We all have them—parents, that is. Someone decided to have sex with someone else and when biology could and would take over, a tiny life (or two…or three…or…) was eventually created. From this point forward, everything else becomes a crapshoot. You could be born into poverty. Your Mommy and Daddy could be obnoxiously old money. You could be catered too and loved. You can also be abandoned and left to the State to support. Nothing is set in the world of children and their legal guardians. Everyone’s life is different and everyone’s experience is individualized…and yet, there’s no denying a connection between how your Mother and Father choose to raise you (or not) and how you turn out in your older years. Just ask an FBI profiler or Dr. Phil - they’ll attest to the power parents have over their offspring. For many, it’s minimal. For others, it’s part of a lifelong struggle that sees the sins of the past (and those who commit them) visited on the circumstances of the present.
A perfect example of this ideal arrives this week with Lovelace (now available on Blu-ray and DVD). Telling the story of the infamous porn star and her rise from obscurity to subject of a ‘70s social renaissance in smut, the otherwise ordinary biopic argues that it was Linda’s domineering, religiously righteous mother who made her child’s life a living Hell, and had her jumping into bed with the first man who could make her feel warm and wanted. Unfortunately, that guy was godawful suitcase pimp Chuck Traynor. He turned out to be worse than Momma ever was..and that’s sometimes the case. Indeed, from ghostly figures looking to protect their feral “offspring” to the inspirational stories of parental sacrifice and support, we get good and bad, influential and infected. In fact, just looking over the choices made for our list of the Five Worst Moms and Five Best Dads in Movie History, we are struck by how horrible the awful really are, and how heroic the kind can be.
Oh, and before you scream “gender bias,” we’ll feature Bad Dads and Good Moms sometime in the near future.
FIVE BAD MOTHERS
While her heart may be in the right place, Momma Voorhees clearly has some deep seeded, diabolical issues. After all, there are better ways of dealing with your son’s death decades before than running around an abandoned lakeside camp cutting up teenagers. You see, after seeing her deformed child drown thanks to some sex-crazed counselors, Pam went wacky and turned into a maternal maniac, seeking payback for those who couldn’t stop canoodling long enough to watch her kid swim. After biting the big one via a machete to the neck, she left behind a brutal legacy - i.e. a hockey mask wearing psycho named Jason!
So you’re a stay-at-home suburban mom with two darling teenagers and a dutiful husband to look after. How do you spend your time in between pot roasts and book club? Why, you make horribly obscene phone calls to neighbors you don’t like and simply murder those in the area who don’t conform to your Good Housekeeping Seal of Acceptable Social Behavior Approval. Indeed, Bev loves to torment others, kill the clueless, and go malfeasant Martha Stewart on anyone who doesn’t like it. Even the legal system can’t stop this crazed Miss Manners.
Whenever you bring God, and an obsessively devout belief in same, to the fore, you are bound to unleash the worst in both yourself and your child. That’s what happens when Margaret, mad at herself for giving in to the “sins of the flesh,” tries to sadistically isolate her daughter, Carrie, from the realities of womanhood. Puberty, however, has other ideas, and all those years of abuse and “Jesus Saves” savagery become the fuel for a raging case of adolescent telekinesis. Mom, of course, thinks it’s a sign from Satan. Her daughter eventually helps “deliver her” from such evil.
By all accounts, Joan Crawford was a great actress, a brutal businesswoman, and when necessary, a manipulative witch. She was so desperate to have children that she adopted two and then - according to daughter Christina - spent the next two decades demeaning and debasing them. Everything from wire hangers to water stains on the tile floor became fodder for her physically abusive outrages…and when she wasn’t beating her kids, she was tying them down in their beds so they wouldn’t wander around at night. She wanted to be called “Mommie Dearest.” She was actually far from it.
If you think Joan Crawford was bad, wait until you see this angry single mother lash out at her overweight daughter. Blaming her for her everything from her man’s leaving (he apparently liked sex with the kid more than with its maker) to her lack of sufficient food stuffs, this elephantine evil basically does every horrible thing one imagines is possible to defile a child, and then finds some new and inventive ways to up the atrocity. In the end, when she’s asking for forgiveness and understanding while still giving her daughter daunting devilish looks, you know there is no redemption for her…or her offspring.