24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Mothers

Are mothers the movie world's new villains? [updated]

November 24, 2010 |  8:00 am

  Anim
 
Filmmakers, call your mothers.

Or maybe better yet, mothers, call your filmmaker children. They apparently have some issues with you.

Over decades of moviemaking, mothers have had it pretty good. Sure, every once in a while there's a Mrs. Iselin, Angela Lansbury's deviously controlling maternal unit in "The Manchurian Candidate." But by and large cinematic moms fit into one of several archetypes, all of them affectionate.

There is, first off, the plucky single mom. You know her well -- she's raising her children in a cruel world,  fighting the odds and her own difficult past for the sake of the next generation.  We've seen her on screen going all the way back to Barbara Stanwyck's "Stella Dallas" and in a raft of current movies, Laura Linney in  "You Can Count on Me," Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Sherrybaby" and so on.

Then, of course, there's the fiercely protective mother, capable of extraordinary sacrifice to help her children, like Tilda Swinton coolly covering up her son's crimes in 2001's "The Deep End." 

And then there's the victim mother, who suffers a terrible tragedy and lives to tell the tale, the Sissy Spacek character from "In the Bedroom" and so many of her ilk.

And even when movie moms indulge their less angels as overbearing parents, at heart they're just misunderstood nurturers. Albert Brooks came around on Debbie Reynolds' meddlesome mom in 1996's "Mother." And Meryl Streep may have gotten too involved in her son's love life in 2005's "Prime," but she meant well, didn't she?

But this year something has changed. All those good mothers have gone and a host evil ones have come to take their place.

Manipulating mothers make appearances in two very different movies this Thanksgiving weekend.

Disney releases "Tangled," which, if you have small children you're probably already well aware, offers the character of Gothel, a mother who  keeps her daughter Rapunzel sequestered so she'll forever need  and be devoted to her. (The Disney website describes Gothel as someone who "lies to Rapunzel about the outside world and everyone in it, making Rapunzel wary of ever leaving her protection.") 

And in "The King's Speech," Queen Mary (Claire Bloom), emotionally represses her son so thoroughly he comes out of childhood with a crippling stutter.

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