Yes, I know we've only just celebrated Father's Day, and yes, I know I've been writing a lot about film and television of late, but I stumbled across a fabulous new show on Foxtel the other day that got me to thinking about the role of mothers in popular culture. Since mother Mary, depending on how you view the world, had a visit from above, our collective stories have been full of mothers, good, bad, absent, indifferent, loving, obsessive, nurturing, kind and cruel. All those things we mothers might be between Monday and Friday, or indeed between school pick-up and bedtime.
Raised by Wolves is an American science-fiction drama which premiered on HBO Max. The first two episodes were directed by Ridley Scott, who also serves as an executive producer on the show. Scott has given us a couple of popular culture's most interesting mothers, here, Mother, and Ellen Ripley, who'll I'll discuss as this list goes on.
But let's meet Mother. Mother is an android, sent to a new planet after Earth was destroyed by a great war between religious zealots and the atheists. She's accompanied by Father and their first task is to bring six embryos to full gestation, Mother just plugs in six umbilical cords and away she goes. Let's just say that by the end of episode one, there's a lot more death, bloody, bloody death, than life. Mother is not a woman to be messed with.
Watching it, I was asking myself all sorts of existential questions. What role does biology play? Is a mother's job to care and nurture her children without consideration of her own needs and emotions? Would someone without emotions, like an android, be better equipped to raise a child? And when did the story of The Three Little Pigs get so scary?
Amanda Collin is superb in this role, at once both angel and demon, sometimes quite literally. Watch it and let me know what you think.
And what you think about some other interesting mothers from popular culture.
We first met Ripley in Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien but it's 1986's Aliens where Ripley takes on something of a maternal role. The film is full of creepy eggs, she finds Newt, and the last third of the film is a battle between the mother figures. Every mother who's watched their own offspring get hassled by someone else's mother identifies with those words: "Get away from her, you bitch". Sigourney Weaver, you are a queen.
Who wouldn't want their motherhood journey to begin with that scene between Connor and Kyle Reese in 1984's The Terminator, hooking up in some seedy hotel room while they were on the run from Arnie. It's the most romantic film scene of all time - forget about that 'king of the world' Titanic scene - but for a man to come back in time, knowing he will die, because he loves you so much ... sigh ... but back to mothers. Sarah Connor transitions from damsel in distress to wanted fugitive to hardened warrior. Linda Hamilton's turn in 2019's Terminator: Dark Fate is super and, for me, brought the whole franchise full circle.
I love her quote from Terminator 2: Judgement Day: "F***ing men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you're so creative. You don't know what it's like to really create something, to create a life. To feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction." You go girl.
Shirley MacLaine is magnificent as Aurora in Terms of Endearment, single mother to her daughter Emma (played by Debra Winger), lover of Jack Nicholson's retired astronaut neighbour Garrett Breedlove. Emma's marriage is in trouble, then her very life is in danger, but Aurora, trying to figure out her own life, is resolutely there for her daughter through thick and thin. She won best Oscar and rightly so.
MacLaine was also superb in 1989's Steel Magnolias as the grouchy Ouisa but it was Sally Field who took the top mothering award here. As the mother of Julia Roberts' dying Shelby, Field gets through her daughter's illness, wedding, and risky pregnancy with flying colours, before donating a kidney to her daughter who's developed kidney failure. Things don't go well. But M'Lynn gets through with the help of her girlfriends and life goes on. We all want a mum who'll donate an organ.
We loved Allison Janney in The West Wing, but how could you not love her in the 2017 film I, Tonya. Janney played Golden, the mother of ice skater Tonya Harding. Janney won the Oscar for best supporting actress, her performance was hard to watch, not knowing, really, how much of this film was based on real life and how much of it was real. Either way, we're thankful LaVona was not the sporting mother we grew up with.