In The Huntsman: Winters War and The Ones Below, unspeakable deeds are done by girls driven crazy by the loss of a child. Decades of movies suggest they are incapable of rational heartbreak, while men are let off the hook in the heroic pursuit of revenge
Heres a 36 -year-old spoiler. The rogue in Friday the 13 th is not Jason, presumed dead after drowning aged 10 , now back from the ashes and mad as hell. Rather its his mother, Pamela, a summer camp cook who sorrow has turned bloodthirsty. While her son, alongside stablemates Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Norman Bates, is afforded complicated psychological motivating for his later killing sprees, sensibly garmented Mrs Voorhees is just a woman entirely unravelled by the loss of her offspring.
This is horror-movie shorthand. It was, after all, shamelessly recycled for Laurie Metcalfs character in Scream 2. But it is also, it is about to change, a template alive and kicking in todays biggest blockbusters and classiest dramas. There were shades of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle( bereaved babysitter breastfeeds young charge, then tries to top its mom) in last months London-set Polanski-esque thriller The Ones Below. That film involves a woman who miscarries hatching a complex plot to steal her neighbours baby after indulging in icky selfies while faux-suckling.
This week, we have The Huntsman: Winters War, in which Emily Blunt is literally turned into an ice queen by the death of her daughter, then sets about creating child soldiers and waging war on those who dare to believe in the idea of household. We also have Couple in a Hole, a fascinating drama in which heartache results parents to go feral in rural France. No prizes for guessing which of the pair is more dedicated to the scheme
There is still a romanticised notion of motherhood in our culture, says Denise Turner, a lecturer in social work at the University of Sussex whose research focuses on bereaved mothers. To be an archetypal mom is to be selfless: endlessly loving and without negative emotion. To be a good mom is also to nurture your children certainly not to let your child die. There are ever-increasing expectations on mothers to entertain and nurture children, often to impossible standards. Therefore, death is the ultimate failing of motherhood.
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