Dirty Pillows! No wire hangers! We forgot Kevin! Film moms are always the worst parents possible. That's if they're around at all, of course. The only thing more common than a crazy movie mom is a dead one. For decades Hollywood has been churning out film after film featuring unstable or absent moms, to the point that it's kind of become the norm in modern movies. It didn't happen by accident, either. Here are five reasons every movie mom is dead or crazy.
5Because Walt Disney Kills Every Mom
You know who was pretty influential? Walt Disney. And the thing about influence is that it makes other people do the same things as you. So, if you're looking for a good starting point for the trend of dead moms in movies, look no further. I don't think Disney is capable of making a movie with a mom who survives past the first 15 minutes, if they're not already dead before the movie even starts.
Turns out it may be some sort of deeply embedded neuroses in the Disney family manifesting in cartoon-mom body counts. Walt Disney's mom, Flora Call Disney, lived to the ripe old age of 70, and she died in 1938, so that was a very long life.
Also, she was probably like 14 in this picture.
The thing is, she may have lived even longer if her boy Walt hadn't bought a death trap of a house for her.
Rumor has it that she complained several times about a faulty gas leak in the home, but no one fixed it adequately and she met her fate by asphyxiating on carbon monoxide. We all know Walt may have had an affinity for gas chambers, but despite this inclination he was devastated about his mother's passing, and now we have to endure dead mothers in cartoon form for all eternity.
That her death was the impetus for the startling run of missing mom movies isn't at all guaranteed, but that's not the point. Those movies still exist, and they came at a time when Disney was doing some of his most influential work. The film that bought Flora that house, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was the first American feature-length animated film ever. No mom there, unless you count the wicked stepmother.
How shitty were things at home that living with her was the better option?
Two others that were in production at the time of her death, Pinocchio and Bambi, feature no mom and a murdered mom, respectively. So, I suppose it's just as possible that he secretly wanted his mom dead and that desire was coming through in his work at the time.
Whatever the case, this period kicked off an impressive run of animated feature films from Disney, culminating with the classic Cinderella, about a young girl whose mom is already dead before the cameras start rolling (so to speak).
Again, it's no guarantee that Walt Disney decided to make these films because of what happened with his mom, but the fact remains, the man set a lot of trends, and dead moms in animated films was definitely one of them.
4Because John Hughes Had Mommy Issues
Bad mothers show up in tons of films, but when I start to see a pattern from a particular director, I get a bit worried. I'm looking at you, John Hughes. Well, I was looking at him. RIP.
Anyway, how influential was that guy? He had so much of an impact on the filmmakers that came after him that his name even comes up when horror movie directors get together to talk about the people who shaped their work. Unfortunately, that means untold numbers of hopeful film students took his techniques and tendencies to heart, including his propensity for making the moms in his movies completely crazy.
I'll admit that I like the first Home Alone, and the garbage bird lady in Home Alone 2 is very inspiring. I'd like her as my best friend. We could feed birds and prance around in the seedier parts of Central Park and not get mugged.
Just kidding, those pigeons are fucking gross.
But let's look at the reality of this movie. Yes, the seemingly dedicated mother, Kate McCallister, takes a plane back from Paris and makes her way across the country, never bathing, never eating, and hitching a ride with a polka band to get back to her son. That's great, but also, she forgot him. She forgot Kevin, guys! The garbage bird lady treats those Central Park rat pigeons better than Kate treats her own kid.
Seriously, though. Gross.
These seemingly sweet but terrible mother characters turn up in Hughes' work all the time. The mom in Ferris Bueller's Day Off can't tell the difference between a lifeless mannequin and her own flesh-and-blood asshole son, who, frankly, if I had him as a best friend I'd probably be just as depressed as Cameron is.
Hell, Mr. Mom is just a movie about how a dude is a better mom than a mom. Hughes nails that male mom character, though, doesn't he?
Let's ponder for a minute how great it would be to have Michael Keaton for a mom.
Or how about Claire's alcoholic mother in The Breakfast Club? Molly Ringwald characters just cannot catch a break on the mom front in John Hughes movies. Her mom forgets her damn birthday in Sixteen Candles. In Pretty in Pink, I don't think her mom even exists.
The list goes on. And, again, crazy moms show up in a lot of movies, but when those movies include damn near the entire repertoire of one of the most copied directors of the last few decades, it's going to rub off on people. John Hughes didn't invent crazy movie moms, but he did make them seem normal, and not in a good way.