Search icon


19th Apr 2024

The trope of blaming mums in film and TV needs to stop

Anna Martin


Why does it always seem to go back to the mums?

Just recall any recent TV show or movie you’ve sat down and really watched and tell me who turns out to be a villain in one way or another.

Even look at Ted Lasso, the hit Apple TV+ show, and recall the line “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.”

It’s a rough line, to say the least, blaming the faults of a child on the actions of their mother alone.

Unsurprisingly we later learn that a lot of Ted’s struggles in the show stem from his rough relationship with his mother.

It’s a trope repeated over and over in the media and quite honestly, it’s getting as tired as all the mums in the world are of hearing it.

Particularly when you compare the depictions of mother and daughter relationships versus mums and their sons.

When it comes to mother and daughters on TV, there is usually one way it can go; they realise they’re not that different after all and when all the fighting is done, they reunite and their relationship continues into adulthood with both gaining a greater understanding of each other along the way

We Need to Talk About Kevin Credit: IMDB

Yet somehow you can link it all back to the actions of the mum, she wasn’t understanding enough or didn’t pay enough attention to her daughter that’s why everything fell apart in the middle.

Just look at Greta Gerwig’s 2017 flick Ladybird where the titular character and her mum are always at each other’s throats.

The film is full of such scenes where moments of tenderness are undercut by moments of passive-aggressiveness and hostility, often resulting from Marion’s tendency to cut down Lady Bird as a result of her own insecurities.

Now compare that to mother and son, fighting happens and things get resolved, but ultimately the relationship is perceived as healthy between the two as the son flies the metaphorical nest, resulting in male independence and maternal letting go.

If a mum and their son try to remain close, whether or not both parties want it, things usually end one way; badly.

Let’s take a moment to remember the 2011 psychological thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Tilda Swinton is Eva, a working mother who always felt detached from her son Kevin (Ezra Miller). He resists her weak attempts at affection with manipulation but seems like a normal, happy child in front of his father.

In the end, Kevin traps and kills several classmates, his father, and his sister with the bow and arrow, and Eva is left to pick up the pieces.

Ladybird Credit: IMDB

It leaves the audience to parse out for themselves whether Kevin is just a bad seed, or whether Eva’s failings as a mother were instrumental in his development into a psychopath.

The bottom line is, all too often it goes back to how the mother failed their child.

Never mind the fact that in most of these movies and shows, there is a second parent or at least another parent-like figure in the picture but they don’t seem to get any of the blame.

Or what about the fact a child can act out of their own free will and that not everything they do shares a link with their maternal figure?

Surely there are other stories we can tell that have nothing to do with mums ‘failing’ at being a parent.