Tag Archives: Laika

Mother of a Representation Problem

Ever notice that 99% of the mothers in kid’s movies are dead?

There are reasons for this, I guess—it eases the viewership into a lesson about loss and life, opens the gates for evil stepmothers to stroll in and start wreaking havoc and kind of makes sense given the medieval setting of a lot of the fairy tale-based ones, where surviving past childbirth was rare and only the beginning of your troubles. And, of course, stories about the relationship between female characters are no good and totally don’t sell, so you may as well shuffle off as many as you can to begin with.

Killing off or removing the traditionally steadfast and secure emotional rock of the mother figure is the starting block of plots all over the spectrum, from sitcoms to high dramas. It leads the protagonist, in whatever form, down the “leaving the nest” part of their coming of age story as they have independence thrust upon them, or are caught up in the mess ensuing from their loss (because the mother is often expressed as the sympathetic and wise one who knows how to handle all that mushy stuff, and without her naturally the family falls into disarray. Because of you know, like, motherly reasons. It’s in the female’s hardwiring).

Though it’s not just a case of orphan heroes being the best because fathers are still around, more often than not, creating fun emotional subplots all throughout children’s movies no matter what they’re about. The absence of the mother gets the father-son bonding plotline going—like, off the top of my head, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (widowed father doesn’t understand his son’s dreams to be an inventor, if only Mom were here), Super 8 (widowed father doesn’t understand his son’s artistic passions and his claims the town has an escaped military alien in it, if only Mom were here), How To Train Your Dragon (widowed father doesn’t understand his son’s meek nerdy inability to kill fire-breathing monsters, if only… you get the gosh darn picture).

Elinor and Merida in Brave

“Patriarchy, Merida. Patriarchy”

Which is all well and good, but after a while you get used to the formula and wonder, if only for curiosity’s sake, where on earth the genderflipped version is. Continue reading

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