-focus idealizations of motherhood -- extremes that rarely exist in reality. And whether these serve to make us feel inadequate or reassure us that, well, maybe we're really not all that bad at this parenting thing after all, the following characters to my mind surely represent some of the best and worst portrayals of motherhood Hollywood's yet devised:
Worst Movie Mom: Joan Crawford, "Mommie Dearest" - Arguably the most notorious example of Motherhood Gone Bad on film, and with good reason. True story: I hadn't seen so much as a clip of this film in years -- since long before I had my daughter -- and I must admit that I can't bring myself to post a video here that would help explicate all the ways this character is loathsome and atrocious, because watching clips from the film on YouTube today quite literally turned my stomach. Mind you, I don't consider myself particularly wussy or anything, but I'd remembered the movie as, well, funny, campy... but what I realized today is that that's what not-yet-a mother Tracey believed... Tracey 1.0, as it were. Admittedly, "Mommie Dearest" IS at times over-the-top melodrama (NO! WIRE! HANGERS! EVAAAAAH!!), but even so watching Joan Crawford relentlessly attack, slap, berate, and generally terrorize a little girl who, I might add, happens to be right around my daughter's age, is more than a bit disconcerting. But hey, be my guest and go check out some videos from the film... and then come back and tell me that's anything like lighthearted camp. UGH. (GAH, sorry, talk about triggering... MOVING ON!)
Worst TV Mom: TIE: Lucille Bluth, "Arrested Development" and Janice Soprano, "The Sopranos" - I found it impossible to choose between these two characters, because they both cause my skin to crawl in a way that makes me want to wring both of their necks with equal vigor. As mothers these women have the spectrum of all possible awful pretty well covered, both being egocentric, needy, and utterly devoid of anything resembling a conscience. While Mother Bluth's shallow and vicious sniping borders on cartoonish, she nonetheless elicits plenty of genuine cringing from me (see video below), while Janice... lord, what can you say about the epic trainwreck that is Janice Soprano (I mean besides that she's a sociopath)? Let me put it this way: if shrillness, manipulation, and histrionics were skills that merited the bestowing of awards, Janice Soprano would be nearly crippled by the sheer weight of her trophies. Trophies FOR HIDEOUS AND REPULSIVE DREADFULNESS (and though I'm not sure what substance statuettes for the HIDEOUS AND REPULSIVE DREADFULNESS AWARDS would be made from (and I probably don't want to know), I'm fairly certain they'd be crafted to resemble something like this in shape). [shudder]
Best Movie Mom: TIE: Sarah Connor, "Terminator 2"; Ellen Ripley, "Aliens" - Maybe it's just me, but watching these two characters kick butt to protect their own makes my heart swell with Mama Bear pride. These are two character who in my eyes embody the power and strength of a mother's love, and by way of their outward roughness and toughness paradoxically show a depth of emotion and tenderness that, as far as I'm concerned, warm and fuzzy Hallmark Card sentimentality can't begin to touch. HIT IT, LADIES (oh and I do mean HIT):
Best TV Mom: Marge Simpson, "The Simpsons" - I know, I know. She's a cartoon. Still, as a mother Marge Simpson is more supportive, sensitive, thoughtful and grounded than most non-animated moms on TV or in film. Over the years Marge has shown that while she possesses a degree of patience that borders on saintly (see: Homer, Bart), she's no nicey-nice pushover -- particularly where protecting those she loves is concerned. She's kind of like a modern June Cleaver... but with a gigantic blue beehive and the voice of Edith Bunker -- quirks that if anything make her all the more charming.
So now that I've said my peace, do tell: who do YOU think are some of the best and worst TV and movie moms? Alternately, which characters do you think offer the most realistic depictions of motherhood? The least realistic?
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