I reckon there’s some kind of a Brothers-Grimm-fever happening right now with some movie and TV script writers. My daughter and I love watching movies and saw about 4 during this summer school holidays. And for all these movies I had to sit next to her while she gets entertained by characters who either have bad mothers, absent mothers, unexplained absent mothers, dead mothers and all-round evil women surrounding them.
The more I watched these movies, the more I dug my memory of all the other movies and books that my daughter has been exposed to. You know, figure out if the subliminal negative mother complex has been ingrained in her. The Little Mermaid a movie she’s watched, well, quite a few times now – no mother. Finding Nemo – dead mother. Faraway Tree books – absent or barely mentioned mother. The Famous Five books – same thing. I have had to really dig deep and come up with 2 shows/movies where mothers have a prominent place in the protagonist’s life.
Once Upon a Time is pretty much a TV series where Snow White can hold herself and fight evil while putting her baby to sleep. She’s also the main character and her mother-daughter relationship is played out well with the other lady protagonist. Then in 2004, The Incredibles was released and that would be the last “children’s” movie I can actually remember where the mother is present in the story from beginning to end, where she actually looks after her children and shows them how to be strong people.
So what is up with the imbalanced portrayal of mothers in children’s TV shows/movies/books these days? At least the Brothers Grimm had an excuse. Their father died and as a result they have idealised his role in their stories and made their mother the villain. She must have been a tough and strict German mother or maybe Jung was right – there is such a thing as a negative mother complex. Does that mean that the modern life we lead now are full of men and women with the negative mother complex and their written stories with the dead/absent/background/evil mother are propagated to the children of our future who will then have a distorted view of what a mother is? And then before we know it mothers are extinct and/or put in the same ranks as politicians – ridiculed, but feared and also seen as redundant?
Of course, my slight obsession about this is probably exacerbated by the fact that I am 8 months pregnant and have been watching too many birth documentaries over YouTube. In the midst of watching said motherless movies with my daughter I have been “calmly” watching the beauty of a mother giving birth to a baby – repeatedly. Whenever I watch these videos I, of course wonder how these people who write off mothers in their stories not see the crucial part these women play in their lives? And then I let my “martyr” ego take over and I fantasise about a story where a positive mother and daughter movie makes millions and becomes a cult classic. High school students all over the world have to evaluate it as part of their education instead of reading Brothers Grimm stories or any modern story morphed from Brothers Grimm.
It’s a great fantasy, but as someone who’s also enjoyed the fairytales from Brothers Grimm I also wondered what is causing me to be so affected by the motherless movies? And it all comes down to this: I don’t want my 7 year old daughter to stop loving me. When she’s a tweenie I don’t want her dismissing me like the characters in the movies she’s seen. When she’s 16 I don’t want her shouting at me and telling me I’m a bad mother. When she’s 18 I would like for us to still be close and confiding in me about her life.
And then I laughed. Haha. I’m such an idiot. How can I think that movies will let her do those things. She can watch all the motherless movies and read all the motherless books – she will only treat me the way I don’t want her to treat me if I’m not a good mother to her.
But as always I want to be extra sure about these things. So I actually interviewed my 7 year old daughter. I explained to her that I want to write something about how movies rarely have mothers in them. I started with Boxtrolls. I asked her what she thinks about the main boy not having a mother. And this is what she said:
I think maybe, having a mother might change the story…I think it’s because a child always has a strong relationship with the mother and the story is just showing how if you lose your mother you have to be stronger and stronger for the other parent.
And here I was getting worried that she might be getting brainwashed by all these movies. I really am such an idiot.
Someday when she’s of the right age (eventhough I think she’ll be able to understand the concept and themes of this movie already) I would like for us to watch Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) by Pedro Almodovar. This movie really moved me when I first saw it. I wasn’t a mother at the time I saw it, but I empathised with the mother characters and their never-ending love for their children. I hope someday we can watch it and my daughter can see great movies with mothers, too.