Sunday, May 11, 2014

Some of the Best (and Worst) Moms in Entertainment!

I had a completely different post in mind for this week, but the Sisters convinced me to go with a Mother's Day theme. I thought a lot about how to narrow down the broad range of mother portrayals out there, and I couldn't come up with just one medium of entertainment to use. So, here are moms you'll find in film and television and which ones I enjoy and ones that make me so glad I had my own mom raising me. It's kind of a mixed bag, so feel free to let me know about your favorites!


Now, I know there are those single fathers who are thrown into the mix like Belle's father in Beauty and the Beast and Jasmine's father in Aladdin, but, hey, dads have there own day, so let's focus on the mothers.

Snow White's Evil Queen
Wouldn't you want to sit across from her
at Thanksgiving?

  • Worst mothers in a Disney film:  I'd think most of you would agree that stepmothers get a bad rap when run through the almighty Disney machine and spit out on the other side. You have Snow White running for her life and eventually living with seven little men. I can't imagine any mother wanting her daughter to live with another man at Snow White's age, let alone seven of them. But, when your Evil Stepmother is out to kill you, you take what you can get. At least they were nice little men. Snow White's mother takes the cake for horrible mothering skills, but Cinderella's stepmother ranks right up there with her. Not only does she ban Cinderella to the ashes of the kitchen, but she locks her away in the attic when the Prince shows up. Keeping a girl from her man, especially a nice man like the Prince, is like playing with fire. Last but not least is Mother Gothel and the Tangled web she weaves. Like the witchy Evil Stepmother's downfall in Snow White, I also enjoy Mother Gothel's disappearing demise in the end.

  • Queen Leah looking very worried.
  • Best mothers in a Disney film:  I don't know if all of you would agree with me, but I have a soft spot for Aurora's (Sleeping Beauty's) mother. Here is a woman who sadly gives her brand new baby over to three fairies just so her daughter can stay alive. For me, that is such a heart-wrenching moment in the film. Grant it, maybe she should have swallowed her pride and invited Maleficent to the christening, but who would've wanted such a malicious woman like that at the special event? I think Maleficent dug her own grave when she placed a spell of death on the innocent baby. Then there's the saddest mommy story of all when it comes to a Disney film: Bambi's mother. 'Nuff said.

Do you see my animation theme here? Don't worry. I'll get into some harding hitting stuff here in a minute.

She's not seen very often in the films, but here's Andy
with his mom in the Toy Story 3.

  • Worst mothers in a Pixar film:  Where's Boo's mother in Monster's Inc.? This little girl is missing for what seems like days in the human world, but we never know if her mother is worried about where her toddler has run off to. On another note, I think Remy's mother has way too many children to look after in Ratatouille. There should be a limit on the number of rats a rat can have.
  • Best mothers in a Pixar film:  Worst is harder with this category. Pixar does a great job at creating kick-ass, loving, and hard-working mothers. One of my favorites would have to be Andy's mom from Toy Story. She seems to have a sense of humor, and when you watch all three films and follow her over time, you know she's always had Andy's best interests at heart. Another personal favorite of mine is Elastigirl from The Incredibles. She puts up with a lot, especially when it comes to fights at the dinner table and saving her family from imminent danger. She's one tough cookie. Finally, I don't think I could round out this category without mentioning Queen Elinor, Merida's mother from Brave. It's not my favorite Pixar film, but their story is one of sincere mother and daughter love.

I know, I know. This is a broad category and I bet many of you fear I'm going to include June Cleaver. (Ironically enough, Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played June, was a single mom off-screen.) No, my plan is to focus on samples from the last twenty years, so don't worry.

If you haven't watched it and you
love the 80s, well...what are
you waiting for!

  • Worst mothers on television:  If you're a fan of Revenge, then you've got to know that the most scheming mother in the world shows up there: Victoria Grayson. She has one of the most fantastic wardrobes, but sometimes all her malicious scheming makes my head hurt. Then there's Regina from Once Upon a Time who has an adopted son she barely pays any attention to. Why should she when she's busy taking down Storybrooke? I always find it interesting that Alexis on Castle has a mother who's consistently AWOL. I haven't been able to watch the last half of this season, so I don't know if she pops up at all. All I know is that she certainly didn't partake in many of the child rearing duties. I don't want to inundate you with too many, because I'm sure you have many other awful mothers circling in your minds. These are simply a sample.
  • Best mothers on television:  Can I just say that even though she's a bit dippy at times that I absolutely love Lindsay and Sam's mom on Freaks and Geeks? Even though she reads her daughter's diary during that one episode, she learns from her mistake. Another, more recent, television mother who makes me roar with laughter is Beverly Goldberg on The Goldbergs. She loves her "scrumptious" boys, puts up with a pants-less husband most of the time, and does her best not to cuss out the neighbors when their son breaks up with her daughter. Priceless. Another mom I'll throw into this category to round it out is Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. She juggles a new baby, a temperamental husband, and an irate teenage daughter. And she always looks good doing it!

Movies are perhaps the most relatable, since many of us have viewed the same films. Again, as I did with the other categories, I'll only give a sample of the many moms who have graced the Silver Screen.
If you haven't seen Grey Gardens,
then you're missing out on a
crazy good film!
  • Worst mothers in film:  If you're a fan of films from the 70s, then you know that Joanna Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer is the poster child (mom?) for child abandonment. She leaves the family once, only to come back over a year later to gain sole custody of her son. She gets custody, but then leaves him behind once more. Nothing like glamorous abandonment with Meryl Streep playing the role. One bad mommy role that always gives me the creeps is April Wheeler from Revolutionary Road. The woman is so hell-bent on aborting her child that she's willing to risk her own life by doing the procedure herself, but winds up botching the whole thing in the process. And, of course, the role of horrible mothers wouldn't be cemented without a little Mommie Dearest on the side for portraying the psychotic nature of Joan Crawford. Last, but not least, I want to give a shout out to Grey Gardens. If you haven't seen it, you definitely should. Just bring a strong stomach with you.
  • Best mothers in film:  In Little Women, mother Margaret (Marmee) is always there for her daughters. She lets them be themselves during a time when it was hard for a woman to step out of any role set in stone for her. At the same time, though, she makes sure to teach them about helping the poor, loving their neighbor, and strengthening their own self-worth. Stepmom with Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts is one of those films where you're glad to see the bond between two women trying to take care of the same set of kids. It's touching to see as their relationship melts from one of anger and cold indifference to an understanding that the baton will be passed and how to best go about doing it. Stepmoms don't seem as evil as they should be in this film. Finally, The Blind Side is one of those movies that makes you glad that people are willing to adopt children at any age. Leigh Anne Tuohy doesn't see only an aspiring ball player, but a young man struggling to keep his head above water enough to graduate high school.

A sweet one to watch with your
mom if you haven't done so
Okay, so that's just a sampling of films to give you an idea of what I see as good mommy roles verses bad mommy roles. You may agree, disagree, or simply be indifferent to the whole thing, but whatever you do, go watch a great Mother's Day film with your mom. 


Let me know what great mom films you like (or despise)!


  1. Dude, Brave! It was such a great mother-daughter story, I dragged my own mom to the theater to see it. I don't regret it either, even if she was probably rolling her eyes.

    Mooooom, I'm trying to have a moment.

    1. Yeah, I had a couple of eye rolling moments, too, but I also get the whole theme of a love between a daughter and mother. I've noticed Disney and Pixar have tried to put a different spin on their girl-centered stories by changing it up a little with Brave and Frozen.

  2. Great list!

    For me the best moms in films will always be Stella (Bette Midler) and M'Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) in Steel Magnolias. Actually Sally always plays awesome moms like the character in Not Without My Daughter about an American woman in Iran who has to escape her psycho-husband in a chauvinist society that will kill her if she tries to leave him. She also plays a devoted mom in Eye for an Eye, where she takes revenge on her daughter's murderer, and of course, she's Forrest Gump's mom!

    Like you, I also loved Lindsey and Sam's mom in Freaks and Geeks. :))))

    The worst moms I can think of are the moms in Flowers in the Attic (what's worse than murdering your own children?!?) and the one in Stephen King's Carrie! And yeah, Meryl Streep is pretty rotten in Kramer vs. Kramer, but a lot more human than the two I just mentioned. Mommy Dearest is probably the worst mom ever in film because it's actually a true story :(((((

    1. Sally Field is always a given in just about any movie she's made. I was going to add something of hers, but I didn't know what to pick. Steel Magnolias and Not Without My Daughter are two good choices.

      I also thought about Flowers in the Attic, but since I did an Andrews post a few months back, I didn't want to bother mentioning her. She creates horrible mommy characters in all of her books!

  3. Excellent topic! ;-) And what a good, comprehensive list. You've covered some of the most idealized moms on screen — and I totally agree with Sam & Lindsey's mom on Freaks & Geeks — but I also enjoy some of the very complex mothers portrayed out there ... in Terms of Endearment, both Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger play devoted but flawed mothers, and that scene between Debra Winger and her son near the end of the film, omg. I get weepy just thinking about it. I also think of Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice, the ultimate impossible-movie for any mother to watch. I'm glad I watched it before I became a mother, I don't even like thinking about it now that I have 2 kids.

    As for mothers in novels, I'd say Emma Donoghue's "Room" has one of the most devoted moms one can imagine. The protagonist is a little boy being raised in captivity by a monstrous man who has kidnapped and enslaved the boy's mother. In spite of being forced into motherhood by the kidnapper, and having to raise a child in a little underground bunker day after day after year after year, she manages to create a good childhood for him. It's an extraordinary novel, and unfortunately not too far fetched.

    I hope you had an excellent Mother's Day yourself, MM!

    1. I also thought of Terms of Endearment when I read this. I always remember that very first scene when Shirley MacLaine pinches her sleeping daughter (as a baby) to make sure she's alive. That pretty much sums up their entire (very intense) relationship! I STILL haven't seen Sophie's Choice. I keep hearing good things about it. Funny, someone just recommended "Room" to me. BTW, Sister Steph, this is the woman (and book) I was telling you about (the politician who was kidnapped in Colombia for six years):

    2. Terms of Endearment is another one. Their relationship is just a good study in mother-daughter relationships. I don't think either character is especially endearing or especially horrible. I think they play out how most complicated familial relationships play out.

      I've not read Room, but now I'm curious to see how the mom is portrayed. Sophie's Choice is heart-wrenching. I thought about putting that one in, but I can't say if her decision is horrible or simply a mindset she had at the time. She was desperate to save one of her children. Did she really think she would see her son again? I couldn't imagine having to make a decision like the one she made. You definitely need to see it sometime, Lorena!

  4. I'm glad you mentioned Kramer v. Kramer. As far as I'm concerned, Dustin Hoffman's performance is the greatest by any actor in any movie ever. And yet, the world seems to have forgotten about that movie.

    But this is about moms. My daughter was very young the first time we watched Dumbo together, young enough that I even wondered how well she was able to follow the story. But the scene when Dumbo visits his mother in her prison cell (or whatever you'd call it in circus terms) - she got that one. I don't think there's a child on earth who wouldn't understand that scene.

    1. I actually like Kramer v. Kramer. Hoffman does a great job in the film.

      Dumbo is so sweet and sad all at the same time! I hadn't thought of that scene by the circus prison cell, but it's so incredibly sad! Thanks for mentioning it.


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