It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. I think Mother’s Day is outright bullshit. Like a lot of other holidays, it seems to only exist so that corporations can focus and predict the ebb and flow of certain products. That seems like a cynical, anti-capitalist sentiment. Let me put it another way: I love my mom every single day. I tell her I love her all the time. I try to do things that would make her smile, just for the sake of her smiling. If I were to take one day and make it specifically about showing affection for my mother, shouldn’t it be my birthday? Doesn’t that make more sense? None of which is to say that you shouldn’t celebrate Mother’s Day, or show gratitude for your mom by making her day special, or enjoy being lavished in flowers and kisses and breakfasts in bed if you’re a mom yourself. All that stuff is nice. I’m just saying that I’d rather it happened more frequently and without the icky feeling of imposed obligation.
But seriously, call your mom, or whoever fills a mom-like role in your life.
My mom is awesome. I’ve talked about her a few times here on the blog. She’s an odd lady, with a fascinating patchwork of quirks. For instance, she used to be a champion body builder. This health nut hobby turned into a successful career as a nurse. And now she’s doing hospice care. I can’t even imagine how strong a person has to be to do that job. It’s beyond me. I’d just cry, all the time, all over everything. She also teaches hula dancing. She can scuba dive. She can drive a semi truck. Her bartending skills are the stuff of small town legend. She’s annoyingly crafty, always sewing or crocheting or creating something out of nothing. She loves to use a chainsaw. And, bonus, through all of these weirdnesses she’s been rocking a killer afro. So, yeah. I love my mom. She’s great. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
In the spirit of this crap holiday, I’ve made a list of moms. Some are good and some are terrible, but they’re all memorable. And, for cultural brainfood: isn’t it interesting that there are way more bad moms in horror than good ones? There’s something intrinsically nightmarish about our mothers being the bad guys. Lizard brain stuff, that. Equally interesting that there are more good moms in scifi, being that there are fewer moms in scifi overall. Apparently shitty moms are rare in the future. Good to know. Onward! To the lists!
The bad ones (in no particular order):
Lwaxana Troi – Star Trek: The Next Generation: The elder Troi is truly awful. She’s snide and condescending and materialistic and just…awful. One of those cranky old rich ladies who would be mean to you if you were her waiter, you know? And not because you’re a bad waiter, just because you’re a waiter at all. Or someone who would use the old “Do you know who I am?” to get you to do stuff she wants. Snooty bitches like that drive me right up a wall. Her character wouldn’t seem so horrible if she were anyone else’s mother, though. Deanna Troi is lovely and sometimes overly sweet to the point of seeming spineless. Lwaxana, while clearly loving her daughter, just steps all over her. I fucking hate that.
Margaret White – Carrie: Oh, holy Bible thumping, y’all. I’m all for families using religion to bring them closer in a healthy way, or even just to be part of a bigger community. But this bitch? This is the kind of religious psycho who needs to have her child taken away. Putting aside all the psychokinesis and bullying and whatnot that Carrie went through to become the blood-soaked freak we know and love, her mom is really the root of her problems. Locking your kid in a closet and telling them to pray? Insisting that her body is evil, or that she’s evil because of her body (like she has a choice in having one)? Purification through pain? It’s ugly, ugly, ugly and I’m glad Carrie knifed her with her brain.
Norma Bates – Psycho/Bates Motel: This character is different in the movie than she is in the show. Mostly because (spoiler alert) she was already dead in the movie. More coming on this comparison soon; I’ve only got two episodes of the show left to watch. Apparently, she was based on Ed Gein’s mother, and Norman Bates was, of course, based on Ed Gein. But when I think of Ed Gein’s mother, the character who comes more readily to mind is Leatherface’s mom. Because she was downright crazypants. Crazypants in this case being the literal skin of other human people. (To that end, when I think of Ed Gein, I think of Buffalo Bill. My points of reference are maybe not to be trusted here.) What’s interesting about Norma is that she didn’t really fuck her kid up that badly. Not on purpose. She was controlling and demanding and overbearing and overprotective, sure, and maybe a little weird about sex. But I think Norman would have gone batshit anyway, even if she had been normal. Possibly. Probably.
Mrs. Voorhees – Friday the 13th: The most under-appreciated serial killer of all time! It’s always Jason, Jason, Jason with these movies. I’ve had many a conversation when I tell people she was the killer in the first movie, and the response is almost always: “What? Really?” I suppose a case could be made that it’s such a bad movie, no one was paying attention by that point. It is truly a horrible film. I’m much more of a Freddy fan, if we’re talking about 80s slasher movie icons. Basically, the relationship between Jason and his mother is the reverse of the Bateses, right? Perhaps it was an homage to Hitchcock, perhaps a ripoff. Either way, I like the role reversal, and I like the reveal at the end of that movie. If you can make it all the way through, it’s worth it. It’s easy to say that people’s moms fuck them up and make them crazy, but the death of a child turning a mom into a serial killer is a rarer horror trope and a damn effective one.
The good ones (also in no particular order):
Rosemary Woodhouse – Rosemary’s Baby: I picked this one because she’s a good mom before she’s even a mom. The baby doesn’t show up until the last few minutes of the movie. It’s that whole thing where a woman’s body and brain becomes so crazed with baby magic that they’ll do anything to protect a person they haven’t met yet. That shit is powerful. Not to mention that this movie has a ton of awesome 70s Satanist fear and paranoia in the best Roman Polanski way possible, so she’s got a bunch of supernatural mindfuckery going on. It’s a great movie, and even with the weird twisty ending, she’s a great mom. Even the antichrist needs his diapers changed, right?
Beverly Crusher – Star Trek: The Next Generation: Yes, I know. ST:TNG is getting undue attention here. But compare Dr. Crusher to Lwaxana Troi, and their opposing parenting styles put them both even more firmly in their respective mom categories. Crusher is the best! I don’t know if they wrote her character specifically to be a fan-fucking-tastic role model, but it sure turned out that way. She’s a doctor. She’s a Starfleet officer. She’s patient and supportive with her geeky genius son. She’s beautiful. She’s a ginger. She’s funny. She’s a damn good shot with a phaser. If that’s not good mom material, I don’t know what is.
Sarah Connor – Terminator 2: Why the second movie, you ask? I’ll be honest here, I’ve only seen Terminator a couple of times. Terminator 2, however, I’ve probably watched fifty times. I love that movie. And Connor is a badass. Her kid is kind of a dick in the beginning, but to his credit he’s pretty smart about stealing money with that ATM card number generator gadget. Oh, 90s tech. Adorable. Also, why does Edward Furlong always play an asshole? Is it just his face? Anyway. She’s a badass. It’s that protective thing again, but taken to the armed-to-the-teethiest extreme. She’s a little nutty and knows full well that the robot uprising will soon destroy us all. It’s a wicked combination. She’s got nothing to lose except her son, which would literally mean the end of the world. Not a mom to fuck with.
Ellen Ripley – Aliens: In the first (and best) film of this franchise, we have no idea that Ripley is a mom. She just kicks major ass and saves the day, by herself, with a flamethrower, in her underwear. For real. In the second movie, we find out that she had a daughter who has since grown old and died. It’s a bummer, but it adds a little something to why she fought so hard to get home in the first movie. Really good retcon. Those are words I never thought I’d use together. Losing her daughter, though, seems to make her more fierce when she ends up having to protect a space orphan from her Gigeresque nemesis. You know the line: “Get away from her, you bitch!” Classic. Weirdly, the alien in this one is protecting her eggs, so one could say that she’s a good mom, too. Toothsome and horrible, but doing her job.
I’m sure there are more moms who should be on both of these lists. Maybe we’ll do it again next year. Ooh, with books. Because Dolores Claiborne. Right? Meanwhile, happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there. And aunties and grandmas and foster moms and single dads. I still think it’s a stupid holiday, but you deserve to be shown appreciation and gratitude. It’s a tough gig. Much respect.